During the Bespoke project cultural exchanges, we had the opportunity to visit various spaces such as: industrial design studios, artisanal manufacturing workshops, maker spaces, art studios, cultural centres, tool libraries, among others. In each of these places we exchanged experiences and learned from the work of different professionals. However, we were struck by the remarkable participation of women in these spaces. 

One example is the case of Alice, a member of the Edinburgh Tool Library, who told us that more and more women are approaching the tool library for various reasons: to borrow tools for their personal projects, to learn about the use of new tools, or to participate in workshops such as carpentry courses. According to Alice, the women who join the library not only acquire new technical knowledge, but also make new friends and establish new relationships based on solidarity, since in addition to their personal projects, they also work together on collective projects. 

Image: Alice showing the Edinburgh Tool library to BESPOKE participants © Sofía G 2023

In relation to this, is also the case of Olga Becker, a member of Werkbox3. This is an open workshop based in Munich where people can join by paying a subscription fee and gain access to work areas, diverse tools, and storage space for their personal tools/materials. 

Olga shared her personal story about how she discovered Werkbox3 when she started learning to use a variety of machines and tools to fulfill a commission as an emerging designer that would drive her personal projects. However, Olga mentions how intimidating it can be for a woman to approach such mechanical/industrial spaces, as they have generally been dominated by men. Over time, Olga not only learned how to use various kinds of tools and machinery, but also discovered a passion for the Werkbox3 initiative. She decided to stay when she discovered a community of wonderful people who learn, share and create together. 

Image: © WerkBox3

During the cultural exchanges, we were able to learn about many inspiring cases of women who are transforming their communities and changing the landscape of local production and artisanal manufacturing. The cultural exchanges were an opportunity to explore how makerspaces, fablabs, repair cafés, etc., can be spaces for women's empowerment: learning about the use of tools, materials and machinery allows women to develop manual independence, in which they can design and undertake their own projects either on a personal level or at a community level. In addition, these spaces provide opportunities for women to expand their support networks, make new friends and establish diverse community relationships. 

This blog post is part of a series of articles that document and explore the themes and activities that have taken place during Bespoke, a Cultural Bridge partnership between Make Works Scotland 'Paved with Gold' (Scotland) and Kulturzentrum LUISE (Germany). Find out more about the partnership. 

Related articles:

Make Works Scotland - reflections on Bespoke

Diversity matters! Learnings on how to integrate different communities into local projects