Vancouver Mini Maker Faire presents opportunities for creative collaboration
// Erin Knodel

How many dreamers, designers, and builders does it take to screw in a light bulb? None. They've invented an ingenious new solution in their basement already; the light bulb is obsolete.

So was the case on Mar. 15, at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire's Show & Tell held at the Museum of Vancouver. The place glowed with the energy of excited, creative minds. This was a fundraiser for the second annual Vancouver Mini Maker Faire that will be held Jun. 23 and 24 at the Vancouver PNE Fairgrounds. The event will bring together some of Western Canada's most enthusiastic makers for two days of interactive displays.

Maker Faire began in the US in 2006 as an event put on by Make magazine, with purpose to “celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects, and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset.” Today, Make assists community-driven Mini Maker Faires in many locations across the US and Canada.

Emily Smith, the Director and Founder of the VMMF, says the event anticipates significant growth this year, hoping to house about 250 booths, including an outdoor arena where Maker Coordinator Richard Sim anticipates quad-copters and flame throwers to be among the displays.

The beauty of the Maker Faire lies in its spirit of collaboration. Smith relates it to a giant craft circle: “You and your friends get together, work off of each other, [and] inspire one another.”

A wide variety of projects are displayed at these Maker Faires, from fibre artists, to revolutionaries in robotics. This melding of mediums is an especially exciting aspect of the Maker Faire, as makers who meet often become collaborators.

A healthy cross-section of these interests were represented at this event, including “Mister Fire-Man” David Gowman, who has been hand-carving wooden horns, trumpets, and other associated wind instruments for the last ten years. He plays them with his band, the Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra. His craft grew, he says, from a desire to take his two-dimensional artistic expressions as illustrator and painter to the third dimension by working with sculpture. “It ended up being kind of four dimensional,” he says, referring to the musical facet of his work.

The Internet has played a big role in bringing the DIY community closer together. Informal collaboration takes shape as weblogs bring inspiration from around the world in the form of other people's projects. Websites dedicated to the DIY lifestyle and video-sharing websites such as YouTube are invaluable, with tutorials available on an infinite number of skills. Another boost to the DIY culture is that with online merchandising, even the most obscure parts and supplies made available to the most remote locations.

Consider the guys at West Coast Kits, who bring kits for you to rig your entire bicycle with neon El Wire, casting an ethereal glow about it in a colour of your choice. They also offer the DrawBot, an “Automated vertical drawing device” that draws out any image you ask it to on a variety of surfaces.

The Vancouver Experimental Theremin Orchestra (VETO), who boast being “Vancouver's first experimental theremin orchestra,” gave a performance with their unique instruments. The theremin utilizes two metal antennas that sense the position of the player's hands; one antenna controls frequency oscillators that produce sound and the other controls volume. VETO will be in attendance at the VMMF hoping to collaborate with other artists in film, performance art, or virtually any other medium.

The Plush boutique located on Main St. brought out their DIY or DIE!!! needle felting workshop as an example of what are sure to be many fibre art booths at the VMMF in June. The public was invited to try their hand at a form of appliqué, which uses a tiny barbed needle to apply un-spun wool by felting it to almost any textile surface.

Kim Werker, a VMMF board member, brought out her project Mighty Ugly in which she challenges participants to make something “truly ugly”. She feels it is important for us as a society focused on concepts like beauty and success to peer into the face of ugly and embrace it. Without it, she says, “we're missing out on exploring creativity in its fullest sense. We're only looking at what we consider a success as a valid form of creation and that discounts the mistakes that we make, and by discounting them we're stunting our own growth.”

Everyone at the event, whether as a maker or as a spectator, seems to share an excitement about the apparent growth of the DIY movement. “It's an engaging culture,” Gowman says, “and I think many of us are very tired of being a spectacle-observing culture. We want to interact; we want to feel our lives have meaning and substance.”

Where is the DIY movement headed? Werker was certain in her answer: “Only good places. There are fewer and fewer boundaries on creativity.”

Maker Faire will take place June 23rd and 24th at the PNE. If you have a project you'd like to share, the call for Makers for this year's event is still open. Details on application can be found at

//Erin Knodel, writer
//Graphics by Indervir Jhuti

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