Heaps of discarded toys + one hot glue gun + two innovative girls = MUTANTS!


Some of Annabel and Elsa’s mutant creations.

A plastic green army man, in crawling position, bears Cinderella’s head. Shrek’s body kneels on the ground, with the face of a kewpie doll who needs a haircut. Tigger of Winnie the Pooh waves, using arms from a Barbie doll while balancing on ice skates.

The mutants are here. And there are many of them.

For 11-year-old girls Elsa Rudolph Swanson and Annabel Dudash, both students at Oakland schools and friends since preschool, modifying toys into Mutants has become a passion.

Asked to describe what a Mutant toy is, Annabel says, frankly, that “it’s a toy that was made out of other toys, so it’s not the same toy.”

Elsa (left) and Annabel (right).

For two years now, the girls have sold their Mutants at the monthly Oakland Art Murmurs; they’ve been featured in magazines; and the Oakland Museum has even lent their support to the girls in creating their toys.

In a short interview, Annabel said that she originally wanted to make party favors for her 9th birthday party and found some old toys that she could re-fashion and give out. “[My friends] loved them, and we didn’t have a hot glue gun, so we used wire,” she said.

Mutant-making at the Oakland Art Murmur.

Since then, the idea took off. These days, Annabel and Elsa use a hot glue gun to hack the toys, and at their recent Art Murmur table, they had twelve glue guns going at once as countless people made their own Mutants.

“We’ve made so much,” Annabel says. Russell, her dad, estimates that they’ve created hundreds of them. “We started pillaging toys from every thrift store we could think of,” he said. “And then when we started going to Art Murmur, people would say, ‘oh great, you’re here!’ and they would just give us heaps of old toys.” Family members would send them, too.

Eventually, Russell struck a sweet deal with Goodwill’s processing plant, and he and the girls have been able to dig through the barrels of discarded toys and take home dozens of pounds of toy parts. They then spend as many hours as they can, barring homework and bedtime constraints, cranking out toys as fast as possible.

Annabel and Elsa have a website, a Flickr page, and have completely sold out their wares — priced from $1-$5 — at various Art Murmurs over the last two years (they used the profits to buy an iPad and an iPod).

What does Annabel want to be when she grows up? “An engineer.” What kind? She shrugs. “That’s as far as I got.”

At the Mini Maker Faire, Annabel and Elsa (with help from their proud parents) will set up tables with Mutants, and everyone will be welcome to make their own Mutant. Check them out! 

Maker Profile: TweetHausOAK in the House!

Have you seen a western bluebird flitting about your neighborhood lately? This small thrush nests in pairs and feeds on insects (grasshoppers, termites, beetles, you name it)–a  great asset for the home gardener who occasionally does battle with bugs.  Cue TweethausOAK, a project of the FLUX Foundation that’s working with elementary school students to design, build, and install houses for the western bluebird, encouraging the growth and sustainability of the species in Oakland.

I had the pleasure of participating in the final celebration of the pilot Tweethaus project last spring where 17 3rd grade students from Park Day School, the magical cast of characters from the Flux Foundation, and a few supporting cast members ceremoniously planted the birdhouse posts in the soil.

After learning about the habitat desires of the western bluebird, the kids worked in teams to create and construct their birdhouses and then place them throughout the surrounding community.

Lucky for all of us, the FLUX Foundation folk will be at this year’s East Bay Mini Maker Faire and you too can contribute to the creation of a full-scale TweetHaus construction.  Throughout the day, FLUX will lead workshops where attendees can assemble and reassemble a giant, cardboard playhouse made of light cardboard and magnets.  A giant birdhouse puzzle, if you will, where you can help share concepts for future urban bird habitats.

Oh, and don’t miss the mobile fire sculptures, and FLUXcycles that will also be part of the FLUX Foundation exhibit at the Mini Maker Faire this year.  What, you ask?  Right.  Check it out.

3D Printing at East Bay Mini Maker Faire: Type A Machines, Hyrel 3D + More

I just got back from World Maker Faire New York, where an astonishing 70 different kinds of 3D printers were on display—maybe the largest single gathering of these “additive manufacturing” machines ever assembled!

To call 3D printing “hot” is a bit of an understatement.  Bre Pettis, the founder of the most well-known 3D printer company these days, MakerBot, is on the cover of WIRED magazine this month with the statement, “This Machine Will Change the World.”  !!?!  While I was in New York, a 3D printer company Formlab announced a new printer on Kickstarter, asking for $100K.  It was at $750K within 24 hours, and is now with 17 days remaining, at $1.786 MILLION.  3D printers are RED hot.

What is a 3D printer, you ask? 3D printers make three dimensional objects.  A computer design file generates a pattern, and an extruder that can move back and forth AND up and down AND side to side lays down successive layers of material on a tray (the “bed”).    A lot of printers use plastic rolled up on a big spool – kind of like “thread” – and the extruder melts it and lays it down. Cool innovations in types of material used — concrete, filaments of wood, metal — are making 3D printing more interesting.  It’s a tool only big manufacturers used to be able to afford and that more ambitious makers have in the past few years gotten their hands on; now everyone is saying it’s the next must-have fancy household appliance for everyone.

And YES we’ll have 3D printers for you to check out at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire.  Type A Machines, a San Francisco 3D printer company fresh from Maker Faire New York, will be showing off their Series 1 printer.  Type A co-founder Ronald Miloh Alexander is an electrical engineer and a hackerspace engineer.  Their origin story and mission from their website FAQ is nice:  “Forged in the fires of Noisebridge and TechShop [makerspaces in San Francisco], a team of dedicated hackers set out on an epic journey to bring better desktop 3D printers within everyone’ reach.”

To that end, Miloh will be teaching a session at the Faire on this new, easier, and more affordable world of digital fabrication. His  session is titled “D43D:  Remixing Digital Designs for the Physical World.”  Miloh will provide a background on design fundamentals that are suitable for 3d printers, as well as an introduction to the basic operation of 3d printers. “This
class provides the student with the necessary skills to start designing digital objects for additive manufacturing, and work with a variety of machines.”  You can find this class time on the schedule page.

The other 3D printer company coming to the East Bay Mini Maker Faire is Hyrel 3D.  They are coming all the way from Georgia to show!  And we think Ace Monster Toys will be bringing their MakerBots as well. Designfluence will be running some printers off their solar generator.  NOTE that we’d love to show a Replicator or even a Replicator 2, but MakerBot the company is busy this weekend.  If you have a 3D printer you’d like to run, email us at info@ebmakerfaire.com and we’ll try to get you a last-minute space.

East Bay Brass Band: All Mashed-Up and Brassified

You’re in for a blast when the East Bay Brass Band hits the stage to play mash-ups of modern tunes on Sunday at noon.

Kevin Brunetti formed East Bay Brass Band in 2011 “because I needed more brass in my life,” he says. “I wanted a brass band that could be both modern and traditional.”

“We expand what’s expectable,” says Brunetti. Sunday will be his first Maker Faire. “We’re excited to be a part of it!”

East Bay Brass Band is made up of eight horn players: two trombones, two baritone saxophones, an alto saxophone, a tenor saxophone, a trumpet, and a bass flute – as well as a drummer.

Their repertoire “goes with any New Orleans-style brass band,” but they also play a number of “trombone choir” tunes. “Our brass mash-ups will pleasantly tangle your mind as your feet succumb to the East Bay beat.”

Brunetti met most of the musicians in brass bands in the Bay Area including the Hot Pink Feathers Marching Band, Blue Bone Express, and MJ’s Brass Boppers. Many band member are local parents and/or teachers. They practice in Oakland once a week.

Catch the show at 12 pm on the Music Stage!

Bigfoot: The Musical

Ladies and gentlemen and kids, please help us welcome the WORLD PREMIERE of Bigfoot: The Musical!

It’s an eco love story about an iconic wildman making his way through the wilderness of civilization and romance.

Bigfoot: The Musical is a new project by Paul Cesewski, the man and the maker behind Paul’s Rides—the amazing pedal powered amusement rides that have graced the East Bay Mini Maker Faire for the last two years.

Catch the show and the hairy plot at 3 PM on the Music Stage!

Note that “Paul the Plumber” is not the only bigwig on the stage; here’s the whole cast of Bay Area luminaries:

  • Bigfoot – Steve Heck / Paul Cesewski
  • Helicopter Girl – Shannan Palermo / Penelope Thomas Rucker
  • Marketing Director – Eliza Strack
  • Dad – Jay Brummel
  • Clouds –  Anwyn Evans / Alex Ramerez / Emily Ramerez / Eliza
    Strack / Charlotte   Jennings
  • Dancing Tree (Flute) – Charlotte Jennings
  • Dancing Tree – Alex Ramerez / Emily Ramerez
  • Hunters – Walter Laing / James Kern / David Kimberly / Deven Osband
  • Helicopter Mom – Penelope Thomas Rucker
  • Sound Director – ( Big Daddy ) Tim Anderson
  • Music – Dan Abbot / Mike Mc Cabot
  • Choreographer – Eliza Strack

Remember… it’s a love story AND a musical.  3 PM on the field at the Music Stage!

Friendly Drones? Yes, Friendly and Fun!

I bet a lot of us associate drones with stories of surveillance and international conflict. So why on earth are we featuring them at a family-friendly celebration of creativity?

To explain, here’s what Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief at Wired magazine, founder of DIY Drones (an online community for people building their own unmanned aerial vehicles), and a speaker at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire, said in the New Yorker last year:

“The Internet was once a military thing, but we colonized it and took it away from them. Right now, drones are scary. I’d like to make them unscary.”

Building your own drone is not only a way to learn physics, electronics and sensors, mechanical assembly, and how things fly, it’s also a way to put a powerful technology in the hands of regular citizens, which makes for a better and safer society. It’s also a way to feel what it’s like to be a bird, to experience that amazing sensation of flying, safely, from the ground, when drones have eyes and share their view with you. And if you’re still thinking about the military implications of this technology, here’s Chris again in Wired earlier this year:

It’s safe to say that drones are the first technology in history where the toy industry and hobbyists are beating the military-industrial complex at its own game.

Be at Studio One on the Mini Maker Faire grounds at Park Day School by 11 am next Sunday, October 14th, to hear Chris explain how and why he builds drones, and shows them off.

Bring It! Make It! Park Day School Welcomes East Bay Mini Maker Faire No. 3

Park Day School is proud to host the the Third Annual East Bay Mini Maker Faire on October 14.

From an educator’s perspective, this event aligns so well with and helps advance the mission and goals of the school. The maker movement has influenced our curriculum, is challenging us to innovate, iterate and evolve and educators—and others are noticing! (Stay tuned… we’ll be announcing soon our collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an exciting new research project at Park Day School, with our neighbors Emerson School, Oakland International High School, and Oakland Tech.)

Every year, the East Bay Mini Maker Faire has improved its outreach to public schools and the broader East Bay community. This year the City of Oakland’s  Studio One Arts Center has come on as a primary partner, bringing both the Studio’s extended community and house makers/teachers into the Faire mix.  Our neighbors Oakland International High School, Emerson Elementary, Oakland Tech are all participating in helping to deliver one of the most exciting days on the East Bay activity calendar.

Join us in this fun-filled educational experience; it is a day devoted to activities where we can see in action how kids (and adults) learn best!

—Tom Little, Director, Park Day School

field day and a Handsome ’96 Toyota Warrior

Trinity Cross is a local clothier and her small indie label, field day, offers wearables made from reclaimed materials, organic cotton, and bamboo. Everything is made, printed and dyed one at a time in Oakland.

But that’s not all–she sells her lovely, soulful clothing and accessories from a pimped out, upcycled 96′ Toyota Warrior motor home! She completely gutted it and made in to a traveling store front.  All the materials were reclaimed or recycled down to the very screws.

“I kept the bed up above the cab for sleeping when I travel for shows and fairs.  It’s been a dream come true and I’m not quite sure what I did before having it. “

field day is one of the East Bay Mini Maker Faire’s 20+ “commercial makers”—crafters, artisans, and purveyors of handmade delicacies—who will be exhibiting and selling at the Mini Maker Faire. >>YES THE TOYOTA WARRIOR WILL BE PRESENT!

The faire is actually a great opportunity to get ahead of your holiday shopping!  So between workshops, exhibits, rides and food next Sunday, plan for a bit of time and find that special gift or two.  You’ll be proud that your present is local, maker made, unique and undoubtably fabulous.

Bread from a Pizzaiolo

David Surcamp is the bread baker at the esteemed Oakland restaurant, Pizzaiolo.  And it’s an amazing bread.  His bread as toast in the morning at Pizzaiolo with coffee is a breakfast with a following.

What kind of bread is this exactly?   “I just call it bread, but a lot of people don’t like that.  I guess you could call it country bread, or pain levain.”

David will be teaching making bread on the East Bay Mini Maker Faire Homesteader Stage, our forum for demos and instruction on the domestic and sustainability arts.  The exhibition will cover all the processes from start to finish, including David actually baking in Park Day / CAMP 510’s onsite cob oven.

David has been baking for eight years, and for Pizzaiolo since July 2011.  His path is a classic maker story.  Largely self-taught, David started baking out of necessity and thrift. “I was a jobless student in college and I couldn’t afford to go out to eat. I thought I could make bread cheaper than I could buy it, so I started baking.”

Through his vocal instructor (David is also a singer and was that time studying opera), David got his first kitchen job, and then finally an official bakery job.

I didn’t learn a whole lot there either.  I got more into it because I wanted to make pizza.  Pizza is just bread dough with stuff on it.  So I started reading bread books.  A lot of them.  I would go to library once a week and check out everything they had.  I self-taught myself the fundamentals.

David self-taught making a brick oven too.  He used The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott to source some loose plans. He cruised photos online, put the two together, and built himself an oven in the backyard.  He started baking and selling at a local farmer’s market.

Then in 2010, David moved from Oregon to the Bay Area.  He found himself a few jobs, making it work, learning — but then saw an ad for the Pizzaiolo baking position on Craigslist. You could tell that Charlie wrote it: ‘Come to Pizzaiolo and find me.’  And so I came and found him.”

Pizzaiolo’s oven is a large, wood-burning oven.  Refining the bread and figuring out the dynamics of the oven has been a process.  Is it finished?  “There’s always learning involved.  I think I’d be very stubborn to think that this is all I can do, that this is as good as it gets.”

If you want to try David’s bread and study a master maker in action, come see David’s talk / demo at 1:30 PM on the Homesteader Stage—nestled in Park Day’s “forest”—very near the faire entrance on 42nd Street.

It’s Official! The 2012 East Bay Mini Maker Faire Makers

Just a quick post to direct you over to our 2012 Makers page, which is now up and updated with links to our over 100 makers.  The list is still growing as we herd the maker cats, but this will give you a great idea of the range of makers showing next Sunday.  Schedule of workshops, presentations and music coming next!