Carnival of creativity

Carnival of creativity

This weekend’s third annual Maker Faire in San Mateo mixes science, artistry, sideshow

Costas Schuler of Forestville created a “penscape” in and on his Mercedes using 5,000 markers.
KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat

mercedes-pens-the-pen-guy-press-democratStir in two parts science museum. Add a pinch of freak show. Mix in hundreds of arts and crafts projects. Then top with homemade circus rides, carnival booths and up to 70,000 paying fans over two days. And, voila, you’ve got yourself a Maker Faire.

The third annual event today and Sunday draws together 500 engineers, tinkerers and crafters who exhibit their homemade projects — ranging from a 17-foot-tall robotic giraffe to a pedal-powered bus.

Attendance has more than tripled since the fair’s inception in 2006 as the popularity of the do-it-yourself movement continues to surge.

The event has become a great attraction for families looking for some hands-on entertainment. Most of the exhibits are interactive in some way.

People can ride a wide assortment of art bikes or play miniature golf around a T-Rex dinosaur.

There is a life-size “Mouse Trap” board game — with bowling balls replacing the marbles.

For those seeking fame and fortune, PBS will be taping auditions for its first episode of “Make: TV” — think “American Idol” for geeks.

Costas Schuler, a Forestville graphic designer, is displaying his art car — a Mercedes-Benz covered in thousands of pens.

“Maker Faire is just such a great community. So many creative people,” Schuler said.

The event is produced by Sebastopol-based O’Reilly Media, which publishes both Make and Craft magazines.

Make, which is a quarterly magazine with a $14.95 cover price, was launched in March 2005 by Sebastopol resident Dale Dougherty. Every issue is a how-to guide to making fascinating new projects from everyday parts, like how to turn an old Web cam into a digital microscope.

Maker Faire is a lot like a county fair — it’s just reprogrammed for the 21st century, Dougherty said.

“It is a place to share what you do,” Dougherty said. “Seeing all these interesting people and providing a venue for their projects is great.”

This year’s event also will include an emphasis on “hacking food,” bringing together hobbyists who invent new techniques to grow their own food and prepare cuisine.

The fair has grown from 22,000 attendees in its first year in 2006 to 45,000 people last year. It also expanded last fall to include a second location in Austin, Texas, where about 15,000 people attended.

You can reach Staff Writer Nathan Halverson at 521-5494 or

via The Press Democrat