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Participants of all ages wove through the San Luis Obispo Mission Plaza this past Saturday at the second annual SLO Mini Maker Faire with homemade puppets, origami shapes and fix-it kits in hand. They dodged frisbee-throwing robots and learned maker techniques at interactive booths.
Tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, crafters, authors and artists from the local community demonstrated their specialty skills. Makers with expertise in everything from soldering, to crocheting, to children’s books were there to share their knowledge with anyone interested.
The first Maker Faire began in 2006 in San Mateo, Calif. and was organized by MAKE Magazine. It has since spread to cities around the world, expanding to San Luis Obispo last year.
Cal Poly clubs and organizations co-sponsored and participated in the faire. Electrical engineering junior and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) member Taylor McClain helped participants learn to solder using old, outdated integrated circuits. IEEE also attended the first SLO Mini Maker Faire.
“It’s awesome to see that it has gotten bigger and that there is more participation,” McClain said. “It looks like there is a lot of craft stuff on top of all of the engineering-type stuff. It brings a lot of neat people together.”
Individual Cal Poly students participated to showcase their side projects, such as liberal arts and engineering studies senior Alexandra Burns, who displayed her collection of hand-sculpted horse statues. Burns was originally inspired by Breyer toy horses she received from her grandmother.
“I started repositioning them, cutting their legs off and bending their legs in an attempt to resculpt them,” Burns said. “I just gradually started doing my own sculptures from scratch.”
She read more on the sculpting process other artists had posted online, learning by trial and error — a common theme among makers at the Faire.
Now, Burns focuses on the sculpting and leaves the casting process to others, though she also wants to learn to cast. Her horses are made of bronze and resin, and she is in the process of planning a bear sculpture.
Many of the makers were more process-based, making tools that would help build another creation.
Materials engineering senior Aaron Ludlow showcased handmade knives, which he started making in high school.
“I was looking for a senior project and jokingly, my senior project advisor was like, ‘Why don’t you make a sword?’” Ludlow said. “Well, that sounded sort of cool, and I found a blacksmithing shop back in my hometown who told me that I couldn’t make a sword.”
They did, however, teach him how to make a knife.
Ludlow takes approximately 25-40 hours to craft one knife. He makes them out of steel from old leaf springs he finds in scrap metal yards. He also uses the knives he’s made; for example, he takes them to bonfires to split firewood.
Makers from the local community were present as well. San Luis Obispo resident and welder Paul Saueressig displayed steampunk metal sculptures he made in his spare time.
His end goal was to make a small, functioning race car out of aluminum. However, he started making home decor, specifically hanging lamp lights.
Saueressig’s collection includes a head modeled after Sleestak, a character from “Land of the Lost,” a fish complete with a motorized torpedo for a back fin, multiple lights and an in-progress race car.
He uses a combination of old tools he found at flea markets, an English wheel and other tools in his shop. The process is very time-consuming — so far, the race car has taken 250 hours of work.
This was Saueressig’s first time participating in the SLO Mini Maker Faire.
“I am glad to see that young people can keep their hands busy by learning rather than sitting around pushing buttons and playing video games,” Saueressig said.
Another artisan, San Luis Obispo resident Ginger Hendrix, displayed rugs made of old T-shirts and reclaimed fabrics.
“Fabric stores freak me out, and I was in a thrift store and saw some old napkins, and thought that I could make something out of them,” Hendrix said. “After I made a bunch of aprons, I thought, ‘I bet they sell fabric here.'”
Hendrix uses a single crotchet needle to knot together fabric strips into rugs that she puts in her home, gives as gifts and teaches others to make on her blog.
“Any time I find something that was going to be thrown away, the thing that is wonderful about making it is that it is low stakes then,” Hendrix said. “If I screw this up, I’m not saying to myself, ‘Gosh, I just spent $80 on that fabric.’ I’m like, ‘This was going to be trashed and look what I turned it into.’”
Each rug takes approximately one day. She also makes other things out of reclaimed fabrics, such as quilts and laundry tags.
“When we make things, we are less crazy, we are happier,” she said. “When we use trash to make things, we are more likely to keep making them.”