May 2, 2014, 9:13 a.m.

Zombie Hackers: Working beyond burnout to craft a living

From screen printers to digital artists, from mural painters to jewellery makers, from visual illustrators to video makers, I had never witnessed so much creative energy in such a small room. Except for within our own caravan, of course...

You couldn't distinguish who was part of the Transeuropa Caravans and who was part of the Student Makers Festival, except for the different accents whistling across the room.

We discussed how throughout Europe - from the coastal ports of Folkestone or Gdansk to the mountain valleys of Cluj via the inner city of Birmingham, young people were facing similar challenges of trying to do what they loved while trying to make a living.

The student makers were navigating between the two edges of that spectrum, often burning both tips of the candle, working all hours to make ends meet and then working beyond burnout to perfect their craft.

They are lifestyle hackers within a zombie generation. For many of them...and us, we are trying to hack the lifestyle that we were taught to live, while our current "zombie" lifestyle hacks away at our body, mind and soul.

What @future_foundry brings to young people that often colleges and universities don't provide is not just a "reality check" on what the world of work will be like.

It does provide that, but it doesn't use the "tough love" approach you sometimes see which forces people to accept that there is no alternative to the corporate rat race. It not only helps people do what they love, but to make money from it.

It also provides an environment where like-minded people can share their fears and their hopes, not just as young people, but as young makers.

Makers throughout the ages have developed communities of practice, with "guilds" being the most well know of these, where people practicing a similar craft were valued for their craft and could go to "guildhalls" to develop their practice.

These still exist in cities like London, but are often seen as exclusive and perhaps even excluding. Even where there aren't guilds, the costs of living imposed on young people create other forms of exclusion. The cost of investing in stock to create and the cost of renting out space to trade.

This is why you get the "housewives and windmills" phenomenon, where the arts & crafts the general public are most likely to see in the window are those created by people who don't need the income from their craft to make a living and the art is immediately recognisable - like windmills.

So what would an "unguild" look like, which blended the traditions of a guild with the infrastructure capable of responding to the opportunities and challenges that makers face in the 21st century?

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