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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The 2011 Maker Faire was a DIY Lovers Dream Come True

Eight hours, probably several miles of walking, and 525 pictures later I had attended my second Maker Faire.

As my friend Gordon Garb said on Facebook "It's like a County Fair for geeks, nerds, hackers, burners, makers, doers, thinkers and rocketeers." Add to that crafters, creatives, artists, foodies, urban farmsteaders, steam punk and eco friendly types and that pretty much covers what Maker Faire is all about.

For years my friend Loretta from Fired Up Productions would tell me I should go but I thought it wasn't for me. Last year she got me a media pass and twisted my arm to attend. This year she got me another pass and I couldn't wait to go! Turns out Maker Faire literally has something for everyone. . . And by everyone I mean families, men, women, teenagers and kids!


There were so many robots I couldn't possibly feature all of them so here were my favorites. Some are celebrities while others are wonderfully imaginative.
  • Top Left: Wall•E was built by Michael McMaster at the Wall•E Builders Club
  • Top Right: Homonculus by Nemo Gould and displayed in the Applied Kinetic Arts booth was built entirely of salvaged parts from second hand shops and landfills.
  • Bottom Left: Exuro by Peter Kropf has a fire poofer that blasts a hot flame from the top of his little blow pipe and his eyes are run by an Arduino Microcontroller that allows them to "follow" you as you approach and move near him. Exuro is built entirely of classes you can take at The Crucible in Oakland, CA. I laid in the semi-transparent white background so you could see the sculpture more clearly.
  • Bottom Right: Father and Son "Team Filo" displayed their project: Rebuilding the Lost in Space Robot.
Above: The No Touch Garden. Below: General Hydroponics

The blending of kid's projects and professional companies was very apparent in the Expo Hall.

In the top image you could chat with the kids who created the care-free, No Touch Garden project. It's controlled by Arduinos and has Peltier devices for climate control.

Or in the lower image you could chat with the hi tech, hydroponics company, General Hydroponics to learn how to grow plants without soil.

Lego Battleship, Horse, Angel and Octopus

For kids and Lego loving adults there were these Lego sculptures by the Bay Area Lego Users Group along with a complete Lego model train layout that I featured in last year's post.


Sparkfun had a huge, user-interactive tent. Faire goers were invited to sit down and do this hands on, DIY project using a special thread that conducts electricity. It was an introduction to basic circuitry where you would sew, with needle and thread, connecting the LED lights to the battery pack and on/off switch.


And there were many booths featuring felted wool dolls and fashion accessories but this was my favorite. Woolbuddy's uber cute, cartoon styled felted wool animals were hard to resist. But I did resist because I still have my DIY wool felting kit (from another company) from last years Maker Faire that I still haven't made, sitting in it's original packaging. LOL.


As I cruised around this little pink milk crate whizzed past me all of a sudden. How funny! I looked around and spotted a guy with a remote control. I don't know why you would need one but this seems like a really fun project. The CrateBots are fully software-driven robots made (almost) entirely of discarded objects. So cool!


Even in small table top displays watching electricity arc is always cool. Kudos to Retro-Electro by Tony and Randall for their great booth and for placing the black carboard behind their displays for easier viewing (and photography). To the left the tiny wishbone shaped lines to the right of the brass fitting beneath the light are the electricity. To the right the pink and violet arcs stood out dramatically to create this neat shot.


I loved this idea. The Cyclocarder by Katharine-Ellen Jolda is a pedal powered wool carder. The raw wool is hand fed into the Cyclocarder as the operator pedals. This creates sheets of carded wool that can be used for creating felted wool garments.

Seriously, the first thing I thought of when I saw the Cyclocarder was imagine if we had to pedal to power our televisions and computers. How fit would we be? Lance Armstrong would have nothing on most of us. LOL!


For sewers, knitters, crocheters and all needle, thread and yarn arts there were all kinds of examples of work.

Most impressive were the Venetian Carnival garments made by Erin Mahoney. She literally makes them to display at Carnival in Venice!

My favorite ready to wear pieces were at Lek Namnath's booth. Lek is a designer known for her one-of-a-kind hats, that's her on the left. But I was really drawn to the scarves and wraps displayed in her booth. Turns out her sister created the pink and violet, hand pocket, scarf. It was so cute I had to have it! There are pockets built into the scarf! How cool is that? I hope it's cold the next time I head up to SF so I can wear it now and not have to wait for next winter.

And the final image was the large workshop booth by The National Needle Arts Association Needle Arts Zone where faire goers could learn knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, embroidery and cross stitching for free.


The San Francisco Center for the Book was there with an ink printing press form the early 1900's. They offer many workshops if you want to learn about book printing, binding and Letterpress FAQ.


There was so much to see. The show really takes two days to view everything. For instance everything you've seen so far was in one building! I had to get going to head over to Fiesta Hall for a presentation I wanted to catch. . .


Fiesta Hall was dark inside because the makers there showcase items that light up. Some of the most fun (and easy to photograph) were the arc attack tesla coils. The lit sculpturs I failed to find out who made them so if you know please let me know in the comments section here and I'll add them to the post. And always a crowd favorite, the Astromech R2-D2 Builders Club had several R2-D2 robots zipping around by remote control.


I loved the Landsharks by Todd Williams. They are set on wheels and as they moved through the crowd their tails move side to side and their mouths open and shut. So cool!


Wow! You can hardly see the stage from the back of the crowd. Who was that speaking?


It was Mike Rowe, best known as host of the hit Discovery Channel Show Dirty Jobs.

Mike was there to talk about the success of Dirty Jobs and about how he wants to make a tv show about "Tech Shop" a local DIY membership based workshop. It's like joining a gym but instead of workout machines you can use big, expensive, industrial arts machines. He said if the power and decision were his he'd name the show "Shut Up and Make It."

Then he said something that really resonated with me: "Not all knowledge, comes from college." It's no secret I'm a college dropout. While I was doing well in college as an Advertising Art major it was literally killing my creativity to be there so I dropped out three months before I was supposed to graduate.

This is part of why I'm such a huge supporter of DIY. While college is the perfect fit for some, it isn't for all and the structured atmosphere can at times extinguish the urge to be inventive. I was told by one instructor that I "couldn't" do things in ways different than the conventional approaches she deemed acceptable. I couldn't thrive in that type of environment, so I left. To me being an artist or creator is about being an inventor and doing what feels right, not necessarily doing things the right way.

Mike was fun and entertaining fielding many questions from the crowd including giving a girl a hug, and putting another on the spot when she asked how seriously do they take safety because she enjoys the episodes were he gets injured. I think he called her a sicko then made her come stand in front of the stage so everyone could stare at her. LOL


I caught the Sourmash Hugband performing live music in the bed of a big truck as I made my way over to a huge sculpture called the Colossus by Artist Zachery Coffin. At 70 feet tall and each rock weighing 10,000 pounds to say it's immense is an understatement. Originally created for Burning Man 2005 the sculpture is interactive. People pull on the ropes dangling from the bottom of the stones to propel the sculpture into a circular motion.


One of my favorite discoveries this year were the wooden bicycles by Masterworks in San Jose, CA. The background was so busy, and the bike so special I again did a layer to mask out the background to help show you the bicycle more clearly. I'm no expert but I'd say the craftsmanship of the woodwork is really beautiful. You have to see the bikes in person to fully appreciate how they are built. And its not just for show, they're fully functional.

There was all kinds of alternative vehicles every which way you looked. Featured here are
  • Middle Left: A converted to electric Fiat Spider by Electric Motor Werks
  • Middle  Center: A pink frosted and covered with sprinkles solar powered electric Mobile Muffins (aka cupcake mobiles) by Kinetic Pastry Science Mobile Muffins
  • Middle Right: I thought the four person, pedal powered, Parlor Car was cool at first glance. It wasn't until after I came home and watched a video that I learned that with flotation aids added the car becomes a seaworthy pedal powered paddle boat! Check out the Parlor Car Video Here.
  • Bottom: To the left is the Solar Touring Bike by the Solar Bike Project. The Solar Touring Bike allows two riders to travel up to 200 miles per day entirely powered by the sun. Beside it is the Compact Solar Trike a recumbent, solar-powered, electric, single-rider trike that can be used to travel short distances. The 85W solar panel allows the trike to reach speeds of up to 15 mph using an electric motor.

So I was walking out of the West Lot area when I spotted a guy with a contraption strapped to his back. I asked what it was, he turned around and all of a sudden the metal began fanning out into wings! Turns out he was there to assist Molnari a company inventing the first street-legal aircraft! Their Gyrocycle combines a motorcycle engine with special rotor blades for lift. You can see videos on the Gyrocycle in action on their website.


The Carousolar by GE is a solar powered Carousel. It's part of their Ecomagination program designed to create eco-friendly solutions to today's environmental challenges while at the same time supporting economic growth.


The Electric Giraffe is an ever changing Maker Faire Classic. This year Rave Raffe rolled around the grounds delighting kids wherever he went. There's space in his bodies for riders who get a birds eye view of Maker Faire seeing well above the crowd.


I will say I was disappointed this year that the Homegrown Village area didn't have nearly as many exhibitors as last year. In fact, it was rather desolate compared to other areas of the faire.

One exhibit that did catch my eye was the Plant Tissue Culture Kit booth. Yup, using small, agar filled plastic tubes you can propagate plants through cloning like orchids and exotics carnivorous plants just to name a a few. There were two different sized kits to choose from, a full sized and starter kit. It was unique to say the least.


The Maker Shed is where you can, among other things, purchase DIY kits, Maker Faire T-shirts and books. The place was packed from end to end and the line to purchase was so long that even though I recalled it moved pretty quickly the year before I decided not to shop for anything because I only had a few hours left and didn't want to spend any of it standing in lines.

While researching for this post I discovered there is a Maker Shed store online so you can shop there too!


Next I headed to the Bazaar Bizarre, a craft fair filled with the creations of independent designers. Items ranged from fashion accessories, t-shirts, baby clothes, ceramics, stuffed animals, stationary and more. Pictured here were some of my favorite items I spotted in or near the Bazaar Bizarre:

  • Middle Left: Cute ceramics by Village Clayworks. You can find her pieces in the Village Clayworks shop on Etsy.
  • Middle Center: The was the best looking booth by far. In fact I made a bee line to it as soon as I spotted it upon arriving at the Bazaar Bizarre. Filled with creepy cute findings like prints, cut outs, buttons, postcards and more Dismal Things has, imo, mastered the art of presentation and merchandising. 
  • Middle Right: Chicks & Frogs baby clothes had the cutest baby t-shirts and onesies. My favorite was the little "I want my Edamommy" design. So cute!
  • Bottom Left: Another favorite item was this t-shirt by Fat Rabbit Farm Designs. A chopstick wielding bunny rabbit about to consume a dessert bento box filled with a cookie, a cupcake and two scoops of ice cream. Yeah, I can identify with that.  
  • Bottom Right: And total eye candy, the selection of yarns at Ceallach Dyes. They're eco-friendly solar dyed yarns. Technically I think they were part of the Homegrown Village area but I thought the image and product fit well here :)


But my favorite products were these jewelry pieces by Focal Length Designs made from re-purposed camera lenses. Made by designer Issac B. Watson from Portland, Oregon, I think there are a lot of photographers who would love to have wearable piece of art made from a favorite brand lens body.

Woodthumb Wooden Ties and Custom SLR Comfort Camera Straps

In the coming months you'll be reading posts from time to time about Tech Shop because the San Jose location will be opening in June.

What is Tech Shop?
TechShop is a membership-based workshop that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make.
Currently there are three Tech Shops in operation, the original location in Menlo Park, CA and locations in San Francisco, CA and Raleigh, NC. This year locations will also open in Brooklyn, NY, Detroit MI, San Jose, CA, and Portland, OR.

This means you can use machinery, tools and equipment you don't own due to infrequency of use, space, cost and skill limitations. Just some of the machines on display at Maker Faire were. . .


Top: CO2 Laser Cutter and Engraver, Bottom: Metal Turning Lathe


Top Left: Vertical Milling Machine, Top Right: 3D Printer, Bottom Left: Injection Molder, Bottom Right: CNC Milling Machine

So if you're an inventor, maker, hacker, tinkerer, artist, crafter, robot builder or just love challenging yourself with DIY, Tech Shop could be for you. I haven't decided what I'll make when the San Jose location opens up. Hmm, maybe the first thing I need to do is make some time in my schedule :)

(Disclosure: Because we invested in the San Jose location of Tech Shop earlier this year hubby and I are now lifetime members.)


This was funny. I arrived early to get a good spot for Mike Rowe's presentation earlier that day. Little did I know I'd see him over, and over, and over, and over again throughout the rest of the day. I almost felt like I was stalking him, except I wasn't. He was everywhere!


And finally it was time for the highlight of my day. I was so excited for the presentation by Maxime Bilet and Ryan Matthew Smith of Modernist Cuisine, "The Art and Science of Cooking," a six volume, 2483 page cook book that is destined to revolutionize the world of molecular gastronomy for home chefs.

I'd scoped out the location of the Meeting Pavilion earlier in the day and arrived two sessions early to ensure I'd have a great, front row seat for Max and Ryan.

Success! Front row. Woo Hoo!

That's Maxime on the left holding a split in two kitchen siphon and Ryan on the right who was really hard to photograph because he was left of center stage and not well lit so I had to Photoshop this image of him quite a bit so you could see him :)


This was a great example of how molecular gastronomy works. Normally, green peas would be a single recipe ingredient. But once a pea puree is run through a centrifuge for an hour the pea separates into three distinct ingredients. The first layer to the right in the canister are the starches, the middle layer the fats affectionately named "pea butter" because it is the exact smooth consistency of softened butter and is amazing spread on toasted bread (we were told). On the left the dark liquid is the sugars and juices which contains the most intense and pure pea flavor that can be added to dishes as a single ingredient. Yum! I really need a home centrifuge!


Modernist Cuisine Pistachio Ice Cream

As an example we were offered a sample of pistachio ice cream at the end of the presentation. The majority of the crowd pretty much leapt from their seats to have a sample. I stayed put because Max and Ryan were still onstage finishing the Q&A session following their presentation and I've never been a fan of pistachio ice cream.

I finally headed to the rear of the building for a sample and can only say it was unlike any ice cream I'd ever eaten before. There was no dairy. No milk, cream or eggs and yet it was the smoothest, most rich and creamy, not overly sweet, pistachioy flavored ice cream I've ever had. Duh. Why would I think their ice cream would be like any other? Their ice cream is a constructed cream that combines pistachio oil and solids, homogonized with water that is then churned and chilled bringing the consistency to that of a firm gelato. And it's vegan. WOW.


Things went from great to super cool when a small stack of magazine style brochures were set out and we were invited to take one. The guy who set them down said "You should ask Ryan to autograph it for you" as he walked away. So I did. Well, actually I think everyone did. Then we all asked Maxime to sign them and he happily obliged.

I had a brief conversation with Ryan who was as nice as can be.

I LOVED his story. He became the principal photographer who created the iconic, industry shattering images that fill Modernist Cuisine by answering a Craigslist ad. In fact, he'd never photographed food before. The team credits his lack of food photography experience as the portal that allowed him to be so creative, stretching all of the traditional boundaries of food photography to come up with the unique styles and concepts executed in the book.

And not only is the style of photography revolutionary, the print quality, for a cookbook, is too.


The inside of my brochure is full of images from the books and the table of contents to the collection.

Seriously, my temptation to buy the collection was at an all time high. If they had had sets on site I think I could not have resisted buying one at that moment. The thing is the list price is $625, but retailers like Amazon are pre-selling Modernist Cuisine for a mere $477.93. *Gulp* I say "mere" because I think it's totally worth the price, it's a great value, but I'm trying to desensitize myself to the amount all the same. It would be the most expensive book(s) I've ever purchased. LOL.

And really, your total investment if you purchase all of the recommended equipment will be much higher unless you already, at a minimum, own a sous vide machine, vacuum sealer, pressure cooker and soda siphon. I have a pressure cooker.

Suffice to say I left the presentation like a groupie leaving a rock concert after hanging out backstage with my favorite band. Clutching my autographed brochure I carefully maneuvered my way through the crowd keeping a watchful eye out for anyone who might have caused it harm. What if someone bumped into me bending it, spilling food or a drink on it or worst of all, what if someone tried to steal it? None of these things happened and I got it home safely :D


The South Lot is the last big space I want to share with you.

Once there I was immediately drawn to the "Fledgling" mechanical bird sculpture by Christian Ristow with a 100 foot wingspan. The top photo shows the wings in a relaxed position. To open the wings someone has to climb up the staircase that begins at the tail of the bird and climb up to sit in the front of the rib cage where they then pedal as if they are on a bicycle to slowly raise the wings up. It was pretty awesome.


I'm not much into muscle cars but I noticed the Bellflower car because it was reeeeeeally loud. I photographed it because it was spewing fireballs out of the twin tail pipes above the trunk. It took 15 shots to get that last inferno'esque picture.


As described on the Maker Faire website Oscillation is a fire stroboscope mounted within a steel pyramid. It mesmerizes as flames erupt and whirl within spinning concentric spheres.

The Fun Bike Unicorn Club had several whimsical, very large bikes displayed.


And the WhiskeyDrome had a large crowd watching the Whiskey Drunk Cyclists. I don't know if they were really drunk, but I don't think so because they were riding really fast, two at a time, without crashing into each other while I was watching them :)

And even though I'm not a motorcycle enthusiast in any way, shape or form, I thought these tables were really cool! Made by Ryon Gesink, Moto-Furniture is a line of custom furniture Ryon makes out of (mostly) recycled motorcycle parts.

Maker Faire was created by Make Magazine to celebrate DIY

And there you have it. My recap of the 2011 Maker Faire.

My only regret is that I failed to locate the Grilled Cheez Guy who makes his award winning sandwiches with three kinds of cheese, two TBS of butter (per sandwich) and bricks wrapped in foil. Kind of like a poor man's panini maker :( I walked all over but never saw him. My friend Gordon found him in the east end between the Fiesta and Expo Halls. Gah! The one place I didn't look. I ended up eating something not worth mentioning. It was bland and oily :( The hot pretzel and freshly squeezed lemonade I had later in the afternoon were pretty stellar but I was too tired to take pictures of them by then so you'll just have to trust me that I ate them :P Next year I'll go both days so that I can scope out all the food and find the tastiest options!

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