An Atlas of Extensions

I asked everybody I portrayed for my Atlas of Makers to tell me about the tools they use, and then I asked them to pick their primary tool, their extension so to speak. I thought most people would name their computer. Quite a few people did, but fewer than I expected. For various reasons as well. I also assumed more people would name their phone. It turns out people don’t use it that much for making. Pen and paper is another favourite.


Quite some people have an extension of their brain and it seems like pen and paper are the favourite tool in this case. Diek uses his pen and paper as a first way to visualise the concepts he came up with. He considers this phase to be much more important than the actual making of a sculpture. For Marrije her pen and notebook are a way to order things. And for Astrid sketching is a way of thinking.


Then there are the more practical people whose extension makes it easier to do the things they do. Arnold has used many different tools over the years, but these have all been replaced by his computer. Vasilis makes things on computers that are consumed mostly on computers. Robert Jan uses two input devices, a mouse and a mousepad to transfer his thoughts to his computer. Kiki uses all kinds of tools to make things.


Apart from making, extensions can be used to communicate as well. Marie, who is deaf, makes extensive use of tools like Facetime to talk to friends. They need to see each other, since sign language is a visual language. For Harold his guitar is not just a tool for playing his music, but also a way to share his ideas with his fellow musicians, who in turn come up with suggestions for improvements. And Joost uses his computer not just to design his lessons and examples, but also to discuss ideas with his colleagues.

Extending the body

All of the extensions can be seen as an extension of the body. Maarten uses these ear protectors not so much for making, but for his own safety. And Stefanos has been cutting vegetables daily for over 40 years now. He will look you in the eye when he talks to you while cutting onions at top speed. Incredible. Joke is the only one who mentioned her phone. She uses her phone’s camera as a memory for her eyes.



People pick different kinds of extensions, and they all have quite a different purpose. It seems like different makers have different needs and different ways of working. They focus on other parts of the making process as well. Some people think, others do, and for many communication is important. Not sure if I can conclude anything from this.