Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Stitch-Hot Glue-Metal Welding-Art-Coding Get Together

We did it. In spite of my doubts and insecurities, we flung our doors wide open and invited people in. It was good. It was timely, and inspiring, and good. Here is some of what we enjoyed...

1. Priscilla's school has been invited to hold a booth at San Diego Maker Faire, which is a brand new experience for them. She asked for some suggestions for her 5th through middle school students... what could they do at the Faire, for the Maker Faire? We played with ideas that leaned toward technical, and ideas that leaned toward crafty. Our first test idea was the the copper dancer; a Homopolar motor. It's simple... sort of. Bending wire into just the right shape to make contact with magnets at the bottom of a AA battery takes some patience. It was fun to see the wire figure twirl, and we found the secret is in very carefully denting the positive end of the battery, so the dancer's foot can more easily balance. The downside: it's a short show. The battery drained in less than two minutes, and even when we considered using rechargeable batteries, we decided this was amusing, but wasteful. Not too bad for a one time experiment and example of a simple motor, but hardly ideal for repeating all day at a two day fair.

Priscilla offered that crafty might be a better direction, and after some consideration, I thought of the Thousand Origami Cranes. I think it offers a lot that will make their Maker Faire experience interesting, engaging and worthwhile, while being an easy introduction for their first visit. The students will learn the historic and cultural significances of folding the cranes, and making 1,000 of them will be an admirable challenge. They can choose someone to receive the gift, and further their community outreach by teaching Faire visitors how to do origami, while sharing their goal and intentions with everyone. From an academic perspective, we were thinking of many ways it would support school curriculum, including: history, math and geometry, language arts, and practical art.

The real point of all of this, for me, is that Maker Faire is not only impressive, it is supportive, inclusive, meant to inspire by being receptive to everyone, at all levels. So, wherever you are in a learning process, you are welcome to share, and encouraged to learn. The learning is what is celebrated, the sharing and engagement are what matter. No one should give up, or fail to start, because they are intimidated by bigger-fancier things, or feel inadequate to an experiment, an idea, a desire to learn. Do it. Make it. Play. Break it. Take it apart. Try again. Fail. Ask for help. Offer suggestions. Support. Encourage. Tinker. Dabble. Do it, again. Even if you feel like you don't know what you are doing, when you try, when you step forward, you are already inspiring someone else to play, too.

2. Geoff brought out motors, batteries, cables, and wheels, and Maria got a quick refresher in circuitry and rudimentary car making. She eagerly shared her interest with Emma M. and Amira.

3. Anna B brought out her handmade patchwork pillow, and made some updates for repurposing it. It's made up of memories, of treasured pieces, and she even added a new square, something from her travels to Iceland. We all watched YouTube videos about beautiful Sashiko stitching. Inspiring, for sure, and also requiring tremendous patience. I am all for trying new things, as well as knowing when to simply appreciate someone else's skills and dedication!

4. Bambi is working on her Halloween costume. Definitely a DIY project, from the design up! She's developing her own patterns for her original design, and sewing a lot of ruffles! We brought out other dress patterns, and special rulers, which we hope will be helpful. William worked on cutting his custom pattern for another pair of breeches. Priscilla decided she'd bring her sewing machine to our next gathering... jumping into new ventures can be much easier to imagine when you are surrounded by friends.

5. Maria is making a drawing tutorial. She acknowledged that drawing while documenting every step, including photographing the progress, is a lot of work. But she persisted. I should also add that, this is the very weekend that she demonstrated her new found skill: H@cking. She's into the interface, locally modifying code in her browser. Making changes. H@cking for good. We are so proud.

6. Speaking of persistence... I followed a tutorial for making granny squares, and I really loved this pattern that has fewer holes and gaps than many granny squares. But my persistence got a bit carried away, and I made it really huge, and then it got very wonky, and not a bit square. So, sadly, I had to frog the whole thing. I am a bit discouraged, but I strongly suspect that when this heat wave passes, I will be in a shop, choosing colors for a new crocheted blanket.

7. The big attraction of the day, literally, was the tentacle arm. It's coming closer and closer to completion, thanks to Geoff's effective and diligent persistence. He was glad for the assistance of William and Paul, and for the awe felt cheers and admiration from the rest of us, when he got the arm properly wired and dancing! It's a sight, and a sound! Pneumatic pistons firing and aluminum rings collapsing and rising at his command. We mean to top it with something thematic, and bring it to the Faire.

{One more thing... because it's just too sweet to leave unmentioned: The next morning, after a full day, and late night of working, playing, making, tinkering, eating, laughing, and sharing, Maria was up very early, and when we found her at the kitchen sink, she'd already cleaned the entire kitchen. My heart. Our girl. She's an inspiration.}

{While I hesitate to, once again, implicate myself as a failure in the art of domesticity, I would like to acknowledge something I think is okay, even, perhaps good: People first. Our floors were dusty, and I have laundry in every state, probably in every room, but we opened our doors, anyway. I am never on top of things, or have dust-free everything, but I cannot put scrubbing and scouring ahead of creating and engaging. I cannot value shiny surfaces over laughing with friends. There is room for improvement, in very many aspects of my life, and I can't pretend my messes don't mortify me, but... well, people first. It's a balancing act, yes? Yes, for me, anyway. I can get a bee in my bonnet, and whip things into shape, but if a friend in need calls, if someone asks about making something, I hope I can put down the vacuum and meet them, welcome them. Travel, books, beach walks, digging garden beds, building forts, baking pies, chasing goats, soldering metal, designing ruffled skirts, volunteering in a kitchen, at a school... I can't suppress my interest, I cannot deny my curiosity, and I like life better when my busyness revolves around people and engagement, and not how things appear, not a dutiful obsession with brooms and dustpans. It's me.}

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did I mention that I came home and sewed buttons on E's uniform? Not only did you inspire an entire school to pursue Makership, our afternoon together resulted in better fitting clothes.