The V&A at Mini Maker Faire

Learning and Interpretation
July 9, 2013

Last weekend, the V&A was proud to be part of the team who organised London’s very first Mini Maker Faire at London College of Communication, Elephant and Castle. The Maker Faire brings together Makers from all different backgrounds and showcases great examples of creativity and ingenuity, from 3D printers and programmers, to musicians and textile artists. The event has it’s origins across the pond in the US but due to enormous success over there it has spread around the world, and recently the UK has seen events in Newcastle, Brighton and finally London.

Banana Piano with a MaKey MaKey at Mini Maker Faire © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In 2011 the V&A’s exhibition, “The Power of Making” demonstrated that in the face of mass production and technology, making still has an important part to play in the way that we express ourselves, demonstrate our creativity and use materials in new and unexpected ways. Many of the exhibits in the show did use new technology in their construction and could even be produced on a mass scale, but they demonstrated that through making and thinking about materials, we go through a process of problem solving that can lead us to unexpected outcomes. The Maker Faire showed all these traits in abundance, and the waves of visitors who visited a very sunny South London university on the day showed that people still yearn to create things by hand and shape their world.

Soft Circuits Drop In with Codasign and the V&A © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In conjunction with Codasign, a company specialising in creative workshops using technology, we ran a free drop in workshop throughout the day creating soft circuit robots. Soft circuits work just like any other electronic circuit but rather than soldering components to circuit boards, you can sew your LEDs, batteries and resistors onto any material using conductive thread. The thread looks like any other cotton, but interwined throughout it are metal strands which can carry electricty.

Getting the robots ready © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We had lots of people drop in to our stand for a chat and plenty of people staying to sew their own robot badge which they proudly then wore all day. The wonderful thing about the Maker Faire is that it attracts all different kinds of people. The Makers at the stands may be quite tech savvy and knowledgeable, always happy to share their knowledge and tips with you, but we had lots of visitors who had never even tried making any kind of electronics before, ranging from 5 year olds eager to create a robot to show off at school to older people making a change from sewing to the brave new world of soft circuits!

Cory Doctorow Keynote at Maker Faire Meetup, Creative Commons / Maker Faire EC

On the Sunday we hosted a day of talks, the Maker Faire Meetup, from Makers, writers, artists and academics who discussed what making means and how it fits into society, education and creativity. The keynote speech from Cory Doctorow stirred up the crowd, pronouncing, “The act of making begins with an act of breaking”; that sometimes we have to take things apart in order to begin the creative process, even if it means failing multiple times along the way. After that a panel discussed the politics of making followed by the afternoon keynote from the fantastic Tim Hunkin, creator of arcade machines such as “Whack a Banker” and “Pet or Meat?”, who led us through his creative processes and how he uses prototypes and making to create the machines that go into his arcade on Southwold Pier. The afternoon continued with further panel talks on design education and urbanism, with great speakers from all areas of craft, technology and art.

Despite the fact that all in attendance were missing out on both the Wimbledon tennis final and the hottest day of the year, the event was a great celebration of how we can shape our lives and be creative through the act of making and breaking, and give us the power to take control of the world through objects and actions that would otherwise control us.

About the author

Learning and Interpretation
July 9, 2013

I'm Team Leader for Digital Programmes at the V&A and run events, workshops, talks and festivals with artists and designers who use and experiment with digital tools, processes and manufacturing.

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