Today saw the return of the UK's only Maker Faire, started several years ago it is held in Newcastle (of all places) at the Centre for Life, which is conveniently located next to the station. The event didn't run last year, however it was my first Maker Faire experience in 2011 and boy has it changed!
Maker Faire UK is big this year, with over 100 Makers taking part, and a clearly bigger crowd attending despite the poor weather this morning everything about MFUK is big! A noticeable change was the number of kids, and the amount of kids participating. There was also a significant interest by the public in Raspberry Pi and 3D printing (who'd of guessed it?).
The main purpose of todays visit was a bit of fun, however it also acted as acted useful preparation for me in the run up to Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, 6th July. One of the things I did was do the rounds to meet sponsors and makers who are taking part in Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire and try to encourage a few more late applications.
Among the exhibitors was Sarah Blood an artist who works with glass and halogens to produce amazing light sculptures. What really brought her work to life was the mixture of exhibited work, demonstrations of glass bending and hands on opportunities for the brave.
One of the great things about the Maker community is it's quite close nit, I managed to bump into Bart from Shapeways who was over in the UK to man their booth, they'll be at Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire in July and so it was great to be able to put a name to a face and see some of the brilliant 3D printing they offer. One piece was a silver bracelet forged from a 3D printed wax model which was then hand polished. I didn't take a picture but the price? £600! Certainly not for the faint hearted, or short of cash, but fantastic none the less.
Craft was well represented at the Maker Faire, however I think a little less trafficked than some of the other areas like 3D printing, I bought a kit for my housemates girl friend which will allow her to do some felting, the nice lady who ran the booth even gave me some net curtain material and bubble wrap to do it with as it was intended as a table top workshop.
One of the interesting things about the Maker Faire is the way in which you move through themes, the craft zone blended strangely through to the 3D printing services offered by Shapeways and the Computer History Museum via a knitting machine (for lack of a better explanation). It seemed to have a pattern encoded into it and process was still manual requiring you to run the shuttle back and forth like a loom with your hand.
One stall holder that was much frequented, Pimoroni makers of PiBow a Raspberry Pi case made from differing layers of laser cut multi-coloured acrylic, was seemingly overwhelmed with interest in their products, opting to offer a great product at a reasonable price. After the doors closed they noted that they had rather forgotten to display their name anywhere on the booth or indeed a web address. Luckily I recognised their logo and promptly extended an invite to Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire!
Unfortunately because I was also there to help with the learn to solder area I didn't manage to make it over to the LHS Bikeshed project which is a project by members of London Hackspace. The LHS Bikeshed is a multi-person space simulator which they have developed over a number of months whilst supporting the move of the London Hackspace. They will be featuring at Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire and promise me that the setup should be fully automated by that time and much improved.
It wouldn't be Maker Faire UK without the fire-breathing robotic dragon creature outside.
The UK Hackspace Foundation made it's first appearance at a Maker Faire today, here you can see their map of all the documented hackspaces in the UK, there were almost certainly others that were missing, however interestingly Brixton Tinkerspace, South London's new hackspace sat proudly between Build Brighton and London Hackspace which is surely a good sign for the future of this fledgling hackspace I am helping to create.
A day trip to Newcastle isn't the first choice most people consider when deciding to come to Maker Faire UK, but it certainly results in a really enjoyable and action packed day, if a little tiring. Coming this year with my various projects, Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire, Brixton Tinkerspace and Open Source Vacuum Cleaner, to talk to people about mean't there was hardly anyone who I spoke to that I couldn't engage with. I am really enjoying being a part of the UK's Maker community, it is really becoming something to behold!
Until next year, farewell Newcastle...