Art at the Heart of Canada: Ottawa Maker Faire Gets Crafty

Craft & Design Maker News
Art at the Heart of Canada: Ottawa Maker Faire Gets Crafty
Photography by Shannon Hoover

Last weekend was a good weekend in Ottawa, Canada. The brand new government was promising hope in the nation’s capital, the Redblacks clinched the East Division title, the Ottawa Fury scored in overtime to send the team to the NASL final next week, and Canada’s first feature Maker Faire showed off creativity and innovation to a record number of attendees.

Each Maker Faire has its own story to tell, and one of the great things about Ottawa’s event was the art. So many people think of Maker Faire as an exhibition of gadgets and 3d printers — don’t get me wrong, I love the gadgets and they were certainly there — but the things we make are really just expressions of our passions. Great art is the same, but it is moving to see the story of someone’s passion told. At Maker Faire Ottawa, the art of Makers was at the very center of the event — both literally and figuratively.

Interesting, beautiful, strange masks.
Interesting, beautiful, strange masks.

Art and design are central to the maker movement for this reason: they are how we express our passions, and our passion is what feeds the excitement in others and inspires the next generation of Makers. To me, going to a Maker Faire has always been a journey of discovery and adventure — and there is no better way to “show and tell” than at a maker faire.

Here are a few of the things we saw:

  • A robot that tries to feed participants, sometimes rather awkwardly. I liked how it seemed to be telling the story of our sometimes awkward relationship with technology. Does technology attempt to do too much? Are we becoming dependent at the same time we are achieving so much?
  • One art piece was simply a fork scratching a ceramic plate on a turntable. What is it about that sound that drives us crazy?
The latest trend - Cellfie!
The latest trend – Cellfie!
  • The team over at Pelling Lab gave attendees the opportunity to take ‘cellfies,’ photographs of the person’s own cells, and make art out of cultures of cancer. Cancers cells are tiny, but these tiny cultures have so much impact globally.
  • We saw physics students from the University of Ottawa showing how you can channel light by making structures out of gelatin! I asked the researcher what possible use gelatin light channels might have in the marketplace, and she said “if we can pique the curiosity of one kid to get into science today, we’ll have done something good” — she gets it.
  • There was a HUGE kinetic lego structure that moved tiny balls through a fascinating array of sculptures and architectures – I think if there hadn’t been so many other amazing projects to see that I would have been happy staring at that thing for hours…
  • One young maker built a four bit processor completely out of discrete transistors. What a crazy, insanely difficult project to take on! I asked him why he thought of making something like this, and he said he was inspired to do it after learning about circuits through playing Minecraft. Who says you can’t learn through play?

Now I don’t mean to marginalize the rest of the makers — Ottawa certainly had a little of everything. I saw a five-head 3D printer that actually worked! When I think of the issues I’ve had with my dual extruder, you gotta respect the guys from ORD Solutions who made it work with five. The Chipsetter project was remarkably functional pick-n-place machine that will (hopefully) be aimed at the prosumer market in the next year or so. I enjoyed speaking with the team over at ATMEL; they have been involved in Maker culture for so long now that it would be hard to imagine the community without them!

I could go on for a long time here — from the various Makerspaces, to the kids projects, to the life sized Dalek and R2D2’s that were roaming the facility — but in the end I think it was obvious that Ottawa told the world how creative, how innovative, and how passionate it is. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

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Shannon Hoover

Shannon is an innovator and technologist as well as leader in the Calgary Maker movement. He is devoted to improving his community and world through subversive change and art directed engineering. Pastimes include developing cool wearable technology projects and hosting awesome events, like MakeFashion and Calgary Mini Maker Faire. A retired farmboy, his career spans both art and technology, and between trips to Maker Faires you can find him working on the next big thing at Canada's first Wearables lab, ARCHEloft.

View more articles by Shannon Hoover


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