The DIY movement grows in Shenzhen, China’s manufacturing capital
How one woman is helping to train the next generation of makers
In the electronics manufacturing capital of the world, Lit Liao is trying to teach people to look beyond mass-produced goods.
Liao is part of the maker movement -- which celebrates building things yourself.
“I figured that I can learn almost anything from the internet, from the community,” says Liao. “After I was touched by maker culture, I wanted to bring it to mainland China.”
Maker culture encourages people to learn how things work, to take things apart and tinker with them. It’s something that’s been lost in an age when gadgets are sealed tight, unable even to be repaired by users.
Liao runs Litchee Lab, one of hundreds of “makerspaces” in Shenzhen. They’re like co-working spaces, but instead of only having desks, they feature plenty of equipment and tools for DIY work.
Litchee also runs training courses, both for students and for teachers -- so Liao can help them pass maker culture down to their own students.
She says there’s something special about Shenzhen, which has grown rapidly from a sleepy fishing village to a massive city in just a few decades.
Liao says the rapid influx of people from all over China and the rest of the world has given the city a different attitude to the rest of the country, a difference she can see in the city’s youth.
“They believe ‘I can do something,’” says Liao.
One of her students agreed, saying neighboring Guangzhou focused more on technical skills. “In Shenzhen, it’s more about ideas.”
And despite the focus on technical skills, Liao says that inspiration and creativity are at the heart of the maker movement.
“You’re meant to be an engineer, but what, you cannot create art? That’s not true.”