Thoughts on the Maker Faire

by Farah

Photos: woman weaving bracelets in the crafts area and a deer (moose?) head I assembled from laser cut cardboard pieces in the NYU/ITP tent. A few more photos here.

Like others have mentioned, there was so much going on at the Maker Faire that it was hard to pick and choose what to partake in. Since part of my interest in this class is to be more hands-on with DIY experiences, I decided to go in with an open mind and just be up for trying new things. Deb wrote a little bit about our experience with the free knitting class. We got a quick lesson from some hilarious, sassy older women who have been doing needlework for a long, long time. One of the main things I came away from that lesson and the Faire as a whole with is that whether you’re knitting, making your own biodiesel, or hacking electronics, DIY projects are a lot of fun, but they also require incredible patience, commitment, and practice.

I managed to cast on and knit a few rows of stitches under the guidance of my instructor Helen. In my opinion, my rows were looking a little shabby, but Helen had me stop after each one and say out loud, “Damn, I’m good!” before checking if I had made any mistakes. When learning a new skill with your hands, it’s frustrating when you’re trying really hard but can’t figure out how to release the muscle memory of something you’re used to doing, like typing or writing. Once you start getting the hang of it though and allow yourself enjoy the play of making something instead of approaching it solely as work, it becomes a lot easier. I think that Helen’s point about taking a moment to express confidence and pride in your work is something that applies to all forms of DIY. No matter the field, everyone was a beginner at some point, and you can’t move forward if you only focus on what you’ve done wrong.

It was also great to see so many kids and their parents there, especially with all we’ve been reading about early childhood development and education. However, while we were watching Mousetrap Live, Nitin made a good point that as diverse as the attendee demographics appeared to be, the one group that seemed to be missing were the families who actually live in the neighborhood. I tend to have this idealistic view of DIY as equal opportunity: people from all ages and walks of life can learn a new skill by doing. In reality, events like the Maker Faire can tend to attract a largely white, upper-middle class crowd unless the organizers make a conscious effort of reaching out to people outside of that demographic. That’s something I think we should be cognizant of as we continue to look at other DIY initiatives.

All in all, I’m glad to have gone to the Maker Faire and I look forward to more enriching DIY experiences!


3 Comments to “Thoughts on the Maker Faire”

  1. Farah,

    I think that’s a really important point about DIY- and all subcultures, really – being divided by ethnicity and class. It’s something that I’ve seen happen over and over again – in punk, in performance art, etc. and it’s always bugged me, but also something that’s hard to remedy. When Nitin said that, one of the points I tried to make is that there are *other* subcultures going on right next to this one, ones that do involve the non-white non-middle class… so why aren’t they represented as well? I think part of the answer is that one has to overcome a tremendous amount of inertia in order to bridge that gap, and it requires effort on all sides. For example, at the first advisory board for my festival this year, Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) said, “maybe we could try to have it not so white-bread this year.” It was a bit insulting, but he was right, last year the festival WAS mostly white people like me. We tend to gravitate towards what is easiest which is, by definition, what we know best.

    I think one of the best examples of this gap being bridged in a meaningful way was how, when The Clash came to NYC in 1981 for the shows at Bond’s, they made a video of their (hip-hop influenced) song “Radio Clash.” This video is really the first time punk rock embraced hip-hop and graffiti culture. Before that, they had little to do with one another. After that, there was a slow interweaving of subcultures that led to things like “World Destruction” (the Afrikka Bombatta/Johnny Rotten duet) and the Beastie Boys. And why did it take 4 British dudes for punk to meet hip-hop, a VERY New York based movement at the time? My theory is that it was because they had been living in Brixton, and were very integrated with the Jamaican culture of South London at the time. As a result, their music is very reggae influenced, and hip-hop culture shares a lot with Jamaican culture (in fact it came out of it, but that’s a whole ‘nother post) so those divides were a lot looser for the Clash than they might have been for musicians in the states.

    For those who are interested, here’s the video:

    • Thanks for your comment, Tom. Great example and great point about it taking effort from all sides to bridge the gap. Hopefully we’ll be talking more in class about different ways of doing that.

  2. This is the John Lydon/Afrika Bambaataa video referenced above. I just watched it for the first time in forever and it’s surprising how well it holds up… still gives me chills. It was 3 years later (1984) but also super important in bridging the gap between punk and hip-hop.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: