Craft & Design
Makers on the Playa

serpent twins

As the annual week-long arts and culture festival Burning Man draws to a close, it seems fitting to do a mini tribute to makers on the playa. Unlike the majority of other festivals, the very nature of Burning Man encourages the maker in all attendees. For those who don’t know (anyone?), the participants and organizers of Burning Man essentially erect an entire city called Black Rock City, complete with neighborhoods and even a post office, on the dry lake bed in Nevada. And other than art cars, there are no vehicles allowed on the playa, so from shade structures to dolled up and tricked out bikes to costumes and giant art installation, the handmade maker spirit is all around.

To give you an idea of how that happens, here’s a time-lapse video by Matt Goodman of the 2011 Burning Man from empty playa to Black Rock City:

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Burning Man community is strong, and we’ve been fortunate to be able to showcase some of the large-scale art made for Burning Man at our annual Maker Faire Bay Area (the original, and our “home game” of Maker Faires, which we’ve been putting on for the past eight years). Most of these amazing pieces of art would’ve never been made had it not been for the inspiration that Burning Man provides.

Here’s a look at just a handful of iconic pieces from Burning Man that have been shown at Maker Faire. Pictured above is Jon Sarriugarte and Kyrsten Mate’s Serpent Twins (an Empire of Dirt production), which appears on the cover of MAKE Volume 35.

The playa provides a gorgeous canvas that large-scale art looks amazing in:

Here are 15 more installations from the playa that have been to Maker Faire:

Were you at Burning Man this year? Tell us what your favorite installations were in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Makers on the Playa

  1. I’m somewhat biased since this was a project that my friends built and took out there, but it is super-cool.

    “An interactive mathematical musical experience like none other designated as the Cafe Portal for Burning Man 2013 and created to expand your mind.”

    The centerpiece is a CNC-router cut sculpture originally designed by mathematician George Hart, which he named a frabjous, using a word from Jabberywocky. It consists of 30 identical flat pieces that when put together form a 20-pointed star. The team of makers then upped the ante by making the points of the star be conductive sensors that controlled an arduino to generate music and lights. The video of it at Burning Man gives a great feel for it.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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