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Make Falters, but Maker Movement Is Strong

iFixit booth visitors at the "Take-a-Part-y" table
Photo by Luke Soules.

It’s hard not to like Make, a driving force in the vibrant maker movement.

We rely on the clever and inspiring DIY magazine and website, for electronics projects and how-to guides. And we’re a regular at Maker Faires, where independent crafters, tinkerers, and artists show off their passion projects. Reading the magazine, or attending one of the more than 200 licensed Maker Faires, makes you appreciate what’s possible, and maybe want to do your own neat thing.

iFixit's booth at Bay Area Maker Faire 2019.
iFixit’s booth at the Bay Area Maker Faire 2019. Photo by Chris Bross.

But publishing a print magazine is hard these days, and sponsored live events have always been an uncertain thing. So when TechCrunch reported on June 7 that Maker Media had laid off all its employees and halted operations, it might have come as a shock to those who followed the maker scene, but not a complete surprise to anyone looking at the numbers. Days before the tent-pole Bay Area event, Maker Media CEO Dale Dougherty told the San Francisco Chronicle that  the event could be the last, and that the company was “struggling a bit to keep it going.” We heard similar uncertainty about Maker Media’s future in 2018.

It’s not the end of Make, however. Dougherty aims to keep the website’s archives online, wants to keep publishing the magazine under a restructured company, and continue licensing the Maker Faire name to third parties and schools, and those events already in progress will continue.

As you might imagine, iFixit is a fan of Make:, Maker Faires, and making things. We had a booth at last month’s Bay Area event. Kyle spoke about the Right to Repair from the Center Stage. And we used to run the Make: Projects website for them. You’d have a hard time finding a staffer here who doesn’t appreciate what Make and Maker Faires have done for getting people—especially students—interested in electronics, robotics, 3D printing, woodworking, and anything else that involves learning and creating. Dale Dougherty is a visionary community organizer who has inspired inventors around the world to believe in themselves.

Man wearing a water tank helmet in a DIY diving suit at Maker Faire 2013.
Bay Area Maker Faire, 2013. Photo by Matt Biddulph

If you’re wondering how to help, or just learning about Maker Media’s situation, I wish I could tell you to subscribe to the print magazine Make:. I received it for two years, and regret the decision to let my subscription lapse—especially, in hindsight, looking at other, far less joyful subscriptions I’ve let linger. But with all editorial employees laid off, and the company’s operations paused, there’s no clear answer whether the print magazine will come out again.

In the meantime, what you can do is find a Maker Faire coming up near you and do your best to make time for it (use the map, rather than the search function, which didn’t work well for us as of this writing).

I attended last year’s Buffalo Mini Maker Faire at a nearby school. I was helping out at a booth, and for some reason took no pictures. But I saw strangely modded video games, a roaming robot, a booth on crafting objects out of cassette tapes, and a lot of other brain-expanding stuff. This year’s Mini Faire costs $5 pre-sale, $10 at the door, and is free if you dress in a homemade costume, drive a modified vehicle, or bring food to donate. Your own local Faire probably costs about the same.

Maker Media, the business, may be on hold, but let’s not confuse that with the maker movement. As maker leader Adam Savage told The Verge, “The ground they laid is too fertile to lie fallow for long.”