Building Our Community at Maker Faire Vancouver & SIGGRAPH

Have you ever thrown a party and had that feeling, “what if no one shows up?”  Well, on June 25th of this year, I took on that feeling in a big way, by hosting a new event in the city, known as Vancouver Mini Maker Faire. A big part of hosting this sort of event and filling a room — along the list with project management and lots of meetings — is having an effective promotional strategy, paired with great design. Design that makes sense.

In case you’re not familiar with what a Maker Faire is, it’s a large-scale DIY festival filled with anyone who makes anything — with the intent on making the world a better place. At a Maker Faire, you can expect sensory overload. Next to the knitters and spinners you’ll be faced with a robot display, bicycles decked out in EL wire, or an art car from Burning Man.

There had never been a Maker Faire in Vancouver, but I knew for a fact that there are a ton of creative hobbiests in the city who belong to groups such as the Vancouver Hack Space, eatART and the Vancouver Community Lab — which are organizations that support creative hobbiests on their ventures in to making things. I heard that O’Reilly was working with people in various cities to start these Mini events, so I decided to take the leap and connect this broad and expanding group in Vancouver.

The biggest challenge of hosting this event this year was that even though Maker culture is a world-wide phenomenon, there was actually quite a bit of promotion to be done. So, using my designer’s toolbox, I started by creating a website which would be the hub for everything event-related. Something clean and simple that I could update as the event began to define itself. I was able to promote other artists through the website, and promote the event itself. I also did a few runs of posters which featured photos of people making things. With over 5 000 hits a day, it was great to see that people were coming to the website to learn more about the event.

Beyond the website and print materials, I took a leap towards some guerrilla marketing, which involved yarn bombing the Dunsmuir bike lanes. Using social media, I managed to find a group of extremely talented textile artists who wanted to be involved with the project. Some had yarn bombed before, others had not — and we all worked together to decide on a project that would be a fun experience that would involve, connect, and engage more members of this growing community — and also showcase the spirit of the event: make things and have fun doing it!

All in all the event was a success! With around 100 Makers and close to 3,000 attendees, we had a broad range of projects and attendees — from 3D printers that could print themselves, to pedal powered machinery, knitting and sewing — enjoyed by families and attendees of all ages. I have to say that it was extremely gratifying to look around and see smiling faces, people having fun, a full room, and new ideas being hatched. The event was such a success, and I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback.

Since the Faire, myself and comrades from the Vancouver Hack Space — a local maker space — were invited to present our projects and quirky ideas at SIGGRAPH’s Studio. I was armed with my felting needle and felt, and taught attendees the basics of needle felting. I found that 3D artists especially enjoyed the craft, because it serves as a great way to model project ideas before getting in to the computer.

Want to see more? Check out the following:

Photos from Vancouver Mini Maker Faire: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluemollusc/sets/72157627289188966/

Photos from Maker Faire – in San Francisco: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluemollusc/sets/72157626816362085/

Siggraph Maker Faire Website: http://www.siggraph.org/s2011/for_submitters/studio

Siggraph – ‘The Studio’: http://www.siggraph.org/s2011/for_submitters/studio

You can learn more about me and what I’ve been up to at:

Emily’s Blog: www.bluemollusc.com

Emily’s Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/emilysmith2000

Sign up to learn more about a new event management app that I’m working on, called “Attendease” – coming soon!

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