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We Meet Fi Scott of Make Works

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For the next in our series of #WoolWorks interviews we met up with Fi Scott, Founder of Make Works, a directory which promotes UK manufacturing.

We love your business! Please introduce the concept of Make Works

Make Works is a platform to source local production; something of an online library for designers and makers to find manufacturers, material suppliers and workshop facilities in their local area.

The team (there are 1 and a half of us, plus a crew of freelancers) are based between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. We spend most of our time going out to film, photograph and collect information about manufacturers before posting them on our database so that people can easily source production locally.

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The Make Works Team, with Fi at the centre.

What is your background? Were you involved in manufacturing before Make Works?

I’ve always been interested in the manufacturing side of design. I worked in furniture factories, and for individual furniture makers in all my holidays at school and university. I was actually still studying Product and Service Design at Glasgow School of Art  when I came up with the idea for Make Works, and set it up just after I graduated.  In that sense, I feel like it’s the only ‘real’ job I’ve ever had!

Was there a particular experience that triggered the idea?

Make Works started really because I was frustrated with the lack of resources pointing me towards manufacturers I could work with, materials or workshops in Scotland. After asking lots of other designers and makers in Glasgow, I realised that lots of people had a similar problem so took it upon myself to fix the issue.

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Schofield Textile Dyers and Finishers. Specialists in preparing textiles for end use, mainly scouring and drying, pressing and setting. Photo Ross Fraser-McLean

You obviously meet a wide range of makers – who inspires you?

There are so many! Especially because we crossover so many different industries like digital, design, manufacturing, arts and sustainable economies.

On the digital side of things, I’m inspired by makers like Aaron Swartz who’s all about making information openly accessible online. I’ve got to admit that I’m probably more inspired by the manufacturers than the designers these days.

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Jamieson’s of Shetland. Jamieson’s manufacture yarn, knitwear and woven products. Photo Ross Fraser-McLean

At present you are focused on Scotland with Birmingham to follow next…do you have plans to take Make Works nationwide? Can you tell us about any secret manufacturing hotspots that are on your radar?

Yes! We basically had so many people getting in touch last year, wondering if they could start something similar to Make Works in Scotland, but for their cities and regions. We tested whether it would work with Birmingham, and realised that there were incredible small manufacturers all over the country.

It’s lovely, because some processes we’d been looking for in Scotland (e.g Neon light manufacturers), they have found in Birmingham, and vice-versa.

The idea is that individuals and communities can now start a Make Works. I like the model because it means that the people that really care about that city are the ones mapping the manufacturing there.

We opened up Birmingham a month ago, and since then a Bristol and Bath region are starting, as are Cornwall and Devon. I’ve got a soft spot for Wales, so I’d love to see that get started, as well as the northern cities like Sheffield and Manchester which are also on our radar.

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Bute Fabrics, who design and weave high-quality wool upholstery fabrics. Photo Ross Fraser-McLean

Can you tell us about the criteria you apply to businesses listed on Make Works?

There’s a few things, but primarily it’s about quality, openness, and being willing to work with artists and designers – you can read more on our criteria here.

What would you say to brands looking to bring elements of the manufacturing back to the UK? What are the benefits of UK manufacture?

To me, it just makes more sense. I think the fact that you can easily go to visit the factory, discuss the materials and actually hold products in your hands makes the whole production process much easier. It also means you can access really high quality work and be more experimental. That, plus you can see the skilled jobs it provides people and that gives your brand and your product so much more meaning and value.

What encouragement would you give young people who want to work in manufacturing?

Do it! Working with your hands is not only satisfying, but it’s a skill that you are always able to use. I think small scale local production is going to be the future of manufacturing in a global context, so I think there are only going to be more jobs in manufacturing in the UK.

That’s a great piece of advice for young people! What advice would you give a small business who wants to promote their manufacturing services? Obviously, they should get in touch with Make Works! – But what else?

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FTS Dyers, a commission yarn dyer of bespoke colours from 1kg to 1,000kg. Photo Ross Fraser-McLean

One of the biggest struggles I think brands and designers looking to source locally have is finding small manufacturing businesses online, it can be really hard to track suppliers down, and when you do find them, their websites are often full of jargon and engineering terms you don’t understand.

At Make Works we always say that ‘the best factories don’t have a website!’ because they are out on the factory floor – but that doesn’t make them any easier to find.  There’s lots of simple things that small factories and suppliers can do to make this easier, from making sure to write in layman’s terms, to posting things you’ve made recently to Instagram or Twitter.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, we absolutely love the concept of Make Works, it’s a beautifully put together site that serves a really useful purpose.  You can read about the many wool textile companies listed on Make Works including, Bute Fabrics, Jamiesons of Shetland and Eribe, here

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Uist Mill, based in the Outer Hebrides who provide wool spinning, wool grading and sorting; wool washing and passive drying; carding, spinning, plying and steam finishing of yarn from local sheep.

Don’t forget to check out our #MillMonday posts on our social channels. We think the production process is as interesting and beautiful as the finished product and #MillMonday is a weekly look behind the scenes at some of the varied and complex processes that go into making everyday objects. If you working in wool manufacturing, at any stage of the production process please tag us in your #MillMonday shots – we’d love to share them.

If you are interested in starting a Make Works for your region then you can find out more at http://makeworks.co.uk/start-a-region

For factories, mills, suppliers, and workshops interested in joining Make Works sign up here

#WoolWorks #ChooseWool #MillMonday

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