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Default From Welding to Weddings, DIY Rules at Maker Faire

Hundreds of crafters, hackers and nerds are putting the finishing touches on elaborate contraptions for the Maker Faire: a huge, two-day gathering of people who love welding, soldering and sewing.
With almost 500 exhibits of homemade arts, crafts and electronics, ranging from the klunky to the sublime, the Maker Faire is probably the largest gathering of hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers in the country. It all happens May 3 and 4 at a suburban fairground site in San Mateo, California, and is expected to draw more than 60,000 people.
"It's sort of the engineering and art part of Burning Man, without the dust, raves and drugs," said Jeremy Faludi, a product designer and researcher who is attending the show. "It's pinnacle geek culture that you can't find anywhere else in the world."
Artists Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito demo their 6-ton, 20-foot-tall flaming sculpture Epiphany for Wired.com ahead of Maker Faire at their Oakland, California, industrial-arts space.
For more, visit video.wired.com.


Maker Faire is put on by O'Reilly Media's popular magazine Make and is dedicated to the do-it-yourself ethic in all its forms. In the two years since its inception, Maker Faire has drawn up to 40,000 attendees to watch robots, play with fire, and hobnob with the tech-savvy weirdos the event attracts.
Exhibitors have been logging hundreds of hours in preparation to perfect their creations. The mostly offbeat projects, like Bob's Electric Vehicle Corral, a solar-powered chariot pulled by a bobble-headed puppet that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger, aren't always useful, but they're always thought-provoking and geeky -- and inspiring to other hobbyists and wannabes.
"What I'm looking forward to most is the camaraderie of being in the company of a bunch of DIYers who've been working in their garages until 1 or 2 in the morning getting stuff ready," said Brett Levine, co-founder of video software company Dovetail and a contributor to False Profit Labs, which has two exhibits at the Faire. "I have this feeling that there are all these garages right now with the lights on, drills humming, lathes turning, far and wide across the Bay Area."
Both of False Profit Labs' pieces -- Pyrocardium, which uses a stethoscope to send flames dancing in time with a person's heartbeat, and the Hydrogen Economy, which features exploding bubbles of hydrogen inside a clear plastic enclosure -- are being funded by Burning Man, highlighting the connection between the two events.
"Both have that breakaway spirit of, 'I can do this better if I do it myself,'" Levine said.
One couple has decided to do things not by themselves, but together. Hallie McConlogue, an independent programmer and designer, and Corey McGuire, a NASA Ames researcher, who together have contributed to a half-dozen Maker Faire projects, have decided to get married at the Faire.
The ceremony will take place on a self-propelled, three-story Victorian home called the Neverwas Haul. The hundred or so people attending the wedding will all be wearing costumes, including the bride and groom. McGuire will be dressed in a Napoleonic diplomat's coat while McConlogue will wear an early-20th-century creation. The bride's mother is attending in "full-up Sense and Sensibility style," McConlogue said.
While the location and costumes are decidedly steampunk, the wedding feast will be a bit more modern.
"We're going to have pizza, because we're geeks," said McConlogue.
McGuire said that he spent many hours volunteering his time on various Maker Faire projects last year, in an effort to woo his bride-to-be.
"You have to try really hard when you are trying to woo a woman with nerdiness," McGuire said.
For a vision of their future, newlyweds might look to husband-and-wife industrial-arts team Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, who are bringing their 6-ton, 20-foot-tall sculpture Epiphany to the Maker Faire. (A preview video of the fiery creation is embedded above.)
The team considers the fire-spewing figure a manifestation of the current state of an oil-dependent economy.
"She could be fearful or hopeful, worshipping either a tree or oil derrick," said Cusolito, "but either way, she's engulfed in a state of fervor."
Fire technicians Danya Parkinson and Joe Bard of art collective Pyrokinetics were responsible for rigging Epiphany's pyrotechnics: They installed a pilot light in the cardiac region of her 20-foot-tall frame that, when triggered, radiates fire outwards through her hands. The blazes are supposed to mimic a fiery vascular system, and are rigged to a control board that regulates the intensity and frequency of the flame. The larger-than-life sculpture will burst into flames every half hour over the course of the Faire's two days.
The duo, along with their art collective, the Headless Point Artist's Retreat and Labor Camp, spent roughly two months crafting Epiphany using donated salvaged materials like hunks of steel, pulleys, gears and car parts.
Exhibiting (or getting married) at Maker Faire is clearly a lot of work, but the participants say it's a labor of love. For many, it's a way of rethinking how manufactured consumer products are used, reused or abused, a spirit shared by the members of False Profit, a registered limited-liability corporation.
"We decided that we were going to change the way that corporations work by focusing on the goal of creating joy, happiness and meaningful experiences instead of money," said False Profit member Stephen Trichter.

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