Jenna Schnuer reports from this past weekend’s Maker Faire in Queens, New York.
I couldn’t tell exactly what the noise was or where it was coming from: There was the ping ping ping of xylophones, a beating drum, and the shaking rattling noises of…something. Pursing the sounds across the grounds of the New York Hall of Science, I expected to find a small band of people using a clearing as a practice space. Instead I found a guy in a plaid shirt standing behind a folding table loaded with small player-pianoesque musical instruments (aka, Nick Yulman and his Bone Conductor Mechanical Orchestra, pictured, above).
My brain-swirling day at World Maker Faire NY was officially underway.
Equal parts science fair, craft fair, carnival, and island of misfit human toys (with a whole lot of knitting, seminars, computer chips, sassy handmade greeting cards, the Lifesize Mousetrap game, tasty paella, and, yes, mass market brands like Martha Stewart Living and Lion Brand Yarn mixed in), Maker Faire plays temporary roving home to anybody who creates or, as the Faire lingo has it “makes,” pretty much, anything. It is the Holy Land of DIY. And, odd but true, it is as family friendly as it is sexy.
Maker Faire is also a good place to spot Utilikilts in the wild.
Started in 2006 by the folks behind Make: magazine, Maker Faires have
entertained the DIY masses in five states and two countries. Its NYC
home at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was a perfect fit: the park hosted
two World’s Fairs. The 1939 fair promised visitors the “World of
Tomorrow,” and the building that now houses the Hall of Science started
out as a pavilion at the 1964 event.
The first chariot race contestants were on the line. Hosted by The
Madagascar Institute, a Brooklyn-based artists’ collective known for
propane-powered carnival rides (see the Jet Ponies below) and a slogan
of “fear is never boring,” the races pitted hand-pulled carts against
bicycle-powered contraptions, motor-powered giant fish, and a giant
metal go-kart with a cow skull lashed to the front. Event signs
boasted: “You can’t win with brakes.”
Turned out that, for the first race, motors didn’t help much either.
After the Hungry March Band and gold lame-wearing flag bearers were
hustled off the course for their safety, the fire whistle went off.
And, at race’s end, people power won out. The British Invasion team
(pictured, right) pulled their chariot to the win.
pillow, and clear my head with the fresh scent of handmade soaps.
In the spirit of Maker Faire, my DIY photo flipbook of another Madagascar Institute production: the running of the
Getting there: The 2010 Maker Faire season is over but DIY enthusiasts (and the
traveling companions or parents who love them) can already start
planning for the 2011 season: Bay Area, May 21-22; Detroit, July 30-31,
and NYC, September 24-25.
Along with writing about life’s quirkier events, Jenna Schnuer covers
travel, books, and more for publications including American Way and
World Hum. Her last piece for Intelligent Travel was about art mapmaker
Connie Brown. Read more of her work at http://www.jennaschnuer.com