Just Got Made • 21 Oct 2014

Just Got Made guest blog for the RSA

Just Got Made’s founder Helen Kemp was asked to write a guest blog post for the RSA – The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce – this month on why she thinks the future power of Britain’s creative industries lies with the individuals and why we should support them. 

” it’s not about large factories but involves thousands of talented individuals; craftspeople, designers, artists and makers, working from their dining room table or studio desk…”

We are at the forefront of a Maker Revolution! This time around it’s not about large factories but involves thousands of talented individuals; craftspeople, designers, artists and makers, working from their dining room table or studio desk.

There needs to be a new way for companies to connect, to reach each other in this new landscape of cottage industries working on a global scale. And that’s where Just Got Made fits in. We are part of the toolkit for the next generation of makers.

I grew up in the London suburbs, obsessed with the 90’s grunge scene and immersed in the alternative cultures running through music, fashion, photography and art. The DIY ethos of independent culture got into my blood and instilled in me the conviction that independence is a powerful driver of creativity.

I later graduated as a textile designer, working for myself and freelancing for others. My aim was to set up my own label, however at the time it was incredibly difficult to manufacture and sell work as a young, independent company.

Fast-forward eight years and we are now at an exciting time for independent makers. As explored in the new RSA report Breaking the Mould, there has been an unprecedented growth in self-employment and micro-businesses within the realms of art, design, making & craft, from the remote rural areas to the inner cities.

Decent online platforms for selling designer-maker goods, a trend for buying ‘local’ and better, cheaper ways to communicate with customers through social media have all contributed to the rise in the number of designer-makers who are able to sustain themselves. However our current structure, based on our mass manufacturing past, means that production for small independents remains difficult.

Seeing this missing part of the puzzle, I looked to see if there was a solution and found a whole world of emerging ‘micro-producers’; local workshops and suppliers that were capable of supporting small production runs and who understood how to work with makers.

The seed of an idea was sown and six months later I found myself launching Just Got Made.

Just Got Made helps to connect creative small businesses with outstanding suppliers and producers. With us makers can find the manufacturer, artisan, workshop or material supplier they need to enable them to produce their work with confidence. Our partners are high quality, design literate & small-order friendly. Many are unique to our database.

Our starting point has been to create a production directory that covers the spectrum of physical making, from leatherworking to laser cutting. We have kept it open-source and provide access on our website. Here people can search directly for a material or service, or browse by area of interest /geographical area for inspiration. There are direct links to contact details and social media, providing a quick and easy way to connect with suppliers.

New listings join us weekly and we have seen rapid growth in page views and directory members (20% in July 2014).

To support the relationships that grow out of these connections we are putting together a series of master classes, articles, case studies and books that will help people through their journey of production.

It’s important to me that people also have the opportunity to connect offline. We are therefore also planning some informal evenings where peers can meet for discussion, exchange ideas and knowledge, and enjoy a pint (I also have my fingers crossed for a 2015 micro-production Trade Show!).

Interestingly, since we started in April 2014 it is not just makers that have been approaching Just Got Made but also branding agencies, arts organisations and government lobbyists. For me, this is where the secret of Just Got Made’s future strength lies. In the same way the Edinburgh Fringe is not defined by its individual acts but the experience of a vital whole, the maker community is more than the sum of its parts. By connecting people, we can take steps to sustain the passion and skills of micro level activity while achieving the power and richness of a macro entity. We can nurture a new, exciting and diverse creative scene, more relevant to our lives now than our current situation.

The ‘outliers’ of the self-employed are becoming the future power base of our country and I would like Just Got Made to be an active part of this.

Long live the Maker Revolution!

For the wider discussion between the RSA and Etsy read this long overdue and interesting report: “The Power of Small” by Benedict Dellot, which looks at the uprising of craft businesses in the UK. You may even recognise yourself in the different types of maker entrepreneur!