I haven’t been a Maker for very long. At this time last year, I had just purchased my first table saw. During the day, I would busily disassemble pallets in my garage, then move everything into a corner so I could park the car inside at night. Just one year later, my workshop has expanded to fill the garage. My hobby – fueled by YouTube videos, how-to articles, and the community behind them – supplanted my desk job and propelled me into a career as a full-time Maker and content creator. The car hasn’t seen the inside of the garage in months and probably never will again.
Maker Faire is a place where cool new ideas thrive, but so is the Internet. I see cool new ideas all the time. My favorite Makers are producing great content on YouTube and Instagram that inspires me every single day. Publications like Make: Magazine highlight even more great content that would otherwise slip beneath my radar. There is a glut of great creative content in my world, to the point that I don’t have time to watch all of it if I want to get any work done. Why, then, am I so excited to attend Maker Faire Bay Area next weekend?
Workshop dwellers like myself are solitary creatures. The new breed of Maker is growing up with community maker spaces to fuel collaboration and the exchange of ideas, but people like me got our start in a basement or garage after work, figuring things out on the fly. As a full-time maker and content creator, I spend most of my day alone, either working in the shop or planning the next project. For me, Maker Faire represents a chance to bring a community aspect into what is otherwise a solo activity.
In the past year, I have interacted with hundreds of people who share my passion for creating and the drive to improve their skills. Maker Faire is built for these people. In addition to meeting popular Makers like Jimmy DiResta, Bob Clagett, David Picciuto, Simone Giertz, and Adam Savage (ADAM FREAKING SAVAGE), I also know I’ll finally get a chance to meet dozens of people I’ve been exchanging ideas with online for months, all of whom are flying in to attend the show. These are people who have influenced my work and who have in turn been influenced by my own creations, despite never meeting face to face. The chance to actually shake hands with people I admire and respect is reason enough to book the flight.
Leaving the Comfort Zone
As far as Makers go, I’m traditional. Okay, I’m boring. My shop is mostly woodworking tools, plus some welding and metalworking equipment. There’s a soldering iron in a drawer somewhere. That’s about as high-tech as it gets — no CNC, no lasers, no Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Maker Faire will have plenty of people in that same niche, but it also hosts artists, hackers, and electronics geniuses who make robots, sculptures, flying machines, and all kinds of other things I know nothing about (flying sculpture-making robots, perhaps). Maker Faire Bay Area gives me a unique opportunity to see and touch things I’ve never even considered building, then meet the creator of that thing and ask them questions. To put it more simply: I don’t know what I’m going to see next weekend, and that is awesome.
Makers are a unique breed. Their work often bridges the divide between form and function, craft and art. In a recent video, Laura Kampf said “Your work can only be as interesting as your life.” Jimmy DiResta has often expressed similar ideas (“feed your brain” is his preferred expression). If I am serious about making stuff and improving as an artist and craftsperson, I feel I owe it to myself to seek out novel experiences. Attending Maker Faire Bay Area will take me out of my shop for three days, but I am certain that my experience there will find its way back into my work soon after I get home.
From May 20th through May 22nd, my workshop will be closed. If you need me, I’ll be in San Mateo.