Fresh ideas | Free thinking #5

Alex Kelly is the cofounder of Liverpool based coworking and maker space, Make Liverpool. With an interest in ethical and sustainable fashion, Kelly explores the things that matter the most to her, from mainstream creative education to a floating hackspace off the coast of Manila...

Fresh ideas | Free thinking #5

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What do you do?

I’m the co-founder of Make Liverpool, an open access workshop and studio space for artists, based across two sites in Liverpool. After graduating with a BA in fashion communication from the University of Central Lancashire, it was time to figure out what I wanted to do. Alongside my brother Liam, and our close friend Kirsten, we opened a coworking space called 90 Squared, which we recently rebranded Make Baltic – and we utilised this space as a place to work in and be creative, alongside our peers.

Where do you do it?

We started with 90 Squared, a studio space for independent and startup businesses in Liverpool’s creative and industrial area, the Baltic Triangle. Following the success of 90 Squared, we opened Make Liverpool, a warehouse space for creatives in Liverpool’s north docks. This area was once the industrial epicentre of Liverpool and has since been left to disrepair; but has recently been earmarked for redevelopment, and a place where artists and makers will find a home in the industrial heartland of the city.


Who do you do it for?

When we opened our first studio space in the Baltic Triangle, we noticed that a lot of our tenants – who were makers and crafters – found many barriers when mass producing their products. One of these barriers was the expense of outsourcing production to more than one manufacturer, especially in the experimental stage of a product’s development.

We found that some of our tenants priced themselves out of the market and didn’t have the capital to buy multiple pieces of machinery to develop their products. This made us think, ‘what if they had a place they could go and experiment and developed products, making them more financially viable and thus sustainable?’ and so Make Liverpool was born…

What has been your favourite project of the past year that you’ve been involved in?

Apart from building our Make Liverpool project itself, my favourite project has to be the Tool Drive campaign we have just launched…

We recently opened the workshop part of Make Liverpool and we need tools to fill it with, so we are asking people to donate their unused tools to the workshop. A friend of ours, a local filmmaker, produced the video, and we had lots of fun doing it… It’s one of the best parts of working in the creative industry – being able to have fun in your job. It can be easy to get tied up in the ‘official business’ side of work and forget why we started this journey to begin with…

TOOL DRIVE from Make Liverpool on Vimeo.

What is the most innovative, ethically-minded business that you’d love to collaborate with?

I’m passionate about art and making being part of mainstream education. We hear every day how more and more of the arts subjects are being cut from schools. Formal education isn’t for everyone and it’s important that children and young people have the opportunity to explore different ways of learning. Children should grow up with practical skills as well as academic knowledge – a basic level of knowledge when it comes to things like, re-wiring a plug or hemming some trousers. Skills like these make people independent and ethically-minded, they also save money.

It would be great to team up with a company like the Create Education project and bring makerspaces into schools. Applying practical skills with subjects like maths, makes for much more interesting and well rounded learning.

What ethical business leaders inspire you?

Over the course of my degree I became increasingly frustrated with the fashion industry and its attitude towards its environmental and social impact on the world; then I came across People Tree – a sustainable and fair trade fashion brand. Founder Safia Minney is an incredibly inspiring woman and has made massive contributions to changing the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry.


What are the five most interesting things that you have come across or read recently?

Precious Plastics
UK Men’s Sheds Association
The Creative United Maker’s Report
Boat Lab
Parley for the Oceans

I read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point at university, and, more recently, Outliers. He describes why we do the things we do in a way that you can relate to – a personal situation. It makes you think ‘wow, I actually know that’. It made me realise that we need to make the most of the situations life presents, even those that are out of our control.

I’m reading Quiet by Susan Cain at the moment, a novel about the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. I’m considered a bit of an extrovert and reading this book has helped me realise some of my introverted qualities – and how sometimes those behaviours that are best suited to some (or most!) situations.


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