Meet your MAKER FAIRE: Lo-Fi Solutions for a Planetary Crisis

Maker Faire SkullNearly two weeks ago I hopped on a plane to San Francisco(again) and translated a presentation based on my “Make Like a Tree” articles into binary code, so the computer programmers would understand it.

Maker Faire is much more than your average craft show. Around every corner, you’ll find a a pointless yet poignant doodad, a jaw-dropping technology demonstration, or the tools and materials that invite you to imagine the possibilities…because we hope to inspire others to make stuff too.

Why is this reconnection to our creativity so important? It was one purpose-driven thought from ordinary individuals that invented the wheel, set out to cross the Atlantic, and revealed the fabric of space-time. Making things, both literal and existential, pulls us through history, and simultaneously brings humanity to the verge of a collapsing eco-system. Most of us had no hand in executing modern manufacturing techniques, but we must use both hands to fix them.

Eco-consciousness was a dominant theme throughout this event. The concerns are now common knowledge, and solutions are surprisingly revealed through grass root efforts.

Cathy of California

Upcycling and dumpster diving for parts was common practice in many exhibits, such as the intimidating interactive Skull by James Burget, a 30ft tall flaming scrap metal sculpture, and many beautiful handmade goods at Bazaar Bizarre (Cathy of California
is pictured here with her reclaimed raffia flower accessories and kits). We also saw widespread use of alternative energy from a school bus RV that aims to run on cooking oil to a rock concert powered by fans riding stationary bicycles. There was a parking lot’s worth of plug-in cars, an algae powered whatchamacallit, and DIY greywater installation.

The BusycleThough not always practical, these combinations of art, technology, and activism are powerful food for thought. Take, for instance, The Buscycle. It has hit the streets across the country, inviting 14 peddlers at a time to harness their physical energy together in an effort to create mass transit.

Diverse as they are accessible, these projects were largely the work of your average-citizen enthusiast. They are putting in more effort than many big businesses to stop wasteful consumption and keep carbon emissions under control. Dedicated indie crafters are a driving aesthetic force in the equation of eco-consciousness. Seeing them brought together fills me with hope.

This is the first post in a series about my experiences at Maker Faire, as it demands an unprecedented amount of run-on sentences. In my next installment, I’ll explore obvious gender majorities in the categories of crafting and technology. You can see my entire collection of Maker Faire photos on Flickr.

Written by Autumn Wiggins

This 2008 interview pretty much sums it up:

1. How would you describe yourself?
An oddly situated performer of thought experiments

2. Do you have any anecdotes about your work (how you got started, frustrating moments, or funny stories)?
At this year's Maker Faire in San Mateo, I gave a presentation on how the trend of green crafting can ultimately address the problem of consumption and waste. Dale Dougherty,the publisher of Make and Craft, later had a gift delivered to me, a staple bound book of poetry: Music Like Dirt by Frank Bidart. This is the last thing one would expect to take home from an event so focused on renegade technology. To my surprise, it was an existential reflection on the human need to make things that I now find myself going back to whenever I need some inspiration to look beyond the materials and processes of crafting.

3. What kinds of things do you do for fun?
In my spare time I enjoy amateur astronomy, outdoor adventures, collecting domain names, and hanging out at coffee shops.

4. What interesting projects are you working on right now?
I'm working to organize community involvement in upcycling, and have a few top-secret website projects up my sleeves!

5. Where do you live? Kids, pets, spouse, occupation?
O'Fallon, IL, a suburb (and I mean a totally typical suburb) of St. Louis, MO. Rather than moving to the more culture friendly urban environment, I am staying put and annoying the heck out of Wal-Mart by throwing a massive indie craft show(Strange Folk) in their backyard. I have a husband, Doug, and two sons: a 7 year old mad scientist named Jack, and 6 year old Max, who we think is an aspiring tattoo artist since he's so fond of drawing all over himself with markers. To pay the bills, I do freelance writing, mural painting, and website design, sell my handmade crafts, teach art classes for kids, and work part -time at a local coffee shop.

6. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
The concept known as "Cradle-to-Cradle" is a blueprint for sustainability that states everything we manufacture should be either biodegrable, infinitely recyclable, or intended to be upcycled. This is the basis for many of my ideas of how the crafting community can be more widely involved in solving the environmental crisis.

7. What is your favorite food/color/tool?
granola/green/sewing machine!


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  1. Thanks for putting up all these great pictures! The Buscycle rocks! What a brilliant idea, imagine all the excersize people could get from this flinstones type transport 🙂

  2. I looked at your pictures to see if you captured our us and our Maker booth, Tamalpais NatureWorks where we demonstrated building lifelong furniture with wood others throw away. Batteries not included because none are required.

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