Even though the sun is still shining over Stoke-on-Trent in September…yeah we’re not sure what’s going on either….one thing is for certain, here at Wavemaker, the summer is officially over and what a summer is was! Stoked!

After six, activity packed weeks, our Stoked-on-Tech Summer 2016 programme came to a brilliant end on Friday 2nd September, with our Stoked-on-Tech Summer 2016 Exhibition. It was the first time Wavemaker had attempted to organise any event like it. A whole day, open to the public, showcasing all of the fabulous makes and creations of the summer. But here at Wavemaker, we are nothing if not ambitious, so whatever the outcome, we were going to go for it!

Now this wasn’t the “National Portrait Gallery” style of exhibition. Yes, there were information plaques….all laser cut on card, because that’s how we roll…but everything was there to be looked at, touched, picked up and explored. The ‘No Touching’ sign at galleries has always suggested a challenge rather than an instruction, so this exhibition was going to be different. Child-friendly and an opportunity to play, was high on the agenda when it came to planning our big day.  

Our Makerspace became a gallery for the day, all the different makes from the holiday laid out, from our printed tote bags, to our Minecraft Steve cushion. We also had our rubbish fashion creation from our BIG Make, displayed in all its recycled glory. Pinhole cameras and their developed images snaked to the ceiling, as the 3D printer laid out another fascinating creation, layer on layer.

In our breakout area, the BIG Make Retro Games Arcade was ready to play, alongside laptops showcasing our Summer Scratch Code Club Competition entries. Our entries were all so imaginative and entertaining. The only criteria was that they had to be focused on Stoke-on-Trent and the great things about our city, in keeping with our bid for UK City of Culture 2021. We had oatcakes, Back the Bid animations and timed bottle kiln building. Our winning entry came from a Code Club member, Ryan, who at 9 years old is one of the younger members of our Wavemaker Code Club, alongside our brilliant second place Eva-Jayne, another fellow Code Clubber.  Ryan created a scratch game which featured his very own character “Oatie”, yep, you guessed it, an oatcake. It also featured a Spitfire, drawing on the heritage of fellow potter, Reginald Mitchell. For those who don’t know, Reginald Mitchell designed many planes, including the Spitfire, which gained critical acclaim during WWII, although unfortunately, Reginald died before he saw the true success of his creation.

Judging the entries was Tim Wilson, Regional Co-ordinator of West Midlands Code Club. Tim very kindly popped in early afternoon, had a play on the scratch creations, investigated the code and selected a winner. That winner was Ryan, who was thrilled to be awarded the first prize, which was a BBC Micro:Bit, which will hopefully encourage him to continue coding and making.

Alongside our Scratch entries, we had a different coding software for people to have a play with. Processing software is an open source programme developed by visual artists, using a form of javascript code. It was introduced to us at a workshop run as part of the Micro World sessions run in conjunction with the Leicester City Festival. It was a brilliant introduction into coding to create moving images and visual pieces of art, if it sounds like something you would be interested in, check it out here.

Downstairs, we had Minecraft, a game and educational tool, that has proved extremely popular since we began running Building in Minecraft workshops in spring this year. Our exhibition gave people the opportunity to explore our online Wavemaker world, have a look at some of the amazing builds on display and also have a play. We also showcased our fantastic BIG Make Graffiti art, a collaboration with the talented artists at Entrepreneurs in Piccadilly, Hanley and some budding young street artists, who joined us during the holidays to try their hand at spray painting. The piece they created was on proud display, alongside a time lapse film of it being created.

We also wanted the exhibition to host some locally established artists, so we were very happy to display pieces from Entrepreneurs’ clothing line, which included screen printed T-shirts, My Name is Mike and Amy Davis, two artists based at the ACAVA Spode Artist Studios, who both submitted very interesting pieces for the public to look at and explore.

A big thank you goes out to everyone who attended, submitted items, entries and also helped make the day and the Stoked-on-Tech Summer 2016, a great success and one to remember! After all that summer excitement, Wavemaker is now closed to the public for two weeks, to give us time to refuel and freshen up for the Autumn/Winter term. We’ll be back with a firework bang in no time at all.