Vancouver's Mini Maker Faire is coming up on June 10th and 11th at the PNE Forum and after signing up to participate in the textile village I realized that I know very little about the event. I figured, surely I'm not the only one. So, naturally I wanted to find out more and share with you. Vancouver Mini Maker Faire co-founder Emily Smith agreed to answer a few questions! Lucky us! Read on for a mini-interview...
JANNA: Hey Emily, Thanks for sharing about Maker Faire. Can you explain what it is and how have you been involved?
EMILY: Maker Faire was born in San Mateo and is a merging together of projects and subcultures. From Burning Man enthusiasts, to Silicon valley innovators, computer hackers, urban farmers, tiny house builders, art cars, and more - it's where people share their passion projects and wild feats of imagination. It's a celebration of DIY advocacy, and a place where failure is celebrated, and making "for the fun of it" is encouraged.
Vancouver Mini Maker Faire is an offshoot of Maker Faire, and was founded back in 2011 as a result of a wild idea thrown out at a "Super Happy Hacker House" at the Vancouver Hacker Space. A few of us got together with no previous event management experience, and with a lot of hard work and a community effort, made it happen. The faire is all about learning by doing, risk-taking, and bringing together community. I was involved as a lead organizer for the first 3 years and have since served on the board, and am now community ambassador, building the textile village stitch & bitch area and helping out where I can!
JANNA: Is this the first year you're having a textile village? What will that look like?
EMILY: Nope! I've been organizing the textile village for about the past 3 years or so. So far, there will be some looms, knitting machines, spinning, and more! There are about 26 or so people signed up to craft together. We're still accepting more applications!
JANNA: Oh, cool! Yeah, I'm signed up for a 4-hour block on the Saturday. I'm bringing my 16" Mirrix tapestry loom. It'll be my first time at the Vancouver Maker Faire. I've actually only ever been to the Mini Maker Faire briefly last year in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, so I'm stoked to finally attend and participate in Vancouver.
I love this idea of people in the community coming together to share their skills. In my own art practice, I've done a lot of crafting and sharing textile skills in public. I'm not very familiar with your personal practice, but from what I've seen online it seems like Maker Faire has influenced your art practice... or perhaps vice versa. Can you tell me a bit about what you do and which came first?
EMILY: Yes, absolutely! I learned to knit when I was a kid, and it wasn't until a few years before Maker Faire (around 2008) that I picked it up again. Reading Make magazine really inspired me! And showed me that knitting and handicrafts are relevant and can even be critical.
Once I started knitting again - with an adult brain - I became curious about the fibres that made up the yarn. I guess it all really came as a reaction against fast fashion and the negative impacts of fashion overall. That curiosity motivated me learn more about the various fibres, their impacts, and study more closely how those fibres were manufactured. I was spending time with hackers at the time, whose ethos was, "If you can't open it you don't own it" - and in many ways, I was looking at textiles in the same way. What would it mean to 'hack' your clothes?
I find knitting to be a very social activity - and I found that I definitely wasn't alone in my curiosity about how to work with cloth. Immediately I started hosting craft nights everywhere. My house, the park, the hackspace, etc. I really fell in love with the idea of connecting with others over making.
In terms of what influenced what, I would say that Maker Faire and my own art process emerged concurrently. As soon as I was making for the love of it and sharing it with others, it became clear that my art practice was about empowering communities to take part and discover and share with one another. I share what I learned; they share what they know. In many ways, I'm more interested in the culture, conversation and performative aspect of making, than of having a specific art piece. I've made lots of different pieces that I'm proud of, but I choose to highlight the patterns of connection and discovery with others.
JANNA: There are more and more artists highlighting meaningful connections with others in their work these days. It's great! The craft and the do-it-yourself world are so prevalent online, but that space can be very alienating as each person independently navigates how to actually connect with people there. I'm still figuring out how to make the internet work for me in that way. I love that Maker Faire merges technology and actual socializing. It looks like an interactive science faire for the whole family. I was going to get a babysitter for the day but after looking through all your photos I think I would spend the day wishing my four-year-old could be there, too. I think I'll bring him and see what happens (maybe I'll bring a g-ma for back up)