Bay Area Maker Faire
May 18, 2013
I’d heard about Maker Faire through some folks at work and thought the concept of an event dedicated to homebrew science, technology, arts, and crafts sounded intriguing. Last Saturday morning, I studied the website to see if there were any presentations that spoke to me. I came across one entitled “The Half-Acre Homestead” scheduled for 2 PM. Our house sits on a half-acre lot, and my boyfriend Adam and I are always mindful of ways to adopt techniques that ease our reliance on the grid. So we stuffed some homemade cornbread and a bottle of sunscreen into my backpack, slipped on our Birkenstocks, and headed to the San Mateo County Event Center.
The homesteading presentation consisted of a grizzled old man narrating a series of slides that were largely snapshots of common tools one should have on-hand (for example, “This is a generator…” and “These are four kinds of useful glue…”). The crowd thinned steadily throughout the half-hour, perking up only briefly when the speaker showed pictures of his marijuana plant and the various equipment he used to consume its yield (“This is a vaporizer…” and “This is a pipe…”). Overall, Adam was underwhelmed, but I took away a few useful tidbits about chickens, power washers, and kitchen knives. We rounded out our visit to the Show Barn by petting a pygmy goat, admiring a flock of geese, and buying a cheese-making kit. I almost bought a mushroom growing kit, as well, but Adam confided that he doesn’t like eating fungus that much, so I held off since they’re available online and at our local community grocery market, New Leaf. I also yearned to learn more about apiaries, but Adam vehemently nixed that idea because he fears getting stung by a swarm of angry honeybees (which speaks volumes about his faith in my powers of animal husbandry, even after I’ve successfully raised hens from chicks).
We spent about three more hours roaming the booths and halls, taking in the unique sights. Many exhibits featured various takes on 3D printing technology. Surprisingly, a small, decent home setup can be had for under just under $1000 these days. And it’s an interesting proposition: to be able to manufacture plastic pieces of different shapes and sizes to replace all those little parts that break and/or get lost. I believe my price threshold for a 3D printer is around $500 but, to be honest, I could use a traditional ink-and-paper printer that’s wireless before I delve into something relatively advanced and, frankly, esoteric at present.
The highlight of my afternoon was the Crafts section. I was amazed and inspired by the needlepoint and embroidery efforts on display. I may broaden my horizons from cross-stitch and take up felting as a hobby; the Wool Buddy wares were especially tantalizing for their imagination and cuteness factor. The Tapigami exhibit was also impressive; it’s an art form similar to the quilling I was taught in grade school, but done by rolling tape instead of paper strips into intricate shapes and designs. And I gave a dollar to the Videogame History Museum in honor of all those hours I burned as a wide-eyed youth playing Space Invaders and Pitfall on the family Atari console.
Maker Faire was most definitely a pleasant way to spend a summer-like afternoon, but I have to admit to being a tad disappointed in general. I’d expected to be exposed to more educational activities than commercial ones. In the end, spectacle and sales trumped substance. I might consider attending a future date in order to learn how to brew beer or churn butter. I suspect, however, that I can learn those skills elsewhere and in more depth than via a half-hour Powerpoint presentation. Still, this would be a great place to take kids to light their creative fires, both literally and figuratively.