How the “Obama Grandma Slippers” came to the White House
The story of how the “Obama Grandma Slippers” came to the White House is a global maker tapestry, its threads woven by world travelers eager to share their knowledge and designs to enable others to create their own products.
Our story begins a few years back in Kamakura Japan, where Naoki Fujimoto created the KULUSKA leather slipper, adapting traditional leather working techniques to the laser cutter. Fujimoto shared the design (there’s a parametric app) and Jens Dyvik (of the parametric layer chair and lasercut hexacoptor) took it with him on his worldwide “Fab Lab Tour,” spawning variations as it circled the globe.
Laser cutting and Assembling KULUSKA leather slippers
The Fab Meta Granny Slippers
To celebrate the U.S. National Day of Making and the White House Maker Faire, members of the Oslo FabLab made a special present for the President. They adapted the “Grandson Slippers” design to make “Grandma Slippers” for President Obama. The shoes feature an engraved image of Sarah Onyango Obama, etched from a photo taken when she received the “Grandson Slippers.”
Enter the PancakeBot Crew
Miguel Valenzuela, the self-proclaimed “Mexican Viking,” had been invited to the White House Maker Faire to show his PancakeBot, which he prototyped in the Oslo FabLab (aka Fellesverkstedet). So the Fellesverkstedet crew shipped our slipper surprise for the President with Miguel, who is a U.S. citizen. During the excitement of the White House Maker Faire, Miguel was unable to leave the PancakeBot, which was busily sketching Presidential portraits. So he emailed the MIT Mobile Fab Lab crew and enlisted the help of Neil Gershenfeld (also present at the White House Maker Faire) to hand off the slippers. His request reads as a maker poem (line breaks in original email):
Hi Neil, that would be great if I could hand off the slippers to you.I am in the hall downstairs.Just follow the pancake smell.Slippers are at the white house– Miguel Valenzuela
Obama’s administration accepted the slippers as a gift and I hope Barrack is already wearing them. I asked Neil Gershenfeld afterwards how the President reacted. Gershenfeld said, “He was quite pleasantly surprised to see them. Protocol is you don’t give things to him, but I did leave them with his staff afterwards.”