Maker Faire, held May 17 and 18 in San Mateo, California, was a goldmine for any creative professional seeking inspiration for out-of-the-box thinking. It’s a showcase for maker culture, emphasizing do-it-yourself projects in areas such as 3D printing, electronics, woodworking and old-fashioned arts and crafts. It lies at the intersection of art and technology, but many projects have a retro or steampunk aesthetic.
The Bay Area event draws more than 120,000 visitors. If California is too far, the producers put on a New York Maker Faire in September and smaller ones around the world. Here’s a look at some of the coolest work on display, and the people who made it possible …
Makers Show Their Creations
Rodwin Pabello’s Predicta PCs
San Francisco designer Rodwin Pabello transforms old Philco Predicta TVs into Windows 7 PCs, placing LCD monitors behind the curved glass. He uses these to create art installations in which the PCs play movies or TV shows. At Maker Faire, the TVs were showing Alfred Hitchcock movies.
A look inside the Predicta PC.
Carla Diana’s Maker Prince
Leo, the Maker Prince is a new book by product designer Carla Diana that aims to teach kids (and adults) about 3D printing. Models shown in the book can be downloaded and printed. She spoke on stage at Maker Faire about how she created the book.
Shannon Chappell’s Rock Golem
Shannon Chappell of Calgary makes props and costumes largely from found objects. The Steampunk Rock Golem, on the right, can be run by an operator who climbs in through the rear. It can walk, glow, swivel its head and produce sound effects. Standing more than 12 feet tall, it’s built mostly from mattress foam, PVC pipe and LED lights. The Argus 3D scanner is in the background.
Jere Dean’s Urban Octopus
San Diego-based designer/illustrator Jere Dean uses screen-printing to produce T-shirts and posters “reflecting the passions in my life,” he says, including bicycles and animals. Why is he drawn to Maker Faire? “It’s my kind of people here,” he explains. “They connect with my art. They get what I do. Maker Faire opens the door to bring these people together.”
Steven M. Johnson: Inventive Cartoons
Cartoonist Steven M. Johnson has been creating whimsical inventions on paper since 1974, when a Sierra Club publication assigned him to conceive a series of futuristic recreational vehicles. “I created so many that I realized I like to invent things,” he says. Among his ideas: A dishwashing dining table, an unzipped fly alarm and a bike that folds into a vest. He was at Maker Faire to promote his books: What the World Needs Now, Public Therapy Buses and Have Fun Inventing.
Norm Sperling’s Irreproducible Journal
Norm Sperling is editor of The Journal of Irreproducible Results, a science humor magazine. He also teaches astronomy at U.C. Berkeley. The resemblance to Albert Einstein is intentional. “I wear my hair like him because I can,” he says.
Steampunk Dreams + Luminous Arts
Slide show: Maker Faire sometimes feels like a gigantic time machine, taking attendees from Victorian-era creations in the Steampunk section to futuristic illuminated projects in Fiesta Hall. Hover over the images to see captions.
This fellow took my picture with Google Glass as I was taking his.
Bruce Morton creates photographs using the tintype process, originally developed in the 1850s.
Old Meets New
The Google Glass guy sits for a tintype portrait.
Ye Olde Photoshop
After some instruction, a Maker Faire attendee shows her skill with a fountain pen.
Cat of a Different Color
Created by a group of Bay Area artists, Cat of a Different Color is an illuminated art car.
Lift, by San Francisco sculptor Michael Gard, consists of dancing figures made from wire and LED lights. They're light enough to be suspended from helium balloons.
"Write with Light"
James McLain, aka Doctor Nuclear (http://whaleboneir.com) demonstrates his Sword II IR pen. It takes advantage of the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii remote, allowing users to control the computer by interacting with the projected image.
Print (and Scan) Your Heart Out: 3D Printers, Gadgets + Beyond
Slide show: Maker Faire is also a place to find tools that enable DIY projects, including 3D printers, scanners, paper-cutters and computer-controlled woodworking gadgets. Developers keep pushing the envelope on these technologies, driving down prices and conceiving new ways to use them. Gadgets like the ones you see here promise the ability to see your design work in forms far beyond paper or pixels.
Carbide 3D is seeking Kickstarter funding for this compact CNC machine, which can create 3D objects from wood, acrylic, aluminum and other materials. It includes software for the Mac and PC. It's scheduled to ship in limited quantities beginning in August, with bulk shipments slated for November.
Highlights of Past Maker Faires
Slide show: Photos from the 2012 and 2013 events.
Want to push your creativity into overdrive?
Check out creativity expert Jim Krause’s latest book, D30. Exercises for designers to inspire your own DIY project to show off…