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We’re makers!

We went to the Maker Faire on Sunday. [You can read about my impressions from previous years right here.] I was curious whether the much higher ticket price would be reflected in smaller crowds. We got there right at 10 and could actually park in the main parking lot (then realized that you pay for privilege — last year we got to park for free but had to walk fifteen minutes!). The crowd seemed light — just about right for my sensibilities — until suddenly it was wall-to-wall people. Another successful faire was made.

I was thinking about why I like this fair so much, though I dislike crowds and even an hour at the Boardwalk tires me out. I think it’s because in our family we value two things very highly: creativity and skill. My husband and I both admire people with skills that we do or don’t have, which is part of why we like Open Studios, too. And we appreciate people who use their skills in creative ways. The Maker Faire brings together the techie community and the arts community, with a little bit of Renaissance Faire stuck in there for good measure. (Take a look at Steampunks, a Maker Faire staple.)

What did we see this year? Three-dimensional color printers (that is, they PRINT in three dimensions!),

From the 3D printer

mod-a-go-go hoola hoops, home-grown putt putt golf (a perennial favorite with my six-year-old), an internally illuminated Buddha (not sure of the point of this one, but it was pretty),


various homemade rides, including a bicycle that ran a windmill of electric guitars which got strummed as they rotated around,

Guitar bicycle

art cars, like the one covered with markers,

Art car

Art car

a motorized Barcalounger….

What did we do this year? Of course we went into the room where you get to make stuff with hot glue guns, hacksaws, and other cool tools. (“This is the reason we signed a waiver,” I announced to our son’s friend, who hacksawed some glass and cut his finger!) I made two necklace pendants that I might foist upon some unsuspecting friend or relative and a bug made out of computer parts.

Stuff on the table

The kids rode homemade bicycle-like contraptions and various of the rides. I got some time alone to cruise the food tent and taste chocolates, learn about cheese-making, and give a nod toward Far West Fungi, one of our favorites at Santa Cruz’s annual Fungus Fair (another favorite event of ours). We all succeeded in not spending money in the craft fair, which had tons of cool stuff to buy, and in spending, well, money in the Maker Shed, where you can buy all sorts of DIY kits and science-based learning toys.

The Maker Faire, I realized, is a part of our homeschool’s values curriculum. We value ingenuity, creativity, and fun! We value making stuff because it occurs to you to do it, and we value people expressing themselves in positive, new ways. We value cool technology and aesthetics, though not all of the creative expression at the Maker Faire is what you’d call aesthetically tasteful! We value good food and both old and new ideas about making good food.
Maker signs
Perhaps why I don’t get so darn tired at the Maker Faire (though I did get tired enough after a day there), is that people are really having fun and are engaged with what they’re doing. At an amusement park, I get the feeling that I am handing out money as a demand: amuse me! Once you get in the door, almost all the fun at the Maker Faire is free, and it is what you make of it. The internally illuminated Buddha may have stopped you in your tracks, or maybe, like our daughter, you waited as patiently as a six-year-old can for the Tesla coil to charge. And then when it went, you jumped up and down with excitement, as if the lightning had touched your very soul and made it dance.

That’s not something you get to see every day.

Posted in Parenting.

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