Behold the makers.
They come from all walks of life. They are engineers, students, artists, teachers, hobbyists and musicians. What they embrace in common is the do-it-yourself spirit and a penchant to invent, tinker, build, re-purpose, alter and otherwise improve the world – or at least build a better mouse trap.
They will exhibit the fruits of their making this weekend at the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire.
“The idea is get makers out of their garages and basements so they can interact with other makers,” says Charel Morris, a director and organizer of the local fair. Morris, of Rio Rancho, is also a maker who has worked with electronic textiles – fabrics with electronics embedded in them.
The fair is the second one in Albuquerque following last year’s introductory event at Civic Plaza, which drew about 70 makers and more than 700 visitors.
The event Saturday and Sunday at the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is expected to have about 100 maker booths and draw up to 4,000 visitors during its two-day run. Also on hand will be food, libations, live music and hands-on projects for anyone who wants to be a maker for a day.
Makers may share how they create battling robots, make goat cheese or sauerkraut, put together a 3-D printer, build their own electric guitar, do sustainable cooking or re-purpose old clothing. Answering the “how to” questions makes it educational, says Morris.
“It’s difficult to explain to a 13-year-old why studying geometry is important, but then they go to a maker fair and suddenly they can appreciate the practical application through something as simple as a new way to fold a paper airplane so that the angles of the folds allow it to fly higher and farther,” she says.
A maker movement
Though new to Albuquerque, the fairs started eight years ago with an event in the San Francisco Bay area that attracted 200 makers and more than 20,000 visitors. That same Bay Area fair last year drew 900 makers and 150,000 visitors over two days, Morris says. There are now about 220 Mini Maker Faires around the world, most of them in the United States.
MAKE magazine, which features do-it-yourself projects from the simple to the complex, promotes many of the Mini Maker Faires and has been at the forefront of the growing worldwide maker movement.
Lisa Casaus, an Albuquerque illustrator, is part of that maker movement. She loves creating characters, then placing those characters in narrative pictures and stories that she draws. Some of those characters wind up on T-shirts and jewelry that she makes.
“I’m working on a story called ‘Gorgon’s Eve,’ based on the Greek myth of Perseus and Medusa,” she says. “I created a pendant of the Medusa head but updated it so instead of snakes for hair, she has wires and electronics.”
Casaus will have some of her drawings and books on hand in her maker booth, as well as her pendants. “They were cast in resin, so I’ll show how I do that.”
The fairs provide an opportunity for makers to meet other makers, and opportunities for visitors to leave with something they made. “Many makers have interactive booths and projects for people to do themselves,” Casaus says.
“I believe in that do-it-yourself spirit, because when I see something I want, I generally say, ‘I can make that.’ But sometimes you don’t know how to start, so you need connections with people for resources and inspiration and motivation,” the very things in abundance at the Maker Faires, she says.
Things that work
The creations of Taos maker Christian Ristow might seem like they belong in a storybook. Ristow used to work in film and TV animatronics and special effects, and was involved in such projects as “Thor,” “A.I.” and “Cowboys & Aliens.”
Now, his special effects are sculptural, often robotic, sometimes interactive, and always memorable.
He will be at the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire along with his 26-foot-long hydraulic hand and forearm named the “Hand of Man.”
“It’s big enough to pick up and crush cars, which is what we typically do,” he says.
Ristow designed and built the arm and a glove controller that transfers the user’s hand motions to the larger mechanical hand. “At these fairs and festivals I invite anybody who wants to stick their hand in the glove and operate it,” making this a truly hands-on experience.
“The Maker Faires are obviously one of the more communal manifestations of the maker movement,” Ristow says. “People want to understand how the things around them work. It’s very empowering, and it’s a direct avenue to having more control over your life.”
Wendy Tremayne of Truth or Consequences came up with the idea of textile repurposing while living in New York City. The Swap-O-Rama-Rama, as it is called, uses clothing on its way to the landfill. The event is “a giant clothing swap,” she says, where participants share skills such as sewing and silk screening and where workshops teach tricks like “turning a bra into a handbag or a sock into an iPod cover.
While she will not conduct a clothing swap at the upcoming Mini Maker Faire, Tremayne will talk about it and related topics in her book, “The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living” (2 p.m. Saturday). She describes the book as “a manual for a post-consumer life.”
People are either makers or they are consumers. “By making goods ourselves, we can make decisions without the mandate of profit that corporations must fulfill,” Tremayne says. “We can do it better and more responsibly.”
Somebody has to make the costumes used in films and television and for the legion of fans who attend events like “Star Trek” conventions or ComicCon. Albuquerque seamstress Tabitha Orr, a co-owner of Knight Blue Design, is that person.
Among the “cosplay,” or costume play outfits she will display at the upcoming Maker Faire, will be the Pyramid Head character from the Silent Hill video games, and Steam Punk Mad Hatter, a version of the character in “Alice in Wonderland.”
“The faire has all these creative people and artists in one place, where they can collaborate and share techniques,” Orr says. “With costuming, there’s never a time when we’re not learning, and some of the makers here are amazing and some of their ideas are brilliant. For me, this is a place to get inspiration and creativity. For the attendees, it’s a place to see the depth of art and invention we have in New Mexico.”