How Maker Faire Celebrates the Maker Community

Maker News
Adam Savage giving a speech while standing on the Electric Giraffe in front of a large crowd.

At Maker Faire Bay Area this year, Adam Savage returned on Sunday morning to deliver what some might call the Sermon Mounted on the Electric Giraffe (which you can watch in the video below). He stood atop Russell the Electric Giraffe and gave his talk to a crowd of fans. With his thoughtful manner and humor, Adam talked about the value of making and its impact on his life. When he was done, he took questions. One of them was from a young girl who asked him what he does when other people are denigrating his efforts. Adam paused just a moment to think, and then he dismounted from the giraffe, and went to give the young girl a hug.

Adam Savage hugs a young fan in the crowd.
Adam Savage descends from the Electric Giraffe to give a hug to a fan. Photography by Hep Svadja

When he resumed talking, he made the point that we all need support to be creative and we need to feel the support of others. He reflected that when he wasn’t feeling that support, it reflected his own lack of support for others. He emphasized how important it was for us to support each other.

His comments surely struck a chord with anyone who tries to do something different, who takes creative risks, who succeeds and fails. It did for me. Reflecting on his remarks, I thought that what we have in the maker community is largely a group of people who support each other, who care about each other’s work, and who believe that it matters to all of us that we make, create, build, and shape things.

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On Sunday night, after Maker Faire is over, the large team that organizes the event has a party. There are so many dedicated people that work hard behind the scenes at Maker Faire. Yet it isn’t just the labor that matters. It’s how we treat each other and the makers who create the event with us and the guests who come to participate in the event. At the party, I gave a short talk but I mentioned Adam Savage’s words. I said that I believed Maker Faire has been able to help develop a supportive community for Makers, not just in the Bay Area but around the world. That we appreciate makers and care for them over the weekend, I think, has helped establish a supportive culture in the community.

A middle aged woman holds a soldering iron for a young girl holding the wire to help solder a pin.
The Learn to Solder Tent helps give new skills to the young and young at heart.

It’s so important that we are a supportive community. It allows new people to join us and feel welcome. It encourages people to trust that they can do something that they haven’t done before and emerge newly confident in their own abilities.

Maker Faire is just full of people who are positive, not negative. It is brimming with optimism, not just because people feel good about themselves but they feel good about others.

A young boy wearing a decorated hat drives a vehicle built to look like a giant cupcake.
Cupcake Cars Roam Maker Faire

This is why Maker Faire is going strong in its 11th year. It is not a passing fancy. It’s not a trend. It is growing and spreading, indeed, as a movement. This year, there will be 190+ Maker Faires around the world and each one fosters the same passion and optimism that we saw at the first Maker Faire.

It gets to something fundamental about us as people. We want something to do that is meaningful and personal. We want to belong and connect with others who share our interests and passion.


Here are some of my takeaways from Maker Faire Bay Area:

    • With 1,300 Maker exhibits, there’s just not enough time to see them all. I watch videos of Maker Faire after it’s over, and I see things I didn’t see in three days on site.
    • We welcomed 4,000 school children on Friday, who arrived in over 70 buses. Many of them are children who would not otherwise get to come to Maker Faire. We want them to see and experience Maker Faire for themselves.
    • Communities inevitably develop their own rituals and come to rely on them. One of ours is the paella dinner on Friday night for makers. The number of makers has grown but the dinner still feels the same – like a homecoming, something that nourishes us in many ways.
Dale Dougherty hands a plate of paella to a waiting patron while in the foreground another person holds a plate.
Dale serves paella to the waiting maker crowd!
    • Openness and sharing are what made this community, and collaboration reinforces what it means to be in the community.
    • People come from all over, both makers and guests. What’s interesting to me is how makers are themselves participating in more and more faires, getting to know makers in other parts of the world. I saw makers I had seen at Maker Faires in South Korea, China, Singapore, Egypt, Japan, and Italy.
    • I met with ten women librarians from Pakistan who were so amazed by Maker Faire and wanted to know what they could do in their country to develop a maker community.
    • We had more universities participating in Maker Faire this year, including MIT, Stanford, and Cal Berkeley. Makerspaces are becoming a necessary facility on the college campus. No longer just a machine room for researchers and faculty, these new spaces are open to students for more than just classwork.
A young woman cuts a piece of sheet steel with a plasma torch while the instructor looks on.
A schoolteacher from Arizona learns to use the plasma cutter.
  • We also had many more K-12 schools exhibiting, led by maker educators who are leading the way. The number of children exhibiting as makers has grown leaps and bounds.
  • We had the Department of Energy and many of the National Labs participating in Maker Faire. They would like to engage the maker community in solving many of the tough problems that we face in our society.
  • Likewise, businesses are recognizing the value of makers as a source of innovation and seeking to engage the community.

It’s amazing that Maker Faire can bring together so many people and balance so many aspects of our society: art, science, technology, business, craft, food, work, and play. I want to thank all of the makers and the producers who help create the event and everyone who joined us to celebrate making and the maker community.

Young children running underneath a spinning parachute held aloft by a frame.
Young children play under a parachute.
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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty


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