When I went to college, my mom gave me a sewing kit. I'd never sewn in my life. One day, I needed that kit—a button had come off the cuff of my favorite long-sleeved denim shirt (think early ’90s), and I was determined to sew it back on. I felt empowered. Needle in hand, I sewed the hell out of that button. It was on so tightly a team of sled dogs couldn't have gotten it through the buttonhole. Right then I became convinced I lacked the Domestic Goddess gene. That's why I’m intrigued by an event happening in town this month, the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire (AMMF).
The term “Maker” is a new one for me. Turns out, a Maker is someone who makes something. From tinkering on circuit boards to constructing robots in their garage to writing poetry, a Maker is a creator. Some Makers take random parts and pieces and turn them into a brand new invention. Others recycle old items and give them a new purpose. When I think of Makers, I envision people like Doc Brown from Back to the Future as much as my Aunt Penny, who knits wicked-cool blankets, and my friend Hunter, who recently started sewing her own purses. Makers are a resourceful group.
Happening Aug. 24 and 25 at Balloon Fiesta Park, the second annual AMMF is a chance for Makers to show off their creations and to inspire others.
“One mission is to encourage people to follow their own imagination, innovation and creative spark. The second is to remind everyone that there is a lot we all can learn,” says event founder Charel Morris.
The AMMF is an offshoot of the original Maker Faire. Started by Make Magazine in San Mateo, California in 2008, that event has spawned smaller local versions dubbed mini maker faires worldwide. More than just an afternoon's amusement, it’s a full-on movement.
Albuquerque's Maker Faire is a modern-day show-and-tell split into different areas, including technology, creative and textiles. There's also the Swap-O-Rama-Rama, where you tap into your inner fashionista, sewing donated clothes into brand new items. (Don't worry, you'll have help. That's what Maker Faires are for.)
So what exactly can you expect to see at an event that’s all about making things? A 3-D printer. An electric bicycle. Oh, and a giant sculpture of a hand that can crush cars. Created by Taos sculptor Christian Ristow, “The Hand of Man” is a 39-foot-long hydraulic hand and forearm operated by a control glove. You—yes, you—can put that glove on and take control of the giant hand. You can literally pick up a car and crush it. Talk about a stress reliever.
“I heard that people who consistently rate themselves highest in job satisfaction are heavy equipment operators in the field of demolition,” Ristow says, explaining his inspiration. “I think it's because it's fun, it's simple joy. It taps into a very basic human need for control over one's environment.”
That’s what makes the AMMF much more than a glorified craft fair—the chance for attendees to be hands-on.
“You can go to a Mini Maker Faire and just look, but that’s not what it’s really about,” Morris says.
Some Makers teach skills like how to properly hammer a nail. Though basic, fewer people in today’s society can do it, according to Ristow. That’s why he thinks Maker Faires are catching on.
“Up until the 1940s or ’50s, everybody had to know a lot of different skills, like how to sew, cook, repair a car, repair a house. Then something happened in western culture, and you only had to know how to do your one little thing,” he muses. “In a way the Maker movement is a reaction to that. People are saying, ‘I wanna know how to fix my car, my clothes, my house. I wanna have more control over my life.’”
Or in my case, “I wanna know how to sew my own buttons.”
Wendy Tremayne has taken control of her life, and she’s sharing her knowledge at the AMMF. Tremayne invented the Swap-O-Rama-Rama concept as a response to consumerism. Participants donate clothes, and with help, use sewing machines and silk screens to repurpose others’ discarded items.
“It’s great for the environment. It’s a reclaiming of skill. That’s the ethic of the whole Maker Faire,” Tremayne says.
Emily Romero, an Albuquerque substitute teacher, attended last year's AMMF and took home a “new” tote bag from the Swap-O-Rama-Rama. She's coming back this year.
“I like arts and crafts, and I like hands-on science learning,” Romero explains. “I think it's effective because it's fun and helps you to remember [new skills].”
What if you want to be creative but have no clue where to start? Don't worry. AMMF founder Charel Morris says anyone can innovate.
And who knows? Your idea could get you a spot at next year's AMMF. It could even be the start of your new business. Remember that electric bicycle?
“We had a guy who decided he wanted to ride an electric bicycle to work and couldn't find what he wanted, so he made his own,” Morris says. “Now it is patented and trademarked. He has a prototype, and they are looking at manufacturing.”
So get tinkering, get crafting, and get creating. It's time to bring your ideas to life and turn your creative spark into a full-on wildfire. Happy inventing.