Getting Loud in the Library

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The Curtin Library Makerspace was a hive of activity on the 14th October as plain white t-shirts were transformed into colourful artistic creations using spray paints and stencils, fabric markers and rubbing alcohol, buttons, glitter and much more.

The occasion was Loud Shirt Day, when Curtin Library joined other areas across the University to participate in a day of events where people were encouraged to wear their brightest clothes to promote hearing awareness and raise funds for Telethon Speech and Hearing.

The plan was to have two hour-long workshops that participants could register for, and one drop in session. In the first workshop participants would create “no-dye tie-dye” loud shirts, using permanent markers and rubbing alcohol to create a tie-dye look. In the second workshop, the plan was to design your own t-shirt and use fabric spray paints and stencils. The drop-in session would be a combination of the two workshops with the opportunity to embellish T-shirts with a variety of materials including permanent markers, paints, stencils, beads, buttons and fabrics.

Well, that was the plan. But sometimes things don’t go exactly according to the plan, and this was one of those times.

Although we had scheduled sessions, our participants rocked up at any old time.   They didn’t want to have to listen to anyone explain what to do, so they just jumped in and started doing stuff – anything and everything.   They didn’t leave at the end of the workshop but stayed on. The first workshop melded into the drop-in session which morphed into the next, and it just sort of continued on all afternoon as people took whatever time they wanted to do whatever they wanted to do with their t-shirts.

We ran out of spray paint and some of it went where it shouldn’t. One brand of fabric markers we bought failed to bleed with the rubbing alcohol to create the tye-dye effect.   Moreover, we didn’t fully appreciate glitter’s penchant for persistent attachment to people.

Fortunately, the Makerspace is a place where it is perfectly okay for things not to go according to plan, and sometimes – as with this event – the best things happen when it doesn’t.

Letting go of the structure allowed people to work at their own pace, doing as much or as little as they wished. They were able to learn from each other rather than an “expert”, to share what they found out, what worked and what didn’t work. While some people came along with a bit of idea of what they wanted to do, there was also an experimental attitude of “let’s see where this goes” and “let’s see what happens when I do this or that”.   It didn’t seem to matter how things turned out.

The best thing about it was the way in which we enjoyed being creative together, experimenting, chatting, having interesting conversations, sharing what we were learning, and being inspired by others’ ideas.

There’s always so much opportunity to learn from experience, and we learned some things to help us plan future activities. We learned that:

  • People love doing arty crafty things and it’s more about the doing than the end product
  • No-one seemed to mind that we ran out of stuff or things didn’t work as expected, so there is no need to be concerned when that doesn’t happen – just “go with the flow”
  • Art and craft is very “accessible”. Anyone can do it, and no special skills or knowledge are required, so it is far less intimidating for people than some of the more technical makerspace activities can be.
  • We often over-prepare for events such as these, and spend a lot of time worrying unnecessarily. It’s enough just to have a concept, materials, and a basic understanding – and then trust that participants will drive it with their own ideas, enthusiasm and willingness to engage and help each other.

A huge thanks goes to Marie Clarke who did an amazing job organizing and running the activities, acquiring the appropriate materials, equipment and resources.   Amanda Bellenger, our Library representative on the Loud Shirt Day committee, did a fantastic job ensuring the event was well promoted.  There were also a lot of volunteers who helped out too – so thanks to you all!

But above all, thanks to all the wonderful students and staff who participated, for inspiring us and helping make this event so much fun.