Tag Archives: 2010

Rocket Roundabout

Maker Faire 2010

Rocket Roundabout
The retro-futuristic sculpture at the Rocket Roundabout

This past weekend, I attended Maker Faire in New York City. For those who don’t know, Maker Faire is an event begun by Make Magazine. This year was the first time it came to New York City (or anywhere on the east coast for that matter). Though not strictly prop-related, it has a lot of overlapping areas of interest to the props community, and a lot of props people are interested in a lot of things here. Imagine if a science fair and a craft fair had a baby and it went to Burning Man for an episode of Mythbusters.

The New York Hall of Science and Flushing Meadows Park could not be a more ideal setting for this Faire. There is a retro-futuristic rocket sculpture in the center, and off to the side is a Gemini Titan II rocket and a Mercury-Atlas D Rocket; two of the rockets that first shot Americans into space.

Knitfitti on a real Space Age rocket.
Knitfitti on a real Space Age rocket. That sums it up.

Outside were several very dangerous looking carnival rides set up by a Brooklyn art collective called the Madagascar Institute. They had also set up the World’s Largest Mousetrap, a reference to the classic kid’s board game, not an actual mousetrap.

Life Size Mousetrap
Life Size Mousetrap

Later in the day, they hosted a chariot race, featuring all sorts of home made vehicles racing around the Rocket Sculpture in a truly dangerous and hilarious spectacle.

Swimming Cities in the chariot races
Swimming Cities in the chariot races

The Faire had a few tents devoted to fabrication technologies. In the first were the familiar commercial brands, such as ShopBot CNC machines, Epilog laser cutters and engravers, and a slew of similar devices. Another tent was set up with MakerBots, RepRaps, Fabbers and the like. These are 3d printers designed to be made-yourself. Some, like the MakerBot, can be purchased as a complete kit which you assemble, while others, like the Fabber, you can build solely through blueprints and instructions available online. Most of them have various intermediate possibilities, where you can purchase the electronic parts as a kit but construct the physical parts yourself, or vice versa. The common thread between them is that they are based on an open-source community, where individuals make modifications or improvements and tell everyone else in the community how they did it. None of the technology that goes into them is secret or hidden.

Fire, danger, and awesomeness at Maker Faire
Fire, danger, and awesomeness at Maker Faire

The Faire offered a number of events, talks and demonstrations. I attended one called “Turning Pro: Becoming a Professional Maker” presented by the husband and wife team of Because We Can. They talked about the lessons they learned and mistakes they made in their journey from full-time jobs to running their own design and fabrication shop for interiors and events. It was very interesting; like many other prop-makers, I frequently do outside projects, and occasionally consider breaking away and making that my full-time job (especially during meetings or tech!) Their talk was based on an article they wrote called “Venturing Out…” if you’re interested in hearing what they had to say but couldn’t make it.

I watched the Fashion Show by Diana Eng. For you Project Runway fans out there, you may remember her from season 2. Since then, she’s remained busy in the fashion design world, incorporating all sorts of technology into her pieces. I wanted to see some of these in person, so I figured I’d check it out. A lot of other people had the same idea, as the line to get in was very long. Still, it was interesting to see clothes with LEDS and other lights, inflatable dresses, and 3D printed fabrics.

Diana Eng Fashion Show
Diana Eng Fashion Show

One of the things which surprised me was how many children were there. I follow Make Magazine and a lot of the community online, and just kind of assumed the attendees would be the same set of people. It wasn’t a bad surprise; it was actually very heartening to see kids who were even more excited and knowledgeable about these things than I am. If Maker Faire was around when I was a kid, I would probably be a bigger (and better) nerd than I am now. One might not think kids should be in the same space as anarchic arts collectives like the Madagascar Institute, but then again, this is New York City; if parents have their kids pose with topless mermaids for pictures at Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, than seeing guys wearing nothing but gold lamé short-shorts is downright pedestrian.

One of the golden girls of the Madagascar Institute
One of the golden girls of the Madagascar Institute

At the end of the day, I attended a talk by Mark Frauenfelder, founder of Boing Boing, editor of Make Magazine and author of Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World. He talked about his book, which describes his efforts to take a more DIY approach to his life rather than just buying a solution. It’s a great inspiration to props people (I’ll be doing a full review at some point in the future). At the end, I introduced myself and got my copy of the book signed. It was a nice way to end a long and tiring, but insightful and inspiring day.

So if you’re into props, I highly recommend you check out the next Maker Faire that comes near you. Outside of USITT and SETC, it’s one of the most relevant get-togethers for us, and certainly one of the most fun.

Attendees at the 2010 NYC Props Summit

Dispatches from Props Summit 2010

This year’s props summit was a rousing success. With over forty people in attendance, we more than doubled the attendance from last year. Upon entering, one person exclaimed, “I didn’t know there were so many props people!” In fact, if you look at the picture from the first props summit, you’ll notice quite a few people who were unable to make it back this year; there are also some who were invited but too busy to make it to either summit so far. In other words, this summit still has the chance of growing in attendance.

Attendees at the 2010 NYC Props Summit
Attendees at the 2010 NYC Props Summit

Though this event was focused around New York City, we had folks come from Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, and even Boston! The great thing about this event is that all types of props people attended: prop masters, both full-time and freelance, carpenters, artisans, and every combination in-between. What’s great about getting to know your friendly neighborhood props people is that it lets you know you are not alone, and other people are going through the same things as you, and you’re probably not crazy (or we’re all crazy, and getting together just deludes us to that fact). It also helps you out when you’re in a bind; if you can’t find that one strange prop, or you need someone who can sew leather, or you have a great prop left over from a show but no place to store it, these are the people who can help you out.

Whenever a large-enough group of new people arrived, we would go around the circle and introduce ourselves, which led to stories being swapped. Later in the evening, Jay led everyone in a rousing reading of Ron DeMarco’s “Resolutions”. Ron teaches props at Emerson College, and tried to find the perfect script for his students to develop a props list from. Unable to locate such a script, he wrote his own; “Resolutions”, though only four pages long, contains many of the typical prop challenges and questions, and quite a few conundrums as well. Most of the time, though, was spent in simple drinking, eating, mingling and chatting.

I would list everyone who attended, but I’m afraid I might leave someone out. My only regret was that I was unable to speak with everyone there, particularly those I haven’t met yet. If you are interested in attending next year’s summit (or sooner, though it took us a whole year before we had this one), drop me a line.

Upcoming Events

I have just a few brief items to mention today.

First, this Friday will be our second NYC Props Summit. Our hope is for props professionals, both artisans and masters, to get together for an evening of fun and networking. Our first Props Summit was quite a success. If you wish to join in, drop me a line and I can give you further details.

Second, every week, Jacob Coakley hosts a live internet chat on the TheatreFace network. Next week, Wednesday, September 1, he will be talking with none other than Eric Hart, the person who is writing this sentence right now. Be sure to check it out from 2pm-3pm EST, and let me know if you’re having trouble joining the site.

Prop Masters Conference Roundup

This past weekend, I visited the lovely city of San Francisco for the first time. It was the 2010 S*P*A*M conference. For those of you not in the know, the Society of Properties Artisan Managers represents full-time properties directors (and their assistants, like me) in theatre, opera, and education. The currently 98 members work in nearly every part of the country and many of the major cities, as well as one in Canada.

As part of the conference, we toured the facilities at the San Francisco Opera and at Berkeley Rep. Each if those may become a blog post in the upcoming days. We also toured Pixar Studios, but that was all secret and no cameras were allowed.

We also had a hazardous communications training seminar with Monona Rossol. It has reminded me that I’ve posted very little information and links about safety on this site.

Finally, S*P*A*M is working on some exciting new things, which I will keep you all apprised of as they happen. I’d write more, but I’m at the airport waiting for my overnight flight home to NYC, and I have to go straight back to work in the morning. This Hart won’t be left in San Francisco!