Hack yes! Maker Faire Detroit returns to The Henry Ford, July 28-29 2012

I’m still new to the world of making and hacking. I’d never heard terms like “Maker space” or “hack space” until our family visited last year’s Maker Faire Detroit at The Henry Ford in Dearborn. After that experience, we immediately put this year’s Maker Faire Detroit – July 28-29 – on our calendar.

There is fun for the whole family at the Cirque Amongus exhibit space.

Turns out, many folks are Makers of some sort and don’t even know it. If you tinker, craft, cook, innovate, build or create just about anything – guess what? There’s a Maker in the house.

I make my own sewing creations, and my girls make jewelry and are all about wearable art. My 10-year-old son takes apart old electronics and attempts to repurpose them into some sort something – even if it’s an abstract glued montage of spare parts. I know spring has sprung at our house when I see our Red Maple outfitted with one of his creative home-designed pulley systems. It just never dawned on me – until last year – to call any of us (let alone all of us!) Makers.

Maker Faire is all about sharing inspiration and innovation.

Granted, at last year’s Maker Faire Detroit we saw some pretty grand-scale Making: a fire-breathing dragon, an interactive circus experience and some extreme theatrics. But there was also the opportunity to get up close to small-scale and rather revolutionary creations including art installations, 3D printers, old and new science projects. There were also some homespun items such as heirloom brooms, jewelry and textile designs, food and health products and all sorts of items from the high- to low-tech and the nifty to nerdy (in the very best sense). The Henry Ford also brings out for discovery and sharing some items from its collections that are not usually on the museum floor.

Clara Deck, senior conservator at The Henry Ford, prepares miniature steam engines from the collections to display at Maker Faire Detroit.

With 400 Makers exhibiting at this year’s Maker Faire Detroit, there will be all kinds of awesome Making that falls between the big and bizarre and small, artsy and tasty. Categories of exhibitors include engineering, arts, agriculture, technology, design, science, crafts, young Makers, household, educational, green energy, music and food. Makers come from hacker spaces, corporations, schools, studios, kitchens, basements and garages – near and far. There are things to do, see, touch, take and buy.

I love the fact there is absolutely something for everybody.  In our household with children of all ages, we enjoyed the event’s carnival-like atmosphere with all its showmanship, camaraderie, idea sharing, forward-thinking and historic Making displayed and discussed right there on the grounds of the one place that truly celebrates innovation to its core.

Exhibits are outside and inside of Henry Ford Museum.

The Maker Faire Detroit website features some blog posts and video clips of makers attending this year’s Faire, as well as a look at some from last year’s event. I can’t help but find inspiration knowing that some regular Making folks are responsible for some life-changing innovation that many of us take for granted. And although my own tinkering may not lead to the discovery of how to build a better mousetrap, I can’t help but be encouraged by maker Mark Perez in knowing that at least I can strive to build a much, much bigger one.

Kristine Hass is a mother of five and long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs about coming events and visits to America’s Greatest History Attraction. All photos courtesy of Kristine.

Artistic Expressions

Karman Hotchkiss, contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, shares insider tips on how to successfully navigate and get the most out of any art fair this season.

This year, I plan to kick off the art fair season with a one-two punch of festivals—the East Lansing Art Festival and the Michigan State University Arts and Crafts Show. These dual events—across the street from each other in East Lansing—give me a taste of just about every kind of art you can imagine.

As you head to art fairs in your area this summer, here are a couple of tips:

  • Pack a cheat sheet with measurements and paint colors. My friend Susan doesn’t venture into an art show without her little zipper bag of home data. She knows the exact measurement of that space above the fireplace and has paint chips for her hard-to-match lavender bathroom. So when she falls in love with a painting, vase or rug, she knows if it will fit or match.
  • Chat with the artists. Art fairs usually put you face-to-face with the creators. What a great way to learn the story behind each piece. At last year’s East Lansing show, I learned delightful details about wood turning from Michigan artist Ted July, whose wooden bowls with bark rims intrigued me. This year, you’ll find him at booth #94.
  • Don’t miss the kid art. Most festivals sponsor a hands-on area for children and display works from local schools. This is a wonderful place to experience the pure joy of unaffected artistic expression. It might even draw out your inner artist.
  • Check out companion shows. Wherever there’s a sophisticated juried art show, you can bet there’s probably a grassroots arts and crafts fair nearby. (In East Lansing, a mere boulevard separates the two.) These craftier shows offer plenty of fun, interesting, sometimes more practical finds that complement the work of the professional artists. 
  • Go home with something. If a big piece isn’t in your budget (or won’t fit in the car), you can still go home with a memento. Many artists sell note cards, magnets or other small reproductions of their work. These are a great way to celebrate artistic spirit without spending a lot.

For a listing of art shows in Michigan this summer, please visit michigan.org.

Karman Hotchkiss, a native Midwesterner, is a contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas. Every time she attends an art fair, she wants to go home and lock herself in her crafting room for a week.