Events, People

Maker Faire makes new sounds in Motown

This weekend was my first chance to see the Maker Faire. Having only briefly paged through Make magazine, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It turns out after attending on Saturday, I won’t be missing another any time soon.

Out of all the Makers presenting their work, I was most taken with musicians. Their sounds were my first introduction to the Faire’s playfully chaotic air and the last lingering piece of the Faire as I was leaving. Music makers seemed like a sort of backbone to the event. It just makes sense in the city that gave birth to both the Motown sound and electronic music.

I3 Detroit, a collaborative community for people to explore the balance between technology, art and culture, held some space at the Faire to present its members’ work. Matt Switlik created an organ out of beer growlers filled with various amounts of water connected to hoses attached to pedals. He also made a wine crate bass and cigar box guitar. Curious visitors, as in most places at the Faire, were invited to play.

On a more humorous note, you could hear the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir. Like a character walking out of a John Waters flick, the choir is campy art car covered in singing lobster and bass fish toys. Makers Richard Carver and Richard Schroeter used a stereo battery, two golf cart batteries and little more than five miles of wiring to jumpstart the choir into song. Cheekily, they ask, “What could be more annoying than an animated singing fish? Try 250 of them bolted to a Volvo singing opera.”

The band CMKT4 displayed musical-instrument-inspired toys circuit bent to produce exotic new sounds. They held demonstrations on constructing these unusual instruments as well as building contact microphones out of soda bottle tops. “Toys never cease to amaze me,” says Austin Cliffe, who drums for the band. He’s played music since and early age but  started experimenting with non-traditional instruments about five years ago. “I attended a free workshop in Chicago on circuit bending,” he recalled “which started it all.” You can’t help but think the Maker Faire should do the same for some of the several thousand who attended.

Other attractions included a Life Size Mouse Trap (yes, like the board game), an H.G. Wells-inspired bubbling time machine, a soldering tutorial, robotics tables, talks by bee keepers and much, much more.

To be sure, the Maker Faire encapsulated Detroit’s entrepreneurial atmosphere. We look forward to seeing this palpation carried forward through the rest of the year.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Makers Faire, it started five years ago in San Francisco and has grown exponentially since then. The Faire, created by Make magazine, celebrates art, science projects, engineering, crafting, and the creative mindset. Featured projects are often the brainchildren of the marriage between art and science, and some intensely clever, dedicated makers. So for a city long infused with an innovative spirit, the Maker Faire became a wonderful showcase of local talent.

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