by Mallory Moad
The message written on the chalkboard said, “What are you making?” At Fresno Ideaworks and Craftapalooza Fresno’s Mini Maker Faire, the answer was, “LOTS of cool things,” including robots, games, paper-maché cats, and a full-size replica of Dr. Who’s time-traveling vehicle, the TARDIS.Maker Faire is a gathering of “makers,” people who make stuff. They’re crafters, science buffs, hobbyists, and professionals. They build things, knit things, grow things, sculpt things, and electrify things. Maker Faire gives them a place to show the product of their skills and interests, and to share the love of what they do with the public. The first Maker Faire took place in San Mateo, California in 2006. It was a huge success, and today Maker Faires of all sizes take place in locations all over the world, from large-scale featured faires to mini faires like the one that took place in Fresno on April 17 at Grizzlies Stadium.
You don’t have to be a maker to attend a Maker Faire, but the enthusiasm of those involved could inspire you to become one. The first thing to catch my eye was the Fresno Ideaworks robotics department’s egg bot. It’s, “made with a 3D printer and stuff from the hardware store,” that is programmed to draw an intricate geometric pattern on an egg. Why not? Josh, Matt, and Melanie, a trio of lovable nerds, excitedly told me about the Ideabot kits that are available for purchase, and an upcoming Bot Battle. Although this was foreign territory for me, they explained what they do in a way that was neither confusing nor condescending, and made me want to build a robot, too. See what I mean about enthusiasm being inspiring?
Robotics have a futuristic reputation, but some Maker Faire participants practice crafts that are rooted in the past. Fiber artist Jayne Kramer demonstrated how she spins roving (fluffy wool fleece) into yarn by using a drop spindle. It’s one of the oldest techniques around, totally low-tech, fairly time-consuming, and strangely satisfying. Chris Bonner and Chris Moore work with glass. Laboring over a free-form lampwork heart, Bonner said, “You can see the ‘heartness’ in it, and it’s made with a lot of love.” Moore (who is also a Renaissance re-enactor) creates intricate, multicolored lampwork beads, one at a time.
Kids (some of the best makers ever, in my opinion) are welcome at Maker Faires, and Fresno’s event had plenty of hands-on events to satisfy their curiosity. Students from Sanger’s SAM Academy assisted with building robots that made abstract drawings, while Fresno’s CART students supervised the construction of miniature boats that, hopefully, would survive a voyage down a chute of running water.
You don’t need any special equipment or supplies to be a maker. Stuff around the house will work just fine. If you need some inspiration, visiting a Maker Faire would be just the thing to jump-start your ideas. Your curiosity and creativity are the only requirements.
My name is Mallory Moad and I’m a maker, too.
For more information on Maker Faire, visit www.makerfaire.com. For information on Fresno Ideaworks and Craftapalooza Fresno, visit www.fresnoideaworks.org and https://www.facebook.com/CraftapaloozaFresno.