A blast of fire exploded nearly 10 feet in the air and along with it came a thunderous noise followed by a surge of heat, mesmerizing the crowd gathered for the Baton Rouge Mini Maker Faire on Saturday at the East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library.
Doug Staas and Emily Dilts often smiled just before pushing a round red button that triggered the fiery blasts, knowing the random bursts would startle participants near the library’s front entrance.
Staas and Dilts, both of Pittsburgh, are fire artists who combined propane tanks, piping and valves and used a bit of computer ingenuity to create what Staas calls a “propane flame cannon.”
For Staas, building the cannons stemmed from an interest in fire effects and now serves as a fun hobby.
Staas and Dilts are considered “makers” and were invited to participate in the Mini Maker Faire by Michael Brandyberry, the event’s organizer. Brandyberry holds the title of “makerspace technology engineer” at the Goodwood library.
Brandyberry said the fair celebrates makers, such as craftsmen and hobbyists, who make products and have a passion for sharing their crafts with others.
“If you are a computer programmer, you’re a maker; if you make clothes, you’re a maker,” Brandyberry said. “And makers are cross-cultural, meaning it’s not just high-tech people here.”
So while Stass and Dilts relied on computer programming to set off their blasts, other makers kept it to the basics. Intertwining high-tech ingenuity with old-fashioned craftsmanship served as a key feature of the fair.
Low-tech maker Andrea Eastin had no problems gathering interested patrons at her fashion and design booth, which featured sewing demonstrations she practices at her Mid-City business, Fair Fit.
“This isn’t so bad,” said LSU student Danielle Bunch as she tried her hand using one of Eastin’s sewing machines on display.
Bunch, a proficient hand sewer, took a keen interest in learning more about how local maker Eastin produces her products with sewing machines.
Eastin makes and designs clothing from scratch and offers sewing classes for those who are “busy and want to learn how to sew and who have questions, and it’s available to all skill levels,” she said.
Not far from where Eastin put her hands to use showing the delicate basics of sewing, Andy Huston, of Phoenix, twisted knobs and push buttons on a homemade lo-fi rhythmic music synthesizer dubbed the “Freqtalk.”
The device radiated virtually any sound with the flip of a switch. Beeps, screeches or deep bass thuds changed tempo and gained in volume to create a melody, as Huston frequently demonstrates for his one-man shows.
Although Frequtalk appears at first glance to be a complicated piece of technology, Huston said all the parts can be bought from any electronic store and are quite easy to build.
“All of these parts can be bought right off the shelf — anyone can do this,” he said.
That aspect of makers, a willingness to share the art behind crafts, and the ease to become a part of the maker movement, is one of the central reasons for the fair.
As Brandyberry noted, makers are “always willing to share and have a deep interest in showing people how to do what they do.”