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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

2023 Bay Area Maker Faire

Back in 2019, as the Bay Area Maker Faire was wrapping up, word got around that the event would be no more.  It was a sad time, but I suppose even the best things must come to an end.

Fast forward to 2023.  I'm sitting in my shop, minding my own business when I get a surprise email asking me if I'd be willing to bring my display to the new and improved Bay Area Maker Faire taking place at Mare Island, the former naval shipyard in Vallejo, California.  

Naturally, I was down for it.

"How much space do you want?" they ask.

"Wrong question," says I, all puffed up and proud, "how much space do you need me to fill up?  I'll bring all the eye candy you want."

See, in each of my previous years exhibiting at the Maker Faire, my display grew.  The first time I went, it looked like this before we mounted all the props and whatnot on it:
Blank booth

By 2019, it had grown from that 20-foot wide backdrop with a tiny built-in dressing room to 48 feet of backdrop with two built-in backstage areas, bust pedestals, helmet racks, gun racks, and my lifesize ED-209 replica among other things:
Display Booth

So after a bit of back and forth discussion, they tell me they're going to set aside a 20 by 60 foot section of one of the buildings for me to fill with whatever I feel like showing off.


The main problem with this plan was that in the four years since the last Bay Area Maker Faire, I'd scrapped most of the wall panels and structural elements of my display booth.  So the first order of business was building some more Hollywood flats to make bigger wall sections.  They came together pretty quick.  Here they are in the wood shop during the spackling stage:
Spackled Hollywood Flats

And painted:
Painted Hollywood Flats

These four new flats plus the five I already had on hand meant we'd need a lot more wall.  Then I'd need a place to store them.  That, and time was running short.  It was about to be a problem.

Fortunately, my friend Ian Milward had built a display for the Anvil Station Halo Costuming Group some years ago.  It spent one weekend on display and had been collecting dust in his shed ever since.  He agreed to come down and set it up.  All we'd have to do is tack on more walls to make background wherever we needed it.  Problem solved.

On the Thursday before the event began, we got to load in.  The building where we would be setting up our part of the show was the former foundry.  It was not small:
Arrival Onsite

We started with assembling Ian's Anvil Station booth.  Here's the pieces as we started to stage them:
Booth Build Begins

Once Ian's corner booth was set up in the corner, we went ahead and tacked on my additional flats to make a backdrop on either side, then started populating the walls with props and whatnot:
Booth Built

Somewhere toward the front end of the building, we stood up ED-209 to welcome people to the booth again:
ED-209 Standing Watch

We also set up the Combat Garden Gnome sales display:
Combat Garden Gnome Sales Display

The crown of Surtur found a place of distinction on one of the walls:
Crown of Surtur

And then we decided to mount Ian in the corner:
Ian Goofing Off

With that done, I don't think it's overselling it to say that the finished display was pretty nifty:

On Friday, October 13th, the doors opened on the Bay Area Maker Faire for the first time in over four years:
Welcome to Maker Faire

I didn't get to see what it looked like when the crowd showed up at the front gates, but where we were suddenly there were a lot more people:
Booth Crowd

As usual, I didn't get too much opportunity to leave my own display to check out what everyone else had brought to the event, but what I did get to see was pretty neat:
Indoor Exhibits

  End of Day One

At my booth, we were doing what we could to show off as many costumes as I had bodies for:
Lord Helmet

FO TIE Pilot Dressed


Dark Angel Assembled

Come at me, Brother!

The only problem was that as soon as anybody was in costume, the first thing they wanted to do is run out and check out the rest of the event. SoB on Scene

>40k photo op

While we had a lot of fun characters out and about, a favorite for me was when one of my crew brought her two daughters along and we dressed them up as Jawas:
Dressing Jawas

Neil and Jawas

The girls really had a lot of fun getting into character and acting out:

Jawa at Booth 1

jawa at booth 3

Jawa at Booth 4

Given how simple these costumes were to throw together, they definitely got the most delightful bang for the buck:
Jawa Molesting ED-209

Jawa Stealing ED209 parts

Every once in a while, the younger sister would have a problem with her face mask not lining up with her eyes and her older sister would straighten her out.  So we got a lot of fun shots of the Jawas grooming each other:
Jawas groomin

By the end of weekend one, we'd all had a pretty great time.  Sadly I only got this one group shot of the crew and not everyone was there for it:

In the past, the Bay Area Maker Faire was only one weekend.  As the event grew, it went from two days to four and started starting on Thursday.  This new version of the event decided instead to be two separate weekends, each starting on Friday.  So after things wrapped up on Sunday evening, we covered our display, the buildings and facilities were locked down, and we went back to the shop to prep for weekend two.

We'd sold most of our stock of Combat Garden Gnomes, Cthulhu bookend statues, and Missile Toads, so it was time to start cranking out a couple more batches of those guys.  But there was one thing I hadn't even thought of.  Somewhere in my booth we mounted a couple of these signs:
Hoarding Sign 
This was something I made with my vinyl cutter and some scraps of sheet styrene on a whim a few years ago, so I didn't give it much thought, but over the three days of weekend one we must have had at least thirty or forty people ask, "how much for that sign?"

I guess it resonates with people at an event like this.

So I went ahead and cut out a bunch more of them so we'd have stock to sell during weekend two. 
Everybody NEEDS one.  Maybe four or five...
Incidentally, you can order one from my Etsy shop here: LINK.

The other thing I decided I wanted to do was show off a few of our prop building methods or materials.  With that in mind, we loaded up a couple of helmet molds and some resin, and also packed the little tabletop vacforming machine and some forming bucks to make clonetrooper shoulders:
Former on the Table

Then we rolled right into Weekend Two.  Setup included making a few minor changes to our display:
I have no idea why I look so proud of this.

Anyway, once again, the crew and I set to work talking through how we make all kinds of cool stuff:

And dressing up:

We got a handful of costumed characters out and about:
Heretical Teapot

Glowy Skeleton



Dressing the Space Marine was an attraction that drew quite a big crowd.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by that.  It's quite a spectacle:
Dressing Space Marine Step 3a

The other thing that turned out to be more interesting than I expected was the periodic demonstrations of the vacforming machine:

For my part, I spent the whole weekend telling stories:

and signing copies of my book for people:
Book Signing

And posing for photos:

And whatever I'm doing here:
Propmaking Kata? 
 I did get to get out for a few minutes to check out some of the other wild creations, contraptions, and curiosities folks brought to the faire:









While I was out and about, I also spotted this guy which we'd made for Make: Magazine a few years back:
No idea where his legs are...

So weekend two went pretty well, but all good things must come to an end.  So Sunday evening and Monday morning, we finished up load out:

It was a trimphant return of an event I personally have been very fond of for years.  I'd forgotten how much I loved this thing and can't wait until next year.  Especially now that we have a good handle on the new venue, how to handle the logistics again, and what we can bring to do it bigger and better next year.

Now we have plans.

Stay tuned...