As an employee at The Henry Ford, I have seen Maker Faire Detroit from two perspectives: one as an interested spectator, and the other as an attentive employee. However, I have always wondered what Maker Faire Detroit means to those who attend as actual makers. This year, I had the pleasure of discussing with a couple of makers the point of view they have while displaying their projects and products to the metro Detroit public.
One thing that was overwhelmingly obvious to me was the sense of community the makers feel. Upon reflection, I realized I’ve never given much thought to the maker community. These people all share similar interests, hobbies, and during Maker Faire, ideas as well. While talking to Michael Flaga, a Lansing maker, we discussed his love of helping others, both spectators and makers alike. He said the size and variety of Maker Faire has always been of interest to him, because it is a great chance to meet as many people as possible. He got into making in the ‘80s with his dad, a tool and dye maker, while making soapbox cars by hand. He’s come a long way, as he is now showing off his projects at Maker Faire Detroit for the third year in a row.
Another major point a lot of makers discussed was the rewarding experience of showing off their inventions and productions to the public. While speaking with Ron Balint of the Early Engine Club in Dearborn, he told me that his favorite was the ability to discuss his collections and innovations all while being able to have conversations with all types of different people. Similarly, Jerry Lica, one of the ever-popular R2-D2 builders, mentioned how much he loves showing his product off for the kids that come to see their exhibit. He got into making because he wanted to be able to bring an R2-D2 to charity events. He got his wish, and in addition, they added Maker Faire to the list of events. He said Maker Faire is synonymous with inspiring people, both to make and to show off their own inventions.
Making comes as more than just a hobby to many of these innovators. Mark Moffett of the Toledo Art Car Club told me he started making back in high school while taking art and shop classes. He went on to study art in college, always trying to push the envelope. When he began going to events, he got into art car culture, which eventually evolved to maker culture. He said he loves the unusual ideas that are presented at Maker Faire and the community that surrounds the event. (For all the Coloradons out there, make sure to look out for Mark and his fascinating art decorated cars at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire, Oct. 5.)
And what would a Maker Faire be without some hands-on activities? I got to speak with Peg, who was working at Arts and Scraps, an art organization that allows people of any age to create art while saving the environment. Peg said she loves Maker Faire for the unlimited possibilities it creates. As she put it, “Something could drive by and explode- you never know.” She also mentioned the plus of networking possiblities and getting to know other people with similar ideas.
After discussing with makers why they loved Maker Faire, I realized there is no one answer that can be applied to every one. They love Maker Faire because they love being makers, a title so diverse there is no one definition. I found that the makers themselves are much like their exhibits and inventions, no two being the same, all while being as interesting and awe-inspiring as could possibly be.
By Annie McGraw. Annie is part of Guest Services at The Henry Ford and served as a public relations intern this summer.