The Power of Fixing
Six months into her Fixpert residency here at Benchmark, Fixpert resident Maya Alvarado shares her highlights so far. She tells us how she’s tapped into the knowledge and skills of our team and shows just how design & making for good has made a difference to people’s lives in our local community….
I’m already half way through my residency at Benchmark. Time has passed quickly, but in that space of time I have been lucky enough to learn from so many talented people here in the design offices and workshops. The residency has been a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the local community, to grow relationships and to extend these to the internal community at Benchmark. The success of this can be measured in the involvement and interactions between the Benchmark team and the Fix Partners.
This month, makers and designers Mike, Kevin, Colin and Danny embarked on their first Fixperts project with Heidi from The Castle School in Newbury. Having built their own canoes in the workshops, the group and many more regularly embark on country expeditions. Early one Saturday morning we set off to the Cotswolds, with plenty of paddle prototypes, cordless power tools and materials, in the hope of finding the best tool for Heidi’s Duke of Edinburgh Award canoe expedition. After weeks of swapping ideas across the workbenches it was time to see the success of the first prototypes. Very quickly, Colin spotted that the shape and size of one paddle needed adjustments and began making them with a jigsaw and a stone step as his bench. Heidi and her parents thoroughly enjoyed the day, which was filled with, spontaneity, enthusiasm and ideas – values that I believe to be essential for each Fixperts project, and very present in everyday work at Benchmark. It is this environment that makes for a perfect Fixperts setting. As I begin crafting a new prototype, I am shared the insights and know how from the individuals around me, learning new techniques and bouncing ideas around every day.
Other special moments for me include seeking out and meeting new Fix Partners – learning more about them and developing projects together; impromptu design hacks at my bench with Ben and Pete – trying to develop an easier way for a new friend with arthritis to open bleach bottles; gaining confidence and technique with a range of new power tools (I think that the router is my new best friend); and expanding my knowledge into the area of social design from stimulating conversations, workshops and mentoring sessions with the Fixperts team.
So far projects that I have completed include a set of bespoke cooking utensils for improved grip and pressure for sixteen-year-old Heidi who has cerebral palsy and a fold down food tray for eighty-nine-year-old Mrs Ellis in the village that clips on to her walker frame and provides a close by eating surface. With the offcuts of quality leather from Benchmark’s upholstery shed, I made food rest supports for Heidi’s wheelchair. Currently I am fusing existing toothbrushes to design a fun method of tooth brushing for Philly from The Old Vicarage Care Home, Hungerford. Through Twitter I have met Mary who finds it hard use nail clippers. With some adjustments to the size and form of the handles, I posted out a trial pair for her to try. Social media has also helped me to find Jamie and Emma, soon-to-be parents of twins – I look forward to finding out what is tricky for them as time goes on.
Fixperts is about fixing, and thinking through making. This really resonates here at Benchmark, making the pairing for this residency so fitting.
By Maya Alvarado
You can read more about Maya’s residency on Confessions of a Design Geek and learn more about her fixes by watching these FixFilms….