CCA at Maker Faire 2013: Interdisciplinary Projects Light Up Audiences

CCA's booth at Maker Faire received two Make magazine editor's choice awards

Ever since the college was founded in 1907, making art has defined what we do at California College of the Arts -- both what we create and how we create it.

Today we have a new challenge to how we create art. The Bay Area has become a vast melting pot of innovation driven by the demands of technology-reliant and design-savvy enthusiasts.

We live in the innovation corridor -- a unique stomping grounds where the doers and makers are integrating time-honored principles of craft into the ever-changing technological landscape.

Are we living in a new movement?

Just ask the students, faculty, staff, and alumni who showcased their work at the 2013 Bay Area Maker Faire (May 18-19), and you'll hear all about the Maker movement.

According to a CNN report, 120,000 persons attended the eighth annual Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, a Bay Area annual celebration of do-it-yourself crafts, technology, and culture.

CCA's inaugural presence at Maker Faire was an undeniable success -- including not one, but two Make magazine editor's choice blue ribbon awards!

Visit CCA's Flickr set for more images »

What Is Maker Faire?

Maker Faire is produced by Maker Media, which also publishes Make magazine. Hailed as one of the largest exhibition events in the United States that specifically showcases innovative projects that meld craft and technology, Maker Faire touts itself as "a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement."

Bay Area: A Leader in Innovation

Started in the Bay Area in 2006, Maker Faire is primarily designed to be forward-looking, showcasing makers who are exploring new forms and new technologies. Maker Faire's success is due in large part to its promotion of innovation and experimentation across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance, and craft.

CCA shares these values and goals: Read President Stephen Beal's recent Huffington Post blog: "Turn STEM to STEAM: Why Science Needs the Arts" article »

Highlighted Projects

Many of CCA's undergraduate design and craft programs were represented at Maker Faire:

Fashion Design, Furniture, Jewelry / Metal Arts, and Textiles were also represented. (See slideshow above.)

Additional works, including those from CCA staff members, were culled from Barney Haynes’s Emphasis Fabrication workshop (part of the college's Craft curriculum) and Interface, an interdisciplinary studio, as well as from the popular Urban Mobility Program, taught by Rafi Ajl and offered by CCA’s Office of Special Programs.

Watch a video about CCA's Urban Mobility course »

CCA's Innovation-Embedded Curricula


CCA's Interface course began as a fine arts interdisciplinary studio course, but now it's a required upper-division studio course for all undergraduates. The focus is to design and fabricate interactive and kinetic artwork. Students learn how to design and implement hybrid art systems that can use computers or circuits to interface with sensors, motors, video, sound, pneumatics, and lights.

"It's a return to the First Year core studio," explains Haynes. "The goal of the multidisciplinary course is to integrate majors across all programs -- including Writing and Literature and Visual Studies. Architecture and design students bring rigor and attention to detail; fine arts students lend a linear, out-of-the-box mentality and approach that Architecture students pick up on and vice versa. It rubs off."

Emphasis Fabrication

In this workshop, students develop skill sets central to the creation of sophisticated and dynamic projects that can be activated, controlled, and respond to their environment. The focus is placed on basic fabrication, electronics and programming, and creating new possibilities for artworks in a variety of media.

CCA’s Career Development Team at Work

Planning for Maker Faire was a collective effort, but Assistant Director for Career Development Erin Wheeler explains, “Maker Faire organizers have been eager to have CCA represented at the event. They’re interested in educational groups.”

Maker Faire was represented at CCA’s 2013 Annual Career Expo, which allowed Wheeler to continue to foster the relationship. She recognized a great opportunity for students and the college at large.

“Maker faire is about showcasing works and projects in process -- things that people are engaged in testing right there. CCA is a hotbed of making innovative things.”

Wheeler and Interaction Design chair Kristian Simsarian reached out to the college’s shop managers to help identify prospective projects.

Other masterminds behind the CCA booth
Shop manager Jo Slota was instrumental -- the “ring leader” -- in organizing the event. Wood shop manager Amy Graham attended and led demonstrations both days. Noah Bartlett, director of facilities and operations, masterfully supervised setup and tear-down. And maker-crafter and Etsy enthusiast Julie Sheri (DMBA 2012) diligently organized the volunteers.

The Architecture Angle

Upward of 25 Architecture students had work at Maker Faire, representing an independent study course taught by Jason Johnson, an advanced studio course led by Andrew Kudless, and a seminar taught by Ben Rice. Projects ranged from standalone class assignments to group projects.

According to Kudless, "We had a crate of promotional materials about CCA and they were flying off the table. From four-year-olds to retired people, they all wanted to know, 'Do you have classes for us?' 'Where can I learn how to do this?' I was totally overwhelmed. It was a coming-out party for CCA."

Aside from the choice booth position at the front entrance to one of the main exhibition buildings (immediately next to AutoDesk, CCA was successful because attendees could actually see how things were being made. In a sea of robotics, where the project is already complete, CCA's demos were a breath of fresh air.

(AutoDesk President and CEO Carl Bass, also a wood worker, was drawn to the steam-bending furniture demonstrations led by Graham. Bass later toured CCA to check out the college's Hybrid Lab. The tour was led by Director of Research and Planning David Meckel.)

Watch a short demo of wood bending »

Popular trends at Maker Faire included 3D printing (a form of additive manufacturing technology where a 3D object is created by laying down successive layers). However, Architecture students Shawn Komlos (MArch 2014) and Alex Woodhouse (MAAD 2013) hacked a 3D printer to become a ceramic extrusion 3D printer (clay)! They used it to create 3D model fixtures that were appended to an aerial map of San Francisco's Dog Patch neighborhood!

And thanks to Future Cities Lab for sponsoring these students' 3D work!

Read more about 3D printing »

Demonstrating Fabrication Processes

Architecture students also brought in highly detailed "eggs" they made in Kudless's advanced studio course. He explained, "People could grasp onto the egg concept (unlike robotics), a fabrication process or a digital technique that required students spend time making five eggs over four weeks. Students had to really think about how they wanted to make the project -- designing, planning, choosing the process."

Whatever the process -- 3D printed, made by hand (with plaster), CNC milled, or laser cut -- the eggs were simple and easily accessible to audiences -- and popular! (One Marin County resident contacted Kudless to purchase all 16 eggs as an art piece.)

Innovation Key to Student Career Success

According to President Beal, "There is a pressing need for creative people across a broad range of industries. Innovation is not the exclusive domain of scientists, programmers, and engineers. Companies and organizations that have traditionally looked to large research universities for talent are now looking for artists and designers -- creative people who bring to the workplace unique problem-solving skills, entrepreneurial spirit, and a deep understanding of the user experience."

Read President Beal's commencement speech in its entirety »

Summing it Up

Pataramekin shared, "The best part was being able to share my piece amongst the other beautifully crafted pieces by other talented students at CCA. It's the collaborative display of work that really takes your breath away."

“We have an amazing community here at CCA," added Hayes.

Maker Faire producer Louise Glasgow followed up to say, "I am so glad that we have connected and look forward to what CCA will bring to Maker Faire in 2014!"