September 23, 2013

Makers coming together at the Faire

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

In Oakland, in the basement of a home he shares with his father, Thomas Lemieux has been engaged in a lonely endeavor. He stayed up around the clock last Monday, working frantically to put the finishing touches on a high-tech Iron Man costume he has spent more than $2,000 and 500 hours to make.

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Paul Fowler, a maker from Gardiner, shows his robot that is controlled by his cellphone. He is preparing to attach a robotic arm to the robot.

Joe Phelan/Morning Sentinel

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Karen Schorr operates her hand-powered knitting machine at her home in New Sharon. Schott will display her knitting machine and skills at the Lewiston/Auburn Mini Maker Faire on Saturday.

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

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In New Sharon, Karin Schott, who spends much of her time tending a small orchard and a large garden on her home at the end of a dirt road, has been making extra sweaters, hats and mittens on an old hand-powered knitting machine.

In his Gardiner home, teenager Harris Plaisted spent countless hours writing computer codes for the video game MineCraft, where he created new, science element-based materials that could be used in the virtual world of the game.

In Gardiner, Paul Fowler, who repairs photocopiers for a living, is planning to attach a robotic arm to his robot, which he made in his private workshop from the scavenged motors of an electric wheelchair.

Each of them is an example of a maker, a term coined in 2005 to describe people who, in a world of mass consumption, produce things, often quirky projects, for the sheer joy of learning and doing.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, the four will meet each other and about 30 other makers for the first time at the Lewiston-Auburn Mini Maker Faire.

The event, the third one in Maine, is part of maker efforts to leave their isolated workspaces and come together, not just in the digital ether of the Internet, but in the physical world.

Members of the public are invited to come to see the creations, which include walking robots, giant bubbles, lockpicking tools, art made from bicycle parts and papier-mache puppets.

Central Maine's makers are building not just projects, but a movement, said Rick Sisco, of Skowhegan, who has been pushing to organize makers in the area.

MAKERS UNITING

Up until now, Sisco and other Maine makers have existed mostly as a Facebook group that has drawn more than 60 members.

Most of the members have never seen each other in person.

But on Sept. 7, Sisco announced the group would begin meeting at Barrels Community Market on Waterville's Main Street. He hopes to offer public classes on topics such as soldering and making stained glass.

Melissa Hackett, manager of Barrels Community Market, said the maker culture is a good fit for the market, which specializes in local produce, baked goods, meat, cheese and crafts.

She said she is drawn to the idea that makers can resurrect skills, such as whittling, that might have been commonly practiced two generations ago but are nearly lost today.

The meetings are important, but they're just a first step, Sisco said. He is working toward a permanent communal workshop that would allow makers to take advantage of each other's presence and tools.

The space would be equipped with common hand and power tools, but also welders, an air compressor, a 3-D printer, a vinyl cutter, an embroidery machine and a silk screen, he said.

"Anyone in the public who has always wanted to make something but has been limited by space, budget or knowledge will no longer have to be limited," Sisco said.

The first maker fair of record was organized in California in 2006.

Since then, Mini Maker Faires, sponsored by California-based Make Magazine, are increasingly common. Listings offered by the magazine show that in 2012 there were 58 held around the world. About 100 are scheduled this year, many in the United States, but also in China, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, and many other countries.

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Additional Photos

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The Gardiner Area High School robotics team assembled this disc throwing robot, one of many projects makers will showcase.

Andy Molloy/Morning Sentinel

  


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