On Sept. 9, 2017, artists, engineers, and scientists all mingled together resulting in the annual Chattanooga Mini Maker Faire. A maze of booths showcasing makers of all kinds covered the grounds at the First Tennessee Pavilion with ingenuity. The Chattanooga Mini Maker Faire is put on by CO.LAB, a nonprofit organization in southeast Tennessee whose goal is to encourage and enable entrepreneurs in their growth and success. The purpose of the Maker Faire is to promote makers and learners no matter where they are from. It is the pinnacle of the unexpected.
At this year’s Maker Faire, a life-sized R2D2 robot rolled around to different booths beeping cheerily and posing for selfies. Two people on a garish, brightly-colored, wacky, three-seater bike cycled past the crowd. Over in another niche, small robots fought in a glass case while onlookers cheered loudly for their favorites. Chattanooga Fire Dancers occupied another area, roped off by caution tape and surrounded by awed spectators.
Artists like Danyelle Woods of Danyelle Woods Designs added to the lively mix. Woods creates pieces that are inspired by the natural world around her using local organic materials from Chattanooga. In another realm of the art world is Claudia Berck, the representative for Ayelet’s Style at Maker Faire. All of the pieces she sells are hand embroidered by natives from Chiapas, Mexico.
Next to Claudia’s booth was Covenant College’s own Abi Ogle, a senior art major, selling her signature paint palette jewelry, prints, and graphic tees. This summer, Ogle worked for CO.STARTERS, an offshoot of CO.LAB. CO.STARTERS encouraged her to participate in Maker Faire, but her experience in selling her work at Covenant College also inspired her to give Maker Faire a chance. “Covenant students really made this possible. I never would have had a place to sell jewelry in the first place if it hadn’t been for the Bakertree Festival,” Ogle said.
For Ogle, it was a privilege to be a part of such a unique event. “The best part was seeing that there are so many unique makers in Chattanooga and that it is such a maker-friendly city that’s interested in helping people that are creative and have cool ideas.” The Chattanooga Mini Maker Faire represents only a small portion of the incredible amount of makers in Chattanooga, but it provides a delightful glimpse into the kind of variety the city is known and celebrated for.
However, Maker Faire is not all fun and games because setup for the event can be difficult. Ogle’s insightful perspective on the setup process is that “prep is always challenging. It’s a really cool experience though because preparing yourself for one of those things helps you assess and ask yourself ‘is this something I would like to do for the rest of my life?’ I think it’s worth doing because of the things you learn. There are hard things in that, but it’s all good in some way, shape, or form.”
When asked for advice to give to students who might want to participate in Maker Faire in the future, Ogle said, “Remember that there’s not an invalid making you can do. There are so many cool things you can do that are worth doing. Start preparing early, talk to people. Be making things around other people. Don’t just make huddled up in your dorm room somewhere, where there’s no light. Go somewhere and be in the midst of other makers and other non-makers who are giving you feedback, because they have valid things to say. Your making is NOT tied to your identity, so it’s not something you should go into saying ‘this is me, this is who I am, please accept me.’ I think the things that you make are a product of who God created you to be and a gift that he’s given you, but it’s important to remember that whatever happens at Maker Faire does not define your worth. It’s not a risk. It’s part of the fun.”