Maker Faire 2009

This weekend the annual Maker Faire is taking place south of San Francisco at the San Mateo County Events Center. Hosted by Make Magazine, the gargantuan event pulls together science geeks, tech nerds, craft enthusiasts, engineers, inventors, and designers for two packed days of exhibitions and demonstrations. I took the train down yesterday to check out what was going on.

maker faire sign

I wandered first through the Expo Hall, where hundreds of makers were displaying everything from 3D printers that fabricate objects made of sugar to long-arm quilting machines that add a technological aid to a traditional craft. Across from the beautifully conceived booth of one of my favorite letterpress shops, Hello Lucky, people were teeming out of the exhibition space of Provo Craft, a Utah-based company that makes small electronic craft tools.

Inspired largely by the scrapbooking movement, Provo Craft makes kits and appliances for paper cutting, binding and laminating, die-cutting and embossing, and needlecraft. Yesterday's crowd was abuzz about the company's newest product, the Yudu—a small machine resembling a laser printer and scanner, which is meant to make silkscreening easy, efficient and clean.

While part of me rejects the idea of taking the messiness and imperfection away from the highly DIY craft of silkscreening, there's no doubt that the Yudu was churning out some nice creations. They had bags and shirts hung around their booth with prints that retained a DIY flavor even though they had been produced using a variety of technological aids. (Plus, I suppose even if you're using a machine, you're still "doing it yourself," and it's a great activity for kids.)

maker faire robot

Many of the exhibitors across the arena were as well-suited to children as adults. In other corners, packs of kids were learning to knit, binding their own journals, and operating robots. There was even a dedicated crew of Wall-E devotees who are on a mission to rebuild the lovable Pixar character.

On the other side of the fairgrounds, I was excited to find Homegrown Village, where makers of food and food-related crafts were displaying their wares. Semi-professional foragers explained how to pickle bull whip kelp and local mycologists showed how oyster mushrooms grow on a log. I would have loved to stay for the Diet Coke and Mentos fountain show (which appears to be a messier and stickier cousin of the water-jet spectacles in Vegas) or to ride the human-powered ferris wheel, but it was already time to hop the train and leave the sunny Peninsula for the summer fog belt of San Francisco.

maker faire bike ride

All Images Creative Commons via Flickr:
#1: mirko buholzer
#2: piperoid
#3: pat o rama

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