mfm makey

The bustling Midwestern city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, is a city of makers. Known for its beer and manufacturing, Milwaukee is also home to Maker Faire Milwaukee, the largest free Maker Faire in the United States. Co-hosted by the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and Milwaukee Makerspace and sponsored by the Brady Corporation, Maker Faire Milwaukee is a prime example of the magic that happens when a major cultural institution and a group of makers come together with the unified vision of spreading the joy of making.

This year, at the third annual Maker Faire Milwaukee, taking place at the Wisconsin State Fair Park on September 24 and 25, there are over 220 maker exhibits slated. The organizers have been running a great series of maker profiles on their site. Here’s a look at 16 maker exhibits, focusing in on what these makers will be displaying the Faire and what inspires them to make.

Christopher Warnken of wLuminaries

mfw luminaries

Project:
“I’m very pleased to be presenting handmade accent lamps made from my preferred materials: wood, metal (raw brass and polished nickel), and glass.”

Inspiration:
“The people whose work I greatly admire — too numerous to list here — definitely motivate me. But maybe it’s a lifestyle choice? I guess I’ve always just made things starting from a very young age. There’s a certain satisfaction that I get from both organizing and materializing these crazy ideas I have in my head. Simply put, I’m a relentless tinkerer with an artistic bent. I just keep wondering, dreaming, and building. It’s what I’ve always done in one form or another.”

Deborah Lema from Out Snowflaking

mfw snowflaking

Project:
“I am looking forward to demonstrating how to make fossilized snowflakes and to showing a selection of some that I’ve photographed and made into little picture blocks.”

Inspiration:
“Science as art is an enjoyable motivator for me.”

Adrian Volden

mfw adrian

Project:
“I am presenting an art project that includes neon painted items, crafted projects, and flow dynamics. I started prepping for this right after the 2015 Maker Faire. It looks great in my head — hoping it looks that good in the Dark Arts Room.”

Inspiration:
“Making is a very loose term. Much of my time is making parts and repairing items for family, friends, fellow makers, and organizations. This year’s Dark Arts Project inspired me because I think it looks cool.”

Amanda Preske of Circuit Breaker Labs

mfw circuit necklace

Project:
“I’ve produced a line of wearables for men and women that incorporate recycled circuit boards. I’ve been making circuit board jewelry in my signature style for nearly a decade. Each piece is carefully cut and cleaned before being covered in a layer of epoxy resin. The resin has a high surface tension, which allows me to create a “bubble” over the resin, which acts as a lens. I make all kinds of things including traditional jewelry, items for men (cufflinks, tie bars, tie tacks), belt buckles, badge reels, and so on.”

Inspiration:
“I have this indescribable internal drive to make things. I feel restless when I’m not making something or doing something. Even when I was working in chemistry, I found a project that allowed me to make crystals all day. I’ve turned jewelry making into a career, but when I’m not making jewelry, I’ve got my hands buried in something else.”

Jess Holz

Project:
“I am presenting ‘window into the cell,’ a motorized representation of a biological cell, complete with jiggling proteins. It is meant to be a compliment to static textbook representations of cells and give a sense of molecular crowding of the cytoplasm (I love molecular crowding and complexity!). Mostly, it’s for fun — you press a button and the cell lights up, comes alive. It is based on an actual cross-section of a cell I imaged with a scanning electron microscope. This image is a product of an accident — I mistakenly mounted the glass surface containing cells upside down onto the adhesive specimen holder. I immediately flipped it over and remounted it. Most of the cells were destroyed, but this one just sort of got its top nicked off, revealing its dense cytoplasm crammed with proteins.”

Inspiration:
“Art is something I just need to do. I can’t imagine not doing it. In my art practice, I’m most interested in scientific visual culture — how scientific imagery affects how we think and how we dream. Some people are story collectors; I am an image collector — I see something interesting and just need to capture it, on camera or under the microscope. In terms of subject matter, I have a lot of pictures of insects — I just love imaging bugs — exoskeletons are so ornate, and I’m just fascinated by their sensory systems.”

Jenny Robinson of Isthmus Instruments

mfm isthmus

Project:
“I am presenting the steel instruments I build, under the name Isthmus Instruments. These instruments are a new (of the last decade) steel acoustic instrument. All instruments of this kind (including their influence, the Caribbean steel pan or “drum”) that exist in the world today have been put “into tune” by a skilled human. The art of tuning steel spans only 50-some years at this point. I have spent the last 4.5 years developing my own process of building these instruments. I didn’t learn from any one particular person or apprentice with anyone. I have had an opportunity to connect with other handpan makers in the world and share information, but even so, 90% of the progress I have made has really just been hours of grinding labor, background research, and tons of trial and error.”

Inspiration:
“I am inspired to make the things that fascinate me. If I am impressed by something, I want to learn about it. The best way for me to learn about things is by doing them in some way. Musical instruments fit this category — playing and building. I am also inspired by others and their creations. I love seeing what other people make. I love finding ideas I never would have had otherwise. The experiential journey of making is full of challenging experiences. Sometimes they expose more wonder than certainty, however! I think makers get even better at making over time.”

MiLO (the Milwaukee Laptop Orchestra)

mfm milo

Project:
“We’ll be performing a number of pieces that showcase our electronics. We’re all about creating tapestries of sound: exciting, ambient, noisy, and smooth. As part of the show, we’d like to grab some of the audience members to join in so they can experience playing these new instruments.”

Inspiration:
“All of the members of MiLO have their own connection to music, but based on their enthusiasm every time we rehearse, it has to be a passion for performing together.”

ASME at Valparaiso University Mechs of Hazard

mfm asme

Project:
“ASME [American Society of Mechanical Engineers] at Valparaiso University has constructed a Power Racing Series vehicle to compete in the Power Racing Series race at Maker Faire Milwaukee.”

Inspiration:
“ASME at Valparaiso is inspired to make for the purpose of preparing responsible and constructive engineers.”

Scorch from Scorch Works

mfm scorch

Project:
“I will be showing my homemade injection molding machine, homemade arc welder, and some samples of items cut using software that I wrote for generating and modifying G-code input files for CNC machines.”

Inspiration:
“When I see an interesting process, I like to consider whether or not I would be able to replicate it. I am all the more interested if I have a practical use for the end product. However, not having a practical use for something does not prevent me from taking on a project. Sometimes the project needs to be built before its uses can be fully identified. When I was building my homemade lathe, I was often asked what I was going to use the lathe for. At the time, I did not have a defined use for the lathe. I tried to explain that the lathe itself was the project. I still don’t have a specific use for the lathe, but it gets used occasionally for various projects.”

Tim Vrakas of Vrakas Labs Family Projects

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Project:
“This year we’re featuring a custom liquid-cooled PC, a DIY electric bike, presenting some 3D printing design ideas, and a vintage prop reproduction any hardcore Trekkie will recognize. We also will have a variety of DIY camera gear and a custom gimbal system.”

Inspiration:
“There are an infinity of cool things that you can be the creator of, and it’s up to you to decide what it is you want to create. You never know when you will be the inventor of the best thing since sliced bread.

Heather Eiden of Craft Me Calm

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Project:
“I will be presenting my Story Tile display. It was my thesis project for my art education masters.”

Inspiration:
“Making things gets me excited about life. The goal is to see art in everything. I have a spiritual connection to my grandfather, who was an inventor.”

John Karbassi of Modular Addict

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Project:
“We’ll be bringing out a pretty large modular synthesizer or two — entirely DIY/hand-built. Many people are familiar with keyboard-type synthesizers — at a high level, they’re a collection of oscillators, amplifiers, filters, and envelopes which are all pre-designed and prepackaged to work in certain ways. With the modular approach, you start with an empty case, then add any number of modules — oscillators, amplifiers, filters, sequencers, etc. — you build it the way you want, to be used the way you want to use it. Besides that, all the connections are made via patch cables — you’ve got total control over the sounds, patterns, and timbres you pull out of the synthesizer — and total flexibility to creatively abuse it.”

Inspiration:
“If I’m being honest, probably some unhealthy compulsive tendencies. I don’t like being idle; I’m always on the search for that one new sound that I wasn’t able to generate before, and I’ve got this enormous parts collection that I eventually need to get through. But there’s something deeper there: If I’m not focused on Synth-DIY, I’m woodturning, laser cutting, etc., working on something.”

Milwaukee Blacksmith

Project:
“We will be doing live demo of several items, including how to make a Rubiks Cube Twist [pictured below].”

mfm rubics

Inspiration:
“An early love of this craft and its history — and the excitement of creating something unique.”

PrISUm, ISU’s Solar Car Team

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Project:
“PrISUm is showcasing Pheaton 2, the team’s 13th solar-powered vehicle. The lightweight carbon-fiber exterior and mechanical systems were handcrafted by Iowa State University students during the fall of 2015. Every aspect of the vehicle was designed, manufactured, and tested in the Midwest. The Phaeton 2 competed in the eight-day, 1,800-mile 2016 American Solar Challenge race from Ohio to South Dakota. The International Solarcar Federation awarded the team their Achievement Award, which led to the production of remote-controlled scale models of Phaeton 2, the only car to ever hold this honor. The models will be sold throughout the world to promote solar racing and the concept of ‘Brain Sports’.”

Inspiration:
“PrISUm’s mission is to build a practical solar car that changes the paradigm of transportation. In doing so, we strive to inspire future generations to pursue their passions through education.”

Katy Gross of Timeline Cosplay

mfm timeline-cosplay-500x750

Project:
“I am presenting some of my cosplays as well as probably bringing in a new cosplay to sew and assemble so people can see how it’s done. I have a lot of outfits spanning a lot of video games and anime, and my list is ever-growing. I try to plan outfits that I can be comfortable in or will function in both hot and cold climates. My current cosplay that I have recently nearly completed is Lady Three from the game Drakengard 3, and I will either be wearing her or at least bringing in her armor to show people what Worbla can do. She, so far, is my greatest success as I have worked really hard to make the outfit spectacular.”

Inspiration:
“Bringing a character to life or designing an outfit is fun and frustrating. For me, I have a long list of outfits I want to do but sometimes not as much of an idea for how to do them. I sometimes feel like my skills aren’t on par with some others out there, so I get afraid to do certain outfits. However, in the past two years, at least I’ve been inspired to take some risks with outfits that just simply called to me, and that’s brought me out of my comfort zone making things I never thought I would make. Seeing video games or shows I really like and characters that have amazing or crazy personalities or that I can relate to. A lot of the characters I cosplay are a little twisted, but I like it that way, and I like doing characters that are a little obscure.”

James Houck from Basement Graphics

mfm basement

Project:
“I’m showing my line of cards, and I’ll be explaining my creative method. I’ll also have several large, decorative pieces and some smaller original pieces on display so people can see and touch the results of my work. I’ll have visitors participate in making several collaborative (or crowd-sourced) works of paper on wood. I’ll supply a stack of magazines and glue/water solution, and people will be able to apply images and text to complement what other have done before. I’m hoping for strange results.”

Inspiration:
“You might say that I hack the worthless words and images that commercial media throws at us everyday. I want to scoop up fragments of that trash and make something beautiful, macabre, sensual, or ironic out of it, and I want the viewer to share in the wonder elicited by this re-contextualization of everyday media garbage. I work only with found material like scrap plywood and old magazines.”

For all the information you need to attend Maker Faire Milwaukee next week, head to the site!