5 Minutes With Local Creative Emily Smith Of This Weekend’s Kickass Mini Maker Faire

June 23, 2011.

by Michelle Sproule | Mini Maker Fair comes to Vancouver this weekend. It’s a two-day celebration of making and creating that is focused on promoting the ethos of DIY on a large scale. Think of it as “county fair meets science fair meets farmers market meets burning man”. And Vancouver should be psyched for it, for the event, which is being held at the Great Northern Way Campus (just off of Main @ 2nd), will be featuring a range of exhibits, including workshops, performances, displays, and a speaker series. Expect everything from pyrotechnics and kinetic sculptures to growing walls and book making.  Emily Smith is one of the main organizers and co-ordinators of the Faire. We have no idea how, between organizing the fair, writing for re-nest, crafting, designing and keeping up a great blog, she found a few minutes to sit down and answer a few questions for Scout, but she did nevertheless.

Three things about Strathcona that make you want to live there? I live in Strathcona.

1) It’s as close as you can get to the city core and have a yard.
2) It’s close to bicycle paths and is often difficult to navigate when you’re in a car.
3) It’s an eclectic neighbourhood with lots of artist studios, colourful houses and community centres.

What will you be doing at the Mini Maker Faire? I plan on talking to people about what they like to make. I’m really looking forward to the conversations that will arise when people are showing off their cool projects that they have all been working so hard on.

How will you measure success of it? The most exciting part of the event has been inviting lots of different maker-type groups to take part in the festivities: everything from crafts to robots to kinetic sculptures. I think there’s a lot of cross-overs between disciplines, and each group can learn a lot from another. The best part about the Maker Faire model is that it’s all about diversity. There really isn’t one project that represents the movement: it’s anything from an installation piece to someone talking about brewing their own beer at home.

My way of measuring whether the event will be a success is if there’s a lot of conversation between very different groups. I hope that everyone feels a collective celebration of making, but can also learn from the people next to them. I hope that people come to the event feeling open, and will share knowledge, information and ideas.

Preferred mode of transportation: Bicycle.

One thing you’d like to change about Vancouver: Farmers markets in Strathcona!

Cheap place for dinner: Budgie’s Burrito’s.

What inspires you? One thing that I find the most inspiring is sharing the experience of making something with others. I went to art school, taught art to 4-6 year olds, and have regular craft nights with friends, and I find these activities the most inspiring part of working on a project. I find that bringing people together and focusing on an activity – like learning how to knit or spin – is a great way to get your wheels turning. It’s even cooler to see others learn around you, and you can share in the feeling of accomplishment. I’m much more likely to spin and then knit something when I’ve been around a group of friends that have been doing the same. It’s a bit contagious that way.

Your favourite DIY websites:

1) www.craftzine.com
2) Poppytalk Handmade
3) Instructables

A local DIY resource that Vancouverites should know about: Vancouver Hack Space. It’s a physical space where hackers, computer geeks, engineers, circuit benders, crafters, and other creative types can gather to share ideas, equipment and opinions. It was described to me as a “physical embodiment of a wiki,” meaning that anybody can host a new night, and members host nights and words like “Do-ocracy” encourage anyone to get involved in shaping it.

How does DIY mentality help strengthen community? To me, DIY is not just about making something yourself; it’s about knowing how, and respecting the process of how that thing was made.  Throughout the time I’ve been alive, I’ve noticed that there seems to be this trend to design for efficiency, and convenience. I think this efficiency comes at a price, in that it forces us to become obsessed with consuming things. We’ve focused so much on an end product, and forgotten about the process of how that thing was made. I’m starting to feel a shift in how people think about the things that they consume though, which is nice. So, I believe that DIY is all about learning, sharing, and teaching. I believe that these are strong ingredients for a healthy community.

You recently travelled to the San Francisco Marker Faire, what were the top three mind blowing things that you saw? 1) Colussus: Imagine a 50′ tall revolving steel installation with 3 hanging arms that are then attached to giant boulders, led by string that is being pulled by kids. It was just such an absurd thing to see young kids just pulling on these bounders sitting above their heads, and not thinking the least of it! And to this really fun music that was playing in the background. 2) Steve Wozniak on a segway! 3) I spent most of my time in the craft area, and I was really blown away by some of the craftsmanship of the felters. I spin and then knit my own wool, so it’s fairly time consuming. I’ve done some felting before, but seeing the creations and creativity was especially inspiring. I was told that some of these jackets were made in less than a day! The artist who made these jackets also had a pedal powered carder! (if you don’t know what a carder is, it’s basically a device that combs wool). This needle felter had a particularly colourful set-up as well.

A cool tip that you picked up at the SF Maker Faire: I had no idea that dried seaweed was so similar to leather.

When did you discover that you were a maker? The things that I remember most from kindergarten have to be painting and drawing at the arts and crafts table. It never really stopped from there. I was lucky enough to feel very supported in doing what I wanted to do and exploring what I loved, and making stuff is a big part of that. I guess I started discovering that I could make things when I started making friendship bracelets when I was around the 7th grade. It wasn’t so much that I realized that I was a maker, but I realized that not everybody was making the same things. I also always used to draw all over my notebooks. My dad painted murals all over our walls when I grew up, so it surprised me more when I realized that not everybody did those things. Lucky for that, because then I got to learn more about other things.

Book you’re reading: Currently re-reading a book about Frida Kahlo (with lots of pictures!).

Community event or festival that you look forward to every year: The Lantern Festival, and any production the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret puts together.

Last art show that really blew you away: I went to the Getty last year and really enjoyed the Illuminated Manuscripts collection.

Three things of no monetary value that you will keep until you die: string, notebooks (I always keep notebooks when I’m learning something new), and a collection of African bugs that my grandma passed down to me.

Local person you admire most: David Suzuki.

Best concert experience ever: The Flaming Lips at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park

Thing you miss most about home when you’re on the road: My bicycle – and bicycle access

Two places you like to take out of town visitors in order to show off your city: A bike ride around the seawall and down the Dunsmuir bike lanes, and Gastown.

Album that first made you love music: Dark Side of the Moon.

Be sure to follow Emily on Twitter @emilysmith2000 and check out her adventures on Flickr.

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