Christmas traditions come home

Every year, on Christmas Eve, my family has pork pie for dinner. The tradition has been passed down from my mum’s family where they had pork pie for dinner on Christmas Eve because my gran would be too busy plucking and preparing the turkey to cook. (Yeah, yeah, grandpa could have been doing the cooking – let’s just say times were different!) I’ve never met anyone else who eats pork pie on Christmas Eve though mum was recently told it’s a Midlands tradition which makes sense as her family is from around Birmingham. Anyway, this tradition means I’ve eaten many pork pies in my lifetime. Mostly these have come from supermarkets. Marks and Spencers and Waitrose both sell reasonable pork pies, however, in 2010, I bought the Christmas pork pie right here in Brixton.

In early December I found out that Ian, at Cornercopia in Brixton Village, was making pork pies to order in a variety of sizes. These pies were handmade from start to finish, pastry, meat filling and apple jelly. I went for the 10-person pie, judging the size from baking tins Ian showed me. It was the largest pork pie I’ve ever seen (yet not the largest I could have had..). I put in my order and on 23 December I went to pick up my pie. It looked magnificent. A pie worthy of Christmas Eve dinner (and Christmas Day supper and Boxing Day lunch as it turned out!). I carried the pie to my parent’s house near Cardiff. My mum cut the pie. The meat filling looked like, well, meat. “That looks different” everyone said, then “That’s good!” when they tasted it. The pork pie of 2010 has set a standard all other Christmas pork pies will have to live up to. I’m just hoping that Ian will be making them again next year..

But the fact that the pie tasted good is only one reason (albeit a pretty good one!) why the pie was so special. I loved contributing the pie to my family’s Christmas and more than that, I loved that it came from the place I live, and that I knew the person who made it. Telling my family the story behind the pie was as much a contribution to Christmas Eve dinner as the pie itself. And with this I understood even more clearly how Makerhood can work. Buying a pork pie from Waitrose fulfills the need to have a pie for Christmas Eve dinner. But I never felt like I was involved with the pie. Buying my pork pie from Cornercopia felt very different. I was contributing to the success of an independent business in my local area and contributing to my family dinner at the same time. I met the people who work at Cornercopia, they make great pies and I want them to be successful – not least so I can get my pork pie there again next year. In return, they provided me with the best pork pie I’ve ever eaten and a personal, friendly shopping experience that gave me insight into someone else’s life in Brixton. If Makerhood can make experiences like this happen I’ll be more than happy!

Happy New Year!!

I’m excited about 2011, developing the Makerhood site, meeting more makers around Brixton, Camberwell, Stockwell and Herne Hill and figuring out how to connect makers and buyers together in a way that benefits everyone. The turn of the new year always makes me look back as well as forward, reflecting on what took place in the previous 12 months and I thought that this might be a good time to share the story of Makerhood with you and tell you how Kristina and I came up with the idea. So, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin..

Twelve months ago the idea of Makerhood didn’t exist. It was born one Sunday in May when Kristina and I were in a pub in Camden enjoying a long Sunday lunch to celebrate the visit of a friend of ours who had recently moved to New York. Kristina told me about an idea she’d had the day before for a website to help people find things made in their local area. The inspiration had come as she tried to find a particular item made locally and had not been able to. I was excited. Her idea was the online version of a proposal I had put forward when Spacemakers were offering shops at Brixton Village. I had proposed to run a shop where local makers of any kind could sell their produce whether they had one item or thirty to put on sale and whether they were professional or hobbyist. I’d never spoken to Kristina about it yet we had come up with very similar ideas. The coincidence was too good to ignore and we began to plan.

We started talking to people about it. We talked to makers at Brixton Village, Tunstall Road market, the Piano House and Lambeth Country Fair and asked – if we build this site would you be interested in using it? We were so excited when many people told us ‘Yes, we would use it. Please build it!’ We asked our friends to advise us and over the summer Kalam, Dougald, Carolina, Aoife, Amar, Hannah, Anand and Monica all joined us on Windrush Square as we sat on the grass and discussed possible names, user journeys and strategies. We could have been called ThisWeirdGirlMadeIt, MyNeighbourStitchedMeUp, MadeByMe or Doozy. Luckily Makerhood stuck and the domain was free. Yay!

We searched out people around Brixton who were already involved with makers and met people doing great projects such as Hannah with Re:Made in Brixton, Mitchell of MadeInBrixton, Ed of We-Fab, Fiona of Oh Sew Brixton and Zoe of SWCraftClub and talented individuals and makers such as Emily, Bua and Laura*. All of whom were incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and experience and willing to share these things with us. In August Kristina and I had enough details worked out to put in an application for UnLtd Level 1 funding and in late October we heard we’d been successful. That meant we could get a developer on board (the amazing Andy) and we began to think seriously about the site architecture, user experience, platform, user journeys and design. Right now we are completing these tasks and beginning to actually build the website.

It’s been an incredible seven months and difficult to remember a time before Makerhood. For me, it’s been very exciting to begin to make the website happen yet the most enriching part has been the people I’ve met. I feel more connected to my local area than ever before as I meet people who live and work here. I’m looking forward to more of that in 2011 and I’m hoping that when we launch the website it will play a part in the landscape of creative, inspiring projects that are happening right now in Brixton and surrounding areas. And, of course, we’ll keep you updated about all of that here on the blog. So here’s to 2011!

*And many more.. I’m sorry if I missed your name out here but be certain that I’m very happy to have met you!