This weekend I went, for the very first time, to Maker Faire NYC, an assembly of scientists, craftspeople and makers of random (mostly nerdy) things. Held at the The New York Hall of Science, exhibitors and vendors filled the indoor learning center and spilled out onto the surrounding fields and parking lots, populating the space with rocketships, game-controller-operated slingshots, and giant Rube Goldberg models. In the spirit of the event, Mother Nature handmade perfect weather for the occasion, setting the stage for a perfect indoor/outdoor geek out.
As is always in my nature, upon arrival at the Science Center, I bee-lined to the crafting section to survey the handmade wares. I got about three booths in before finding these postcards by Wurlington Press that can be cut up to construct to-scale models of NYC and other big city monuments and landmarks.
Soon after, I happened to run into two of my geek maker friends Lauren (a graphic designer) and Allison (a jeweler), and we traipsed around together, combing through the rest of the too-petite crafting section. Though the vendors were few, there were still a few gems in the mix, and the festival proved the truism that if you put me in a marketplace of handmade goods I WILL find something to buy. I am not a ordinarily a coveter of knit items, but Lauren pointed me to de*nada design’s booth of winter neckwear and I immediately swooned over the line’s cozy, creative winter accessories. I spent about ten minutes fretting over which of two incredible pieces to buy, eventually reasoning to myself: “The woman who makes these is AWESOME. And she’s also pregnant! I’m contributing to the little tyke’s college fund!”
This is how far a handmade craft addict will go to justify a purchase to him/herself in the heat of the moment.
Needless to say, both scarves are now mine.
As my friend Lauren said, it’s hard to make yourself feel guilty for purchasing an item directly from the person who made it. You get to see the quality up close before you buy, and you know exactly where the money if going. This is why I need to be chained down when craft fairs come to town.
After the spending money portion of the afternoon was taken care of, we made our way through the tiny steampunk area, and over the printing corner of the courtyard, first stopping to check out Cyberoptix and their enormous array of impeccably screenprinted, nerd-friendly ties. These make incredible gifts for the well-dressed men in your life, and are, of course, available on the Etsy.
Next we sauntered over to the the 3-D printer village where I learned that I don’t even know a quarter of the things geek minds have been working on while I have been blogging and watching Millionaire Matchmaker and eating endless amounts of Chinese food on my couch.
The 3-D printing village showcased machines that construct three-dimensional objects using plastic and a 3-D digital blueprint. A 3-D object is scanned (or designed via software), and then one of these nifty devices “prints” the design, building the object up layer by layer in sheets of colored plastic.
Until you are left with a completed model/object/toy.
The MakerBot Thing-O-Matic machines took up the most real estate and clearly have the jump start in consumer recognition. For (just!) $1,299, you too can acquire the equipment to build your own toys and models, a layer at a time.
3-D printing isn’t only used to make robot toys and models of New York City monuments. You can print out intricate, geometric jewelry pieces.
One booth was even printing in edible materials like chocolate and cheese. The results didn’t look too appetizing — but someone has proved that it CAN be done. And that’s what’s important, right?
On from 3-D printing, the ladies and I moved to TOOOL, The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers, who were doing hourly Lockpicking 101 Tutorials.
And in between sessions, we even caught the President of TOOOL teaching the NYPD some of these essential skills.
The panda dress-wearer in me wanted to find at least one fashion-related technological advancement at the fair, and Lauren again came to my rescue, pointing me towards the Bare Paint booth, which peddles conductive paint for textiles. Screenprint Bare Paint on a shirt and it can power a battery. “Now you can build the Tron costume you’ve always wanted,” Lauren suggested.
Though I didn’t snap a picture, it’s also worth noting that midway through the day, Lauren, Allison and I dug into some hardcore Paella — roughly two pounds of it — from a stand near the steampunk goodies. Sometimes the things that are made, consumed and never seen again are the best of all.
All in all, two 3-D thumbs up. Until next year, makers.
Stacey Brook is a writer in New York City, and the creator of fashion blog, EtsyBrook.com. She is a proponent of all things handmade and can often be seen wearing dresses bedecked with images of house pets and adorable woodland creatures. Don’t let her loose at a craft fair with your credit card. You can follow her on Twitter @staceybrook.