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Maker Faire Behind the Scenes: Kate Rowe

Craft & Design
Maker Faire Behind the Scenes: Kate Rowe

As part of a series of interviews, I am talking to the folks who organize the Maker Faire Bay Area. Here, I talk to Kate Rowe, part of Maker Relations. She has some great advice on preparing your maker exhibit application. (The Call for Makers closes this Friday!)  In particular, she recommends checking out the Maker Toolkit, which is packed full of information about the fair and how to prepare for it (especially the Maker Manual).

Kate Rowe, Maker Relations Team

Q :What is your role in organizing the Maker Faire?

A: I’m on the Maker Relations team. We are the go-to contact for makers. We ensure they understand what it takes to exhibit at Maker Faire. We find answers to all of their questions, which come from various members of the team, and send out regular communications to accepted makers to help them prepare them for the fair. We also use the questions makers are asking to update the Maker Toolkit. The toolkit is an excellent resource for makers with questions about the fair. Additionally, behind the scenes, we manage all of the project and maker data, including keeping all project information organized, creating reports, and moving things forward so everything is ready for makers when they arrive at the fair. The makers rely on us for all of their communications, and the production team relies on us for accurate, timely information so they can services the makers when they arrive onsite.

Q: Why do you think people should answer the Call for Makers?

A: To share what they make with others, which inspires and encourages people of all ages to make things. By sharing what you make, others realize they too can make something. Then, that inspires others and so on. At Maker Faire, you can actually feel people waking up, wanting to participate, to do, and to make. Maker Faire is more than an event; it’s a movement. Makers make Maker Faire and Maker Faire makes makers! As a maker you are a very important ingredient to Maker Faire. Maker Faire Bay Area is the flagship event. If you’re going to be a maker at one event this year, this is the one!

Q: What do you look for when you are reviewing the applications that come in?

A: The Maker Faire team is looking for all sorts of things, most especially interactive exhibits. Maker Faire is about sharing what you do and inspiring people to make. The best way get people excited about making is to get their hands on something or their mind wrapped around something. We also love exhibits with a story that attendees can relate to. How did the Maker come up with their idea? Who made it possible? What did it take? Often, makers sharing their stories is what helps people to see that they can make too.

Q: What kinds of displays and activities have you seen be the most successful at the fair?

A: Almost all of the interactive exhibits are successful, especially if attendees can take something home that reminds them of the fair, and will hopefully continue to inspire them to make. Some specific examples are: Make Play Day, where kids (and anyone else) are encouraged to take apart old electronics and make them into something new. This is always a great exhibit. You see timid new-makers turn into hackers and enthusiasts in just a few minutes.

The large art displays are successful in that they ‘wow’ spectators and hopefully demonstrate that you don’t have to think or start small. All sorts of large, seemingly-complicated things can be made by a group of people. You don’t need to know a lot to be part of something big; You just need to be willing to learn.

I also find that the individual makers who have come up with a display that easily communicates how they’ve made something are successful. If you can see posters and images of the process (and the mistakes along the way), not just the end product. Those exhibits tend to leave people realizing they can make things on their own. It’s do-able, fun, and mistakes are part of the process. In general, the more thought-out and interactive an exhibit is, the better.

Q: What was your favorite thing at last year’s Maker Faire?

A: My favorite exhibit? Wow. That’s a hard question.

I’d have to say the 3D Printer Village in New York last year. The village offered an area where anyone interested in 3D printers could go and meet a variety of makers who had built 3D Printers, talk to them, see the difference between different printers, examine many different things printers can make, and use a 3D printer to make something.  They could even do a 3D scan of themselves. Then, they could head to 3D printer sponsor area to talk to the people who produce the printers, and even go the Maker Shed to buy one and get started. Then, they can build their own printer and make things at home. Full circle. All at Maker Faire.

I love so many exhibits, though. Have you ever been to Swap-O-Rama-Rama where you can cut apart and re-make clothes right at the event? I love seeing attendees walking around in made-at-Maker-Faire clothing. You can learn to solder, knit, use an Arduino, build a small car out of trash and race it, make a necklace out of hardware, build a robot, and more….No matter what you’re into, it’s there.

Learn to Solder tent at 2012 Maker Faire Bay Area

Q: Is there anything else you want to say to people considering applying for a booth this year?

A: Come, have fun, share what you make! Attending Maker Faire is incredible; it’s even more fun to be a part of it. Whether you’re applying for the first time, or you’ve come before, check out the website and the Maker Toolkit. We’ve put all of the information you need in one place. Maker Relations works really hard to improve the process each year for makers. We want it to be easy and fun to participate.

Q: What’s the number one thing you are doing to make things easier for makers this year?

A: We have launched a new database to manage all of the maker data. For the makers, this has already made for a better entry form process. With the new software, makers can update their application and copy it next time to make applying to the next fair easier. Also the new database will streamline our systems, so we have more time to ensure all maker questions are answered before the fair.

8 thoughts on “Maker Faire Behind the Scenes: Kate Rowe

  1. Natalie, the Chickenblogger says:

    Is the Young Makers’ deadline the same as the Makers’ deadline?
    We are a Young Makers Club, and will be coming to the Bay Area Maker Faire to share our projects, but I need to know if we have the same March 15th deadline, please.

    1. Karen Tanenbaum says:

      Hi Natalie, I believe participating in Young Makers gets you a spot at Maker Faire without having to apply via the Call for Makers. You can check with the regional coordinator for your area to make sure:

      1. Natalie, the Chickenblogger says:

        Karen, thank you for this helpful, prompt reply.

        1. Michelle "Binka" Hlubinka says:

          Young Makers has posted a new registration process, with sage input and advice from Kate (whom I feel I must mention both for her awesomeness and since this comment is on her post and all!)

          Please make sure that you are, like Natalie and her family, all registered for Young Makers before you fill this out.

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I am a technology researcher and designer; a Steampunk prop maker and costumer; a writer of both academic papers and blog posts; a voracious reader/watcher of science fiction. I am currently contributing to MAKE by writing about the Maker Faire. You can contact me via

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