Sunday, May 04, 2008

Steampunk Drove Me to San Mateo Maker Faire 2008

I've heard about Maker Faire for years as a place for hobbyists to show off their projects. Then one of my favorite websites, The Steampunk Workshop, Hieronymus Isambard Jake von Slatt, Proprietor, mentioned that he and other Steampunks would be there. Since I love Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels, Victorian and technical things, I figured it would be worth going to Maker Fair just for the Contraptor Lounge and Steampunk Spectacular Group Table. I was looking forward to seeing some of the projects on his website in real life. Well, I'm glad I went and got to see a lot more than just the Steampunk stuff. It's very over whelming in both sights and sounds. Even if you stay the whole day, you feel like you are lucky to see half. I thought I would stay 2 or 3 hours but I ended up spending an exhausting 8 hours, Saturday, May 3rd, 2008, walking around to check everything out. Below are some pictures of of some of the sights. Pictures are only one dimensional, so you can't get the impression of the booming sounds, the stuffiness of the Dark Room, the heat from the flame throwing machines or the smells of things cooking and the weird stuff around. Or the textures of fabrics, woods, metals or other things to touch and feel.
A huge metallic moth truck. One of the first things you see when you walk in the gate.
Tango, A Narrow Electric Car, it fit within one side of a doorway without scraping the sides. I followed it into the building.
elliptiGO Glide Bike PT Motion Works elliptical bike. Participated in a road race with standard bikes.
Psycho Girlfriend, influenced by comic books, Japanese street fashion, hardware stores, and the monsters living underneath the bed.
Japanese Suminagashi Marbling done by me at a Make Your Own Calligraphy & Suminagashi Marbling booth. A few Friends of Calligraphy people I met the Atelier Gargoyle studio were working the booth. Talk about small world.
One of many battle robots around. The ball of flame gave off a lot of heat, even over 20 feet away.
Watering living umbrella and demonstrating the water proofness. Those are actual stems poking through the umbrella frame. Based on lily pads that inspired Gortex fabric.
Remote controlled gyroscopic sculptural ball. Looked cooler in action than this picture shows.
Two views of a covered wagon bicycle trailer. What the pioneers would have used coming out west if there had been paved roads. A newly married couple used the trailer to take a bike tour on their honey moon. Now that's hard core. It's officially called Solar-powered Electric-hub Assist Touring Sleeping Bike Trailer. More information about it over at the Within Reach; Sustainability Journey website including how to buy the film they are making of the tour. You can either donate supplies or money to the project.
Very cool image in the sand made by a ping pong sized ball bearing making straight lines in white sand. SanDraw, the Sand Drawing Machine, plots patterns in the sand using a robotic arm to trace polar coordinates. It was inspired by Dr. Bruce Shapiro's original art piece "Sisyphus". Amazing to think this table started out as a blank sand at the beginning of the day.
Another plotter. This one, an application based on ShopBot 21st Century Woodworking Tools, using chain and a pen on a piece of paper. The guy said that the device didn't have any commercial applications, it is a toy. I bet someone could figure out how to monetize it.


By far, The Crucible was the best booth at the whole faire. Not only was it a fire breathing fire truck (see second picture above) but it made a huge boom that scared me out of my skin more than a dozen times. You could actually feel the air moving if you were at the booth. Whether you were in sight of the Crucible truck or not, you'd hear a boom then people screaming as they got scared. It kind of reminded me of a dragon even though it looked like a regular truck. The Crucible's amazing "ERV" Educational Response Vehicle, or "Fire" Truck, was a platform for demonstrating welding, torch cutting, blacksmithing, and glass flame working workshops. For only $5, Faire goers could sketch out a design on a 6 inch x 6 inch x 1/2 inch plate and some people in welding masks would cut out the design and make a stand for it. There were covered holes in the screen so you could see the welders in action. There was also a glass blowing area where you could watch glass blowers make things behind a clear plastic yellow screen. Above is my mutant clubs and diamond creation. It's very heavy and very rough.
The Do It Yourself stuff wasn't limited to hardware. For $5 bucks, I made my own glycerin based, cinnamon smelling soap at the Get Soapy booth. It's supposed to be blue but it came out greenish. That's an upside down lamb in the middle, it's feet are barely showing. I guess to be more artistic, I should have laid the toy on it's side. I wonder if it will scratch when I use it. Next time.
The Dark Room exhibit hall was stuffy, relatively quiet but very dynamic. The Crucible was pretty close by outside the entry doors, so you go from the sound of random cannon shots to quiet but not still darkness If you don't move, people coming in run into the back of you. Hundreds of people were jammed into a small space so dark we could hardly see enough to avoid stepping on each other. The only islands of light were the exhibits. In other words, a very cool experience. My favorite booth had hand cranked bicycle-wheel kinetic sculptures. Monkeylectric calls their LED light creations a fusion of kinetic and digital arts.
The Busycle was a cool contraption I'd like to see being used in reality. Kind of reminds me of the gadgets they had in The Flintstones. If the digital technology age is called cyberpunk and neo-Victorian technology is called steampunk guess you could call the Flintstones technology age, rockpunk.
No particular exhibit. I just loved the contrast of the Victorian dress and the homemade air crafts in The Hangar exhibit hall. They were there to support The Neverwas Haul, a self-propelled 3-story Victorian House made from recycled material.
I was almost to the steampunk area next to the festival stage when I saw they were about to let loose the Life Size Mousetrap. It's a huge, Rube Goldberg type contraption based on an old board game. Some Mousetrap characters were dressed as mice (old west saloon girls) and some as something else. I forgot what role these in orange suits guys were.
Unfortunately, there were so many people, all I could see was hair and backs. Those two pictures above are from me holding the camera above my head, clicking the button and hoping for the best. I'm happy I got something.
The Neverwas Haul was directly next to the Mousetrap, so I got a good look without too many people around. Later, I got pictures of them repositioning the house by steering with the big ships wheel. The people dressed as Victorians were also parking directors. They had the orange road crew flags and everything.
I missed the 4 pm Steampunk talk which was disappointing since it was one of the main reasons I came to Maker Fair. I got one picture of Jake Von Slatt of The Steampunk Workshop before I took a Kettle Korn break. He's holding a retro style keyboard based on a brass finished keyboard he showed off on his site. It has the old late 1800s typewriter style keys but it's a standard QWERTY key layout with separate number pad. Even though it's a little heavier than standard plastic, pressing the keys has a nice smooth feel and the felt backing is nicer to the finger touch than a regular keyboard from your neighborhood Fry's or online at eBay. Jake's buddy Doc makes a whole line of custom keyboards including ones with wood backing or specialized alphabets. Very Nice.
Onyx Ashanti was a unique busker. Nothing less than you'd expect at Maker Fair. His style is live laptop Beatjazz a few steps up in sophistication from the standard sidewalk musician. Just the way he describes himself sounds so cool.
I am a beatjazz artist, which is a style of music i created that is equal parts live looping,laptop performance, post modern improvisation and sound design. I start with a wind controller and a virtual rack of synths and create complex arrangements that vary in type, tempo and style depending on my aritistic perspective.
The Mentos and Diet Coke show was soooo fun. It's more thrilling in person than watching on YouTube. You get the Diet Coke droplets and smell of soda in the air when watching in person that you can't get watching online. In the second to last picture, you can see little kids with their mouths open trying to catch the spray. If you ever get the chance to watch the EepyBird guys, Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, in person, do it. They even sell the contraptions that hold the 6 Mentos candies until you are ready for them to drop.
War of the Worlds type sculpture over the crowd. The top moved and the red light flashed, to the freakout of some people in the crowd. Yes, it is that big.
(old picture with another view of chariot along with inventor)
This picture does no justice to how freaky this Android drawn chariot thing is walking through a crowd. The robot has an Arnold Schwarzenegger mask on, but it's still kind of scary. Bob Schneeveis and the solar-powered Walking Robotic Chariot took all the gasps of surprise in stride. Guess he's used to it by now.
Person rolling around the grounds singing and playing keyboard. Couldn't tell whether the entertainer was a man, woman or none of the above. This is the San Francisco Bay area, after all.
Battle wheelchair with built in flamethrower. This is one bad mofo you don't want to mess with. Even if they can't walk.
Variety of human powered Carnival Rides in the Cyclecide. Looks fun and like a lot of work at the same time. Sounds like a fun club:
Cyclecide is a club of alter-bike mechanics, mariachi-punk musicians and psychotic clowns who love bikes, beer and pyrotechnics who together form a traveling pedal-powered carnival that is fun for mental patients of all ages. Cyclecide has embraced the bicycle as a medium to express our interest in mechanical innovation, kinetic art, and performance. By salvaging bicycles for creative re-use we have produced a fleet of double-decker tall bikes, choppers, tandems, swing bikes, reverse bikes, and others too bizarre to name. Includes: The Pedal-Powered and Kiddie-Powered Carousels and Ferris Wheel; The Dizzy Toy; The Cyclo-fuge; The Whirl & Hurl; The Melody Maker; The Flight of the Bumble Bee; and Alter-bikes. The Heavy Pedal Bike Rodeo is a circus style show that highlights these monstrous alter-cycles with stupefying stunts. Our pedal-powered carnival midway of rides and attractions demonstrate the possibilities of human powered fun and engineering.
This wasn't the end of Maker Faire but my digital memory card was full. So I was done taking pictures. Lesson Learned: Bring extra camera batteries and memory sticks when going to the Maker Faire. Bringing lots of water is a given. All in all, a very long but worthwhile day.

1 comment:

vonslatt said...

Hey! Great round up! I was there for two whole days 7:00AM to 10PM and I still didn't see it all!