Madison and I had a fabulous time in Amsterdam. (Does anyone not?!) We stayed with Monique de Wilt of ZB45 Makerspace and her cat Neo, named of course for the protagonist of The Matrix. Monique’s building her own open source 3D printer, the MoWi, which is special because it’s collapsible, easy to transport by bicycle. As amazing as Couchsurfing is, staying with Fab folk is a fantastic opportunity for us to get to know people outside of the official Fab Lab filming environment. We love witnessing how Fab folk spend their free time. Belonging to a Fab Lab is not just a hobby, it’s more of a lifestyle.
Every Fab Lab has the standard equipment: 3D printers, laser cutter, hand tools, maybe a mill or three. Yet they’re all different. Fab Lab Dresden has been on quite the journey and they’ve finally stopped moving. They spent the last year bouncing between libraries, art studios, galleries, exhibitions, and private workshops before coming to call a space their home. They operated as a mobile Fab Lab more out of necessity than desire. This is definitely a mentality the Madulthood team can appreciate.
According to manager Sabina Barucci, MUSE Fab Lab “is very active, but in a different way.” Situated in the middle of the MUSE Science Museum in Trento, northern Italy, the MUSE Fab Lab is more exhibit than workshop. Jon and I visited on a Thursday, the most popular day for school field trips, and the museum was crawling. Group after group of schoolchildren sidled up to the display to gaze in awe at the 3D printer, which scootched back and forth along its axes, creating some blue knickknack. Half the kids pulled out their phones to snap photos, and it’s no stretch of the imagination to picture them hours later at home sharing modern evidence of the future with their parents.
What’s going on behind the scenes, beyond the 3D printers, the bright flash of laser cutters, beyond the network of nerds? “Fab Lab is a philosophy,” Andrea Pirazzini told me in Fab Lab Padova. You may be a maker, you may be a fabber, you may enjoy creating things with your hands and hanging out with machines, but the overall implication of what’s happening here is far greater than the individual person, or even individual Labs.
My favorite element of my research has been meeting the people. Typically, when you travel you go out and see a lot of cool buildings, play the tourist, take a pile of selfies, but you don’t interact with the locals. This time I’m skipping the cool buildings, I don’t have time to be a tourist, and I’m lucky to have Research Assistant Jon, who has very long arms, along on most interviews to snap photos for me while I take notes. (Side note: Italians love to take selfies, so all I have to do is smile, look in the right direction, and wait for the photo to appear on Facebook.) I’m meeting and engaging locals, the fascinating and driven people involved in Italy’s Fab Lab culture. Last week we visited Opendot Lab in Milano and I finally met Luisa Castiglioni, with whom I’d been communicating by email for months. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Enrico Bassi, the Lab coordinator.