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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mind Of This Maker

(co-published with She's Hep With Tech)
We used to be called "creative", but now we're called "makers".* 

Do you have Maker Faire's where you live? Maker Faire is kind of like a Renaissance Faire, and kind of like Silicon Valley translated into a modern day county fair. I went because I'd been under the weather physically and emotionally, and I wanted to recharge my mental batteries.

Good idea.

There's a lot of technology at the faire. A lot of it is fantasy technology reinterpreted as semi-reality - like the big metal octopus that shot fire, the traveling cold drinks dragon-headed vendor that shot fire - in fact shooting fire seemed to be an important aspect of the faire. There was also a big chambered Nautilus that brought to mind Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. The kids were lined up to zip into there and head up on top for a visit with the Steam Punk'y looking guide.

Steam Punk comes to life at Maker Faire. You know how Steam Punk works right? These folks are a natural for this zone.  Steam Punk people combine dressing up in Victorian 'esque clothing with  elements of imaginary technology. They don't live in a reenactor world like Renaissence, Civil War Reenactors, and Dickens Faire participants. They're part of the mainstream plane, but also apart from it. The costumes and the tech are all mixed up together. Gears, cogs and wheels are big with Steam Punk folks. Anything mechanical is big.  And corsets are very important. There were a bunch of Steam Punk costume vendors there, selling Steam Punk garb off the rack. They charge $250 for custom corsets. As a sewist who spent three months creating a custom boned bustier, I can tell you that is not overpriced.

There's a sense of computer games come to life at the faire. Lots of robots and robotics. Lots of little booths that help you make toys that look like they come off your iPhone screen to life. There are Radio Controlled goodies for you RC lovers.

The Bay Area Lego Users Group has a booth. It's part model railroad, part completely huge old style city streets, flotilla of military looking ships in a life like bay. If you like to play that way, you could play for a long time.

I went looking for Crafts, Needlework and Sewing stuff, because that's one type of of maker I am. There were tables of people stitching and chatting and having fun interacting, either adding to a big existing project or doing some kind of make-and-take sample. I was hoping to see a lot more of this type of making, but I had a limited amount of time and may not have found it all.  B. Coole was there with her Steam Punk oriented embroideries, parasols, tassels and other nifty Victorian 'esque and Steam Punk accouterments.  She gave me some good audio input for my monthly Enchanted by Sewing podcast, all about buying and using a home embroidery machine.

I've written about 3D printers in this blog before, and you can bet I checked them out at Maker Faire. I saw several genres.  There were kids designing and printing their own toys. This reminded me of the Fun Flowers and Creepy Crawlers I used to make with Plastic Goop. (I also saw kids running around in cardboard box assemblages playing at being robots - no 3D printing required.) There are the home printer and the send-it-off service types. The home printers often create/print/make the items in plastic (PL or a TGlass) type. People might design things like a speciality screwdriver or tool with these. Some folks use Google Sketchup software to design with. There are also resin type home printers that allow people to design highly detailed things like jewelry.

There were design it and send it off to be printed services too. You can create 3-D designs, and send something off to be printed in precious metals, ceramic, stainless steel, etc. I saw a large old fashioned stylemetal key - it might cost $35 to print that. A gold (plated?) bracelet that might code $200. There were design your own shoes (all produced in a variant on plastic) that were designed to fit your own feet. Prices were in the $200 range. I don't think they're competing with Payless Shoe Source. Yes, I'm waiting for them to print in leather and fabric too!
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Web Resources

Lots of different cities have their own Maker Faires

B. Coole Designs - Machine Embroidery, Steam Punk and More

Bay Area Lego Users Group

* Golden age mystery author Dorothy Sayers considered herself a maker. I highly recommend her book, The Mind of the Maker. Look for it in your public library

You might design your 3D printable with