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2020 PVD Design Catalyst: Lara Henderson of Make Books

August 7, 2020 /// Featuring:  Lara Henderson of Make Books


Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

1. Tell us about your company! 

Make Books teach people how to organize their thoughts and document stories, both with physical materials & code. We teach students how to develop in a platform-agnostic way by introducing them to design principles as well as providing demonstrations in visual and auditory tools 

Our instruction helps students work fluidly between a variety of media until they find the heartbeat of their story. Currently, the project exists as a series of tutorials posted on my website. I will also be offering two virtual opportunities this coming September, Code Club and Introduction to Web Development at AS220. You can sign up for Code Club here.

2. Why did you apply to the Catalyst program? 

I attended the graduation of last year’s cohort and was so impressed with their businesses and growth. I really like cohort experiences where a group of people is hyper-focused on similar things and working alongside one another. The community that comes from that is pretty far-reaching.

3. How has the Catalyst program impacted your business? 

Creating our product development flow chart was an important early class exercise. It is something I begin with as I plan new content. In the development of a new business, time management is crucial. I have a deeper appreciation for early user testing and revision because of the time it saves. 

In the last six months, I have produced and tested educational content. My audience has grown by starting Code Club. I am developing a membership model and planning an interaction festival. To layout timelines for the next year under the guidance of my teachers and mentor, Coryndon Luxmoore, was immensely helpful. 

4. Why did you start your business? 

I started my business to share my passion for books with others and to help shape what it is becoming. Books record things and perform a function. I got to see this when I was a conservation intern at the American Philosophical Society. I saw books with moving parts that computed oceanic travel and told you what the night sky would look like in different areas of the world. I realized that books are the predecessors of mobile applications. I am engaged in shaping what the book is becoming as objects continue to dematerialize and become hyper-connected and interactive documents. 

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

Photo by Rue Sakayama Photography.

5. What’s been your career highlight to date? 

Among my art and design students at UMass Dartmouth, five of them declared minors in computer science this year. Getting artists passionate about technology is core to the mission of Make Books, so it is nice to see a community grow around shared skills and interests.

Developing Code Club has been a highlight as well. I used to run an in-person coding club, so this felt like the next natural step to make things virtual. Interestingly this decision was made pre Covid-19. In Code Club, students are learning what web development is and learning new skills alongside a community. I am taking content I previously taught over twelve weeks and instead presenting it in one month.

No one learns how to code in 3 weeks, it is a lifetime of gaining her It has been fun to deliver content in new ways and pre-recorded content and video technology. I am doing a second run of the course this August at AS220 and I am excited to bring it to a new group of people. 

Photo of Code Club. Photo by Lara Henderson.

Photo of Code Club. Photo by Lara Henderson.

6. What tips would you give to those who are looking to start their own business/studio?

The more you can hone your mission and vision, the more clarity you will have on your path. There are always going to be factors that you can’t control, for example, I can’t teach in person right now due to COVID-19. But because I have a mission and vision, I can shift while still staying focused on what is important.

Living in a time of significant shift makes me think about how my business can be of service to Black Lives Matter and Covid-19 response. The book is really good at archiving, and recently I have taken on an archivist role with Black Lives Matter Mural Project in Providence, organized by AS220 members. Around twenty murals are up now at 1 Eddy Street in Providence, but only until the end of the summer. I am really interested in how we document and tell the story of those murals long after they come are no longer publicly viewable. 

7. Why do you have your business in Providence? What draws you to the city? What resources and opportunities are here for creatives?

Providence has been my favorite city since I was fourteen. A big part of that has to do with AS220. They really got me to question what art is and why it is important at a formative age. 

Providence citizens are very resourceful and multi-talented. Most of the people I work alongside have four or five things they do as part of their artistic practice and a lot of people are educators too. The support network of AS220 has made me braver as an artist and entrepreneur. I feel like everything is within reach like I can do almost anything as long as I come up with a plan and can explain it to people. I have only seen one thing move mountains in my life and that is a group of people with a shared vision. I have been fortunate to have AS220 in my life because that is where I have seen it happen the most and to the largest scale. I hope to make big things move with my business and I am excited to see where it is in five years.

Photo by Sophie Schwartz. 

Photo by Sophie Schwartz.

Catherine Chung