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Photograph by George Schaller

The Flaming Lotus Girls (FLG) are no strangers to Maker Faire Bay Area, the world’s largest DIY festival, taking place on May 22nd and 23rd at the San Mateo Fairgrounds. This crew of creative and talented makers has participated in the annual fair since 2007, and this year they’re bringing an awe-inspiring installation known as Soma. When one member was asked a handful of interview questions, the group chose to respond as a team, noting, “The key part of FLG is we are a a do-ocracy without lines and distinctions between who is the ‘leader’.” Their strong collaborative ethos is inspiring. This is what the FLG shared with us.

1. Tell us about the project you’re bringing to Maker Faire.

Flaming Lotus Girls are bring our sculpture Soma. We brought the first prototype of it last year, and it is thrilling to bring the whole sculpture this year.

Soma translates the anatomy of neurons into metal, fire, and light, magnifying the microscopic world to an epic scale. In Soma, an elegant axon arch connects an earthbound neuron with its partner floating overhead.

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Photograph by Joe Dacanay

Fire and light flow like electrochemical signals between Soma‘s two neurons. Spinning balls of fire form the neuron’s nuclei. Slender dendrites extend to the sky and reach down to the earth, emitting constant flame and color-changing light. Computer-controlled flame and sequenced LEDs travel in patterns along the raised Soma archway, creating a spectacular, unique show.

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Photograph by Caroline Miller

All of the fire effects on Soma are participant-controlled, allowing the public to communicate with the sculpture itself. Soma offers participants an interactive installation that investigates the very basis of intellectual communication.

2. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?

Flaming Lotus Girls have been participating in Maker Faire since 2007. We were encouraged to participate by Dale Dougherty. A key part of Flaming Lotus’ collaboration model is sharing information and teaching others. The Faire seemed a natural extension of the values present in our group.

3. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?

Flaming Lotus Girls started in 2000, with a group of 12 women who wanted to make large-scale fire sculptures but did not have the skills to do so, but that didn’t stop them. Dave X taught a flame thrower class for this group in the back of CELLspace. FLG’s first sculpture The Flaming Lotus, from which we take our name, was created for the 2000 Burning Man Festival.

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4. Is your project strictly a hobby or a budding business? Does it relate to your day job?

FLG is a diverse group of artists, engineers, hackers, coders, scientists, welders, fabricators, teachers, and students. Soma, in particular, came from the minds of the scientists in the group. Many aspects of the projects relate to people’s day jobs. One key member of the group is a NASA image engineer; exploring new uses of LEDs in projects like Soma relates back to projects happening at NASA.

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Photograph by Andreas Kubbat

5. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?

For the last two years many of us have been exploring and playing with Arduino. Because it is such a flexible, easy-to-use, open-source electronics prototyping platform, it is ideal for the group to explore ways to control our installations and create interactivity.

6. What is your motto?

You don’t have to know anything about metal work to become a Flaming Lotus Girl, you just have to have enthusiasm and the ability to play well with others.

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Photograph by Caroline Miller

7. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started?

Never let the fact that you don’t know how to do something stop you from following your dream. Learning is the easy part.

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Thanks, Flaming Lotus Girls! Soma is sure to be absolutely jaw-dropping in person. Pick up your Maker Faire tickets online to avoid waiting in line at the Faire. And you still have one day left to buy advanced tickets at a discount. See you there!

Goli Mohammadi

I’m a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

I was an editor for the first 40 volumes of MAKE. The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. Covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made.

Contact me at snowgoli (at) gmail (dot) com.


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