‘We Are Makers’ is an aptly straightforward title for a project that champions craftspeople preserving traditional artistry. Kate and Jack Lennie are the makers behind the makers, providing a much-needed platform for talented creatives across the globe to share their inspiring stories. The ‘We Are Makers’ publication - a beautiful coffee table book showcasing artisans from watchmakers to sculptors - is about to launch its sixth edition. A podcast by the same name sees Kate and Jack travel to the makers’ workspaces to find out more about their unique businesses.
As part of our Kindred Spirit series, we focus on Kate and Jack themselves – makers turned mentors who are changing the way we look at heritage skills and the experts keeping them alive.
Kate's own struggles as a maker led her and her husband, Jack, a special effects engineer in film and television, to support others facing the same issues. In addition to promoting the declining skills revived and sustained by their featured makers, they aim to overcome the loneliness and self-doubt that the makers often experience.
‘Nothing brings us more joy than meeting inspirational makers and sharing their stories with the We Are Makers community. By uniting makers, it channels that contagious joy of being surrounded by people who love what they do.’ – Kate and Jack Lennie.
Kate and Jack Lennie visited our Elgin weaving mill to discuss their current projects and what the future holds for We Are Makers.
What led you to launch We Are Makers?
Kate: We met at uni and graduated from the same course in 2015 - Jack got a job ten days later, and I wanted to start my own business making furniture. My parents live on a farm near Aberfoyle and said I could use a workshop there, so I got a CNC machine and finished all the products by hand. I grew my product base over three years, but I was thinking, 'how do I get my wares out there?' I had Not on the High Street, Etsy, my website and adverts, but I kept thinking, why is this so difficult?
We know first-hand the joy of honing a craft and the frustrations of going it alone while trying to gain visibility. We set up We Are Makers with what would have been our house deposit, and Jack works full-time to fund the company.
We have now independently published five editions of the We Are Makers bi-annual book, filled cover to cover with content about inspirational makers worldwide.
How do you select the makers?
Kate: I scroll through Instagram and look for makers, and then I'll find a maker following another maker.
Would you agree that many of the makers you feature are modest and earnest?
Jack: Many makers are so focused on making sure the craft is as good as possible that they tend to forget they actually need to make a living from what they’re doing. These people are modest, introverted and shy about their work. I've watched makers struggle with confidence, and I want Kate and me to help them find that confidence.
How important is it to connect with the makers in person?
Jack: Everyone involved in the podcast discussions finds them therapeutic; they can get everything off their chest. Building these relationships is great, and the podcast has been great for my own mental health too. These are really down-to-earth people, and we want to build long-standing relationships – not one-and-done people. Relationships build month on month – by having the makers back again and again.
Why did you decide to create a hard-copy book?
Kate: It was a conscious decision; I wanted to do something other than digital. Instagram doesn't have a tactile product link, and we're trying to advertise tactile products. How do you do that? Being designers, we are perfectionists – it had to be good. Something to put on a coffee table. It had to be a collection, and there is so much content, cover to cover. Our graphic designer is a former product designer, so she understands product. Our proofreader is from Edinburgh, and I couldn't have done this without her.
What’s next for We Are Makers?
Jack: We have four or five more podcast trips this year – five weeks in the USA, a week in Oslo and some time in Tokyo, plus the usual UK weekends. We’ll visit Atlanta, Alabama, Nashville, Mississippi, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. We’ll visit leather workers, woodworkers, and a brewery. There's also a meadery – making alcohol from honey.
We are growing our Youtube channel. Our big goals currently revolve around how we both do this full-time. It'll feel like we’ve achieved success if I can sit back in my rocking chair someday in a wee cottage somewhere thinking, 'we made a difference’.
We Are Makers' first documentary, 'An Honest Representation of The Modern Maker,' features three unique artisans - Arra Textiles, The Marchmont Workshop, and Cecilia Stamp Jewellery. This feature-length episode explores the highs and lows of makers in the modern world.
Edition Six of the We Are Makers book will launch in March 2023, including a saddler in Alabama, a stone carver in Somerset and a small paper mill in South Australia.