What do you call a person who spends 90% of their time and expendable income building a battlebot? Or how about a harp made of lasers, or tesla coil electronic music? The easy answer for a lot of people would be ‘nerds.’ But this weekend at MakerFaire, we found out that they’re actually some of the best people on the planet. This week the Simple Sisters highlight nine things we learned at MakerFaire that we hope will inspire you to start making!
1.) Swap-O-Rama: A seamstress’ dream come true was found at the MakerFaire Swap-O-Rama. Imagine a big tent full of free clothes, sewing machines and sewing accessories. The best thing about this is that with the right mindset, it doesn’t matter if the thing you picked up was 3 sizes too large. Two hems up the side later, and it fits like a glove! If you’re a fan of thrifting, you know some of the best things come only in XXL. Sidestep this pickle by learning how to alter your own clothes and you’ll have sassy threads in no time.
2.) Austin Bike Zoo: You may have seen some of these around: tricked out bikes that require a double-take, or just plain drop your jaw and drool at how cool these things are. Like the one that’s 5 bikes hooked together with boning on the outside so that it looks like a gigantic snake is riding past your house? (This one’s especially hard to process after a late night out.)
Side-by-side tandems, giant butterfly bikes and 8 ft. giants were all a part of the MakerFaire Bike Zoo parade. While this is difficult to incorporate into student life, it’s still a great inspiration for incorporating artistry into things you use every day. Slap some LED lights on your Schwinn, or attach a light generator for more practical use. In a city full of bikes, there’s no reason yours shouldn’t be special!
3.) Sublime Stitching Embroidery: I know what you’re going to say. Embroidery is for grandmas. But would a grandma embroider a flaming skull on her tea-towel? I didn’t think so. (Unless she would, in which case congratulations. You have world’s best Grandma.) Local Austinite Jenny Hart has been making embroidery patterns and kits since 2001. With how-to’s and materials included, buying a kit from Sublime Stitching will get you closer to having that embroidered robot you always wished was on your T-shirt pocket. A crafty skill like embroidery is a way to add a personal touch to anything you want. Sublime Stitching patterns just make it easier! http://www.sublimestitching.com
4.) Urban Roots & Green Corn Project: Do you know what a carrot seed looks like? How about a spinach seed? When we approached the Urban Roots table, we didn’t either. After playing a game of “Guess the seed,” we realized how out of touch we were with the food we eat every day. Urban Roots is a program held at an East Austin farm used for developing self-sustainable ideals in youth participants. While they always need volunteers, and we hear the farm is beautiful (we’ll visit soon!), the Green Corn Project of Austin is also helping to get us closer to our roots by planting gardens in impoverished Austinite’s yards for better self-sustainability. Apply for a garden to be built in your backyard, or volunteer to build one while learning the basics of growing your own food! (This one may be a particularly good idea to prepare yourself for the pending economic apocalypse. Would you rather live off of Kraft singles or homegrown veggies?)
5.) Arc Attack and their singing Tesla Coils: We weren’t expecting to walk into the Tesla theater to find an electronic DJ setup hooked up to 7 ft. tall Tesla coils playing the Doctor Who theme song, (Andrea’s personal favorite moment of the day. Don’t laugh!) Singing tesla coils weren’t the only things on the floor though. A midi-controlled drum kit started off the show. This was basically a drum kit playing on it’s own, controlled only by a laptop. A PVC pipe organ was off to the side, doing the same thing. It was easily the most innovative musical performance we’d ever seen. Hacking and creating electronics was a big part of MakerFaire this year. If you’re interested in electronics, the best bet would be to start small. Buy some cheap toy instruments and play with circuit-bending. Or buy a soldering iron and some beginner’s electronic kits online. Think of how proud you’ll be when you wake up via your own hand-soldered alarm clock!
6.) DIY Jewelry a la The Naughty Secretary Club: Naughty Secretary Club's design maven Jennifer Perkins is one of our favorite craftsters in all of Austin. She turns vintage bits and pieces into adorable, one-of-a-kind accessories and even has a book out that will show you how to do the same. Info on jewelry making on a budget as well as on a schedule can be found at her blog!
7.) Laser Harps: Youtube it. They will change your life. There are some particularly nice videos around of French musician Jean Michel Jarre playing one. They are beautiful and if you make us one, we might just marry you. This is another electronic piece that’s simple in design and heavy on the creativity. It was a Faire favorite and very inspirational!
8.) Locally Made Fine Chocolates: There is something uniquely satisfying about a piece of quality chocolate, and several Austin chocolatiers were on hand sampling their blissful wares. Some of our favorites were Cocoa Puro's chocolate covered cocoa beans – layers upon layers of milk, dark, and white chocolate heaven. They won our hearts by keeping it simple and sweet.
9.) Maker Kits: Maker Faire is founded and sponsored by Make magazine which features amazing and weird how-to projects. They also sell incredible little all-inclusive project kits that can be purchased on their website, many between $15 and $20, giving you the power to make solar-powered Theremins and mini cars, animated ghosts, LED hula hoops, and much more. Hula hoop and Theremin party anyone?
So here you have our top picks of MakerFaire 2008. If you didn’t get a chance to check it out this year, be sure to go next time around! There are always new and exciting things popping up in the DIY world. Subscribing to Make or Craft magazine is also a great way to stay in touch and get inspired. Now stop sitting there and go make something!