Monday, July 1, 2013

Mini Maker Faire

This weekend I spent the day demonstrating at the Tieton Mini Maker Faire. The event was put on by Mighty Tieton or maybe Tieton Arts and Humanities or maybe Yakima Maker Space. All these entities are apparently related, but looking for which is the head and which the tail, leads one on a twisting and ultimately frustrating tour of intertwined websites and Facebook pages. Also my computer is excessively slow lately and trying to fix it makes me want to hit things.

Anyway, Maker Faires are associated with Make Magazine and the one in Tieton was the first on this side of the Cascades in Washington. The Faire went on all day at the Mighy Tieton warehouse and the Faire and related exhibitions overtook something like 7 rooms in the warehouse as well as space outside. The "Trimpin" and "Salsa" exhibitions were open during the Maker Faire and the Goat Head Press areas were open with people apparently demonstrating printmaking techniques.

my minimal setup (incidentally, has anyone found the lily I left outside in the rain in Tieton when we packed up?)
The Maker Faire is different from a craft fair, in that the goal is not to sell work but to demonstrate techniques and show people how or what you make. The faire is mostly educational and community building, though some people had work for sale. Admission for kids was free and the interview in the Yakima Herald the next day suggested that the event was about teaching kids and showing kids how to be makers. There were a lot of hands-on activities for kids, but the makers weren't told it was going to be for kids and weren't required to have kid activities. I picked my project because I thought it was interesting, but it was way too complex for kids to do. In fact, it took me several hours to complete one piece. I didn't even quite finish the four pieces I was working on during the day. 

my workspace in Tieton

Kids kept asking at my booth if they could "make one" and I ended up letting kids press wet clay into sprig molds while I worked. A few people watched me for a while, but most people, kids and adults, just stopped briefly or wandered past. My favorite visitor was a pre-school aged girl. She came with her mom and brother and she asked to make one. I helped her with a sprig mold and she proved to be quite dextrous for one so young. She popped the clay right out of the mold. Then she asked to make another. it was towards the end of the day, so after she made a few sprigs, I gave her a hollow clay ball that was extra and let her attach some sprigs. She really enjoyed it. Her mother said she really gets into doing this sort of thing, so I sent them away with a little bag of clay and some suggestions for other things to try at home.
clay sprig decorations and their mold

Besides teaching pre-schoolers to form sprigs, my only task was to demonstrate my technique throughout the day. I brought in a work table, some tools and some clay and spent the entire day making my "pea pod" sculptures while people watched (or didn't). I brought a shelf and some finished work so people would know what the pieces looked like later in the process. My space was in a dark, cool room of the warehouse and the work dried very slowly. I made the peas first, shaping and adding sprigs, then I made the pod structure and put underglaze on both the peas and the pods. At this point I had to wait a long time for the wet clay and underglaze to dry enough to put the peas in the pod without  smushing the surface.
underglazed peas awaiting their pod

My daughter went with me to the event and worked on some of her own clay sculpture next to me at my work table. Her favorite part of the day was the go-cart race. I have to admit that was one of the highlights for me as well, but I thought it was neat to see the 3D printers and hear about the tool library that Yakima Maker Space is starting. There were also some very cute baby goats and a beehive in our room. I was in the clay corner, and behind me was one of my YVCC clay students, Grace Keller. She brought her wheel and demonstrated throwing techniques. Another clay artist rolled out slabs and made clay fortune cookies.
waiting for the race to start

My husband came around midday so that my daughter could see more of the Faire. I was able to walk around some while I was waiting for stuff to dry, but my husband was able to help our daughter solder a light-up pin. After that they spent some time walking around the Faire, looking at stuff and watching the R2D2 robot drive around the warehouse. My daughter's least favorite part, she says, was the rain. Towards the end of the day an impressive rainstorm came down quickly. My husband and daughter we outside when it started and came in looking like they'd been in a pool.

this pod just didn't want to dry on the silicone mat

I was glad to see that there were such a variety of types of makers at the faire. I was concerned that, given the focus of the Mighty Tieton lofts, the focus would be only on art, whereas Make magazine is a little more focused on tech. I think the idea of a Maker Faire should be to broaden the definition or assumptions about makers and what they make. I thought this event did a nice job of that, albeit on a small scale.

my work space at home

This time around the Faire seemed a little small, both in makers and in attendance, but hopefully the understanding and excitement about the idea will grow and next year's Maker Faire will be bigger. At the very least, I'm hoping they invite some makers of food, say chocolates. I was hoping the Copper Pot Caramels people would be there.

four (mostly) finished pea pods 

Today I finished most of the work on the pods I started at the Faire. I experimented with some textured surfaces for the exterior of a couple of the pods. It was interesting to work on these pieces with an audience, but I think I prefer my home studio. In Tieton I was limited to only a small box of tools, whereas at home I have drawers full. I also had limited light and limited control over drying speed. I really like to have more complete control over the process. 

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