Tonawanda News

February 24, 2014

Make it so

First Mini Maker Faire to take place at Museum of Science

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — If you make it ... they will come.

The first Buffalo Mini Maker Faire will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Buffalo Museum of Science, celebrating “makers” of all sorts, from knitters to sculptors to engineers, and giving Western New Yorkers an introduction to the “Maker movement” that’s sweeping the globe.

Amy Biber, the museum’s marketing manager, said that Maker Faires have been taking place for a number of years, starting in San Mateo, Calif., in 2006 and spreading across the world. With the opening of the museum’s Makeshift workshop and In Motion science studio, the museum wanted to bring the first official Maker Faire to Buffalo and applied to Maker Media (which sponsors the fairs and publishes MAKE magazine) to start their own event in Buffalo.

“As it stands right now, we already have between 40 and 50 makers signed up. We got quite a response not only from craftsmen, but from kids,” Biber said. “It’s a really, really exciting event.”

While makers are coming from as far away as Brooklyn and Toronto, the majority are from Western New York, she said. “We have metal sculptors, knitters, a robotics group is coming in ... there’s someone who actually did a prototype of R2D2.”

Members of the Buffalo Lab community workshop will be participating, as will people showcasing several types of 3D printers, sculpture of other sorts and a maker who’s built dozens of famous buildings from around the world to scale — out of toothpicks.

A group from Pembroke Junior/Senior High School will create terrariums out of repurposed materials, and for younger makers, another participant will showcase creating Muppet-type puppets from repurposed materials — a common theme in the making world, Biber said.

“There are just so many different types of making out there and it all has its own perspective,” she said. “We picked a pretty good variety of makers. It’s neat to see what people think of.”

Douglas Borzynski, facilitator of learning and manager of the Makeshift workshop and In Motion studio at the museum, said the trend also includes the growth of more “hackerspaces” such as Buffalo Lab and its site at The Foundry in Buffalo, which also hosts makers of all sorts, from artists to a craft brewery to a community paper mill.

“The idea is to create a space where people could get together and build and have tools that one person might not be able to afford, but many people could,” he said.

Biber cited the popularity of Pinterest and Etsy as being indicative of the trend toward making things yourself — or appreciating those who do. Borzynski said he believes there are three things that factor into that trend.

“I think it’s partly the economy. People are hanging on and trying to fix stuff. They’re not just throwing it away,” he said. “The second part: The whole STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education movement. ...

“The last part is purely social media. You have websites like Instructables where you can post what you’re doing, or there are just the Meet-Ups alone: ‘Here are some other people doing this.’ You can quickly communicate with more than just who’s in your house or a few friends ... you can tell the whole world.”

One of the participants in the first Buffalo Mini Maker Faire will be Karen Sirgey of Wheatfield, a metal sculptor, artist and owner of Avian Architecture. She also works with Niagara-Wheatfield High School students and at Artpark, where she teaches and has a commission for a large sculpture this year.

“I saw an ad (for the Maker Faire), thought it was really interesting and thought, ‘What a good way to educate families on how things are made,’ “ she said. “I’m going to set up a table with a display on it and talk to as many people as I can ... getting them excited about making their own things.”

Sirgey works with welding, fabricating steel and casting her own metal. She said she wants to encourage the people to think about the objects around them, and appreciate what goes into their creation and people who make them.

“It’s pretty cool, and everything that you have in your own house that is made of metal is made in one of these ways — and I don’t think a lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about that,” she said.

While some of those displaying their work will be selling items, the event isn’t a craft or trade show, but a showcase and a way to inspire others to investigate and, well, make, Biber said.

“It’s just like the movement is building, building, building and we’re excited to be bringing this to Buffalo,” she said. “This is a cool and different way to showcase some makers who might not sell their products, but want people to know what they’re doing.”