Sunday, May 31, 2009

Remake: America - 4th Annual Maker Faire 2009

An escape into the world of arts and crafts, zany science, invention and enthusiasm has drawn thousands of people this weekend to the 4th annual Maker Faire.

The only one of its kind

on the planet, this Faire is alive with ideas translated into practice with over 600 exhibits and performances.

Held at the San Mateo County Event Center and organized by Make Magazine and Craft Magazine, it is a magnet for all ages from children upwards, and this year has attracted more than ever.

'Remake: America,' the Faire's motto for this year, has caught the Obama spirit sweeping the country, exhorting people to focus their creativity on production. To step into the Faire is to enter an alternative world of original designs, sights and sounds, many purely for the delight of their inventors.

Many inventors dressed for the part in arty costumes of a by-gone era or as 'mad scientists.'

A giant, mechanical 'Hand of Man' entertained the crowd, stretching robotic fingers skywards in salute, swooping down to grasp a traffic cone and bowing for a finale. Nearby, a pyrotechnic display blasted fiery flames into the already warm air. The Flaming Lotus Girls, an all-female troupe of the hottest sculptresses around, shape metal, glass and wood and shoot flames that can rise to over 150 ft. They meet in San Francisco on Wednesdays.

And a steamrollar puffed out clouds of steam demonstrating it's ability to drive belts and turn cogs.

Art cars were there: The Pen Guy and the Mercedes Pens eliciting fascination, Costas Schuler and his Mercedes Benz coated inside and out with recycled coloured pens; another with whirling windmills. The ArtCar Fest California amuses the Bay Area on the last weekend of September.

For children, this show offered them the opportunity to launch their first-ever rocket! Stepping up to the launch pad to power the red button, amongst those in the queues, were three-year-olds Nina and Jillian, and five-year-old Edward. They were helped by members of LUNAR - Livermore Unit of the National Association of Rocketry - who stuffed materials into the purple rockets.

Once launched, as the cardboard rockets reached their limits, they ejected plastic streamers to float gently back into the launch area, but of course the wind blew some off course and the good-natured crowd shouted plenty of warnings about the strays.

'Mad scientists' were in abundance: they melted pennies using solar rays directed through an old TV screen, recycling the metal into plaques and badges; and they shrunk quarters into dime sizes with an electric current of 15,000 joules. For this display by Hackerbot Labs - they specialize, they said, in lasers, electronic hackery and shenanigans! - we stood with fingers in ears awaiting the bang.

Among the very popular, large exhibits was a life-sized mousetrap game, behind which was Neverwas Haul, an imaginative three-storey Victorian house on wheels that you can clamber through, and the Golden Mean, a brown metal giant snail car made by blacksmith and sculptor Jon Sarriugarte.

There were macho events with model warship combat from the Western Warship Combat Club of San Jose, and a model armoured tank display from Bay Area Tankers.

By 2 pm you could hardly move around the grounds and there were long queues for food, much of which looked appetising, and for restrooms. 'We're ready to go! We're exhausted!' said a woman's voice from behind as we strolled on.

Perhaps it was because of the crowds that there seemed to be no sight of a 17 ft robot giraffe said, in pre-Faire publicity, to be roaming the grounds.

For those who like the smaller handcrafts, there were plenty to see and try with a large craft shop inside the center.

There was also a food market with exhibits with a great cheese-tasting counter and stalls on how to make French pressed coffee and beer.

One visually effective corner was Steampunk, a group of creative writers, dancers and costumiers with an alternative slant on Victiorian fashions. The St Clair Aeronauts, for example, dressed 'in what we imagine a Royal Zepplin Airmail crew would look like.'

Two of the greatest sections for kids, though, were the imaginative bikes and scooters and pedal-power swings. A child propelled himself on a small, comfy chair on wheels using a Wii controller for direction, while pairs of children pedalled their way through the air.

Yards away, a man lounged back on a raised motorized chair with his feet stretched out. 'The joystick was a huge amount of work!' he said, wheeling himself around.

Inventions that would be great fun in a family garden.

And still, as we left, we hadn't seen everything.

pics by Chris show: Flaming Lotus Girls' hot sculptures; Hand of Man; lifesized Mouse Trap Game; iron snail car, the Golden Mean

for album of pics click here

more blogs on the Faire to follow...

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