So What’s It Like at a Maker Faire? (with Illustrations)

Last week I made plans to visit the Mini Maker Faire held over the weekend by Barnes & Noble. Their website listed this event as the 3rd annual Mini Maker Faire, but the Maker Movement has been around since 2013.

So, what’s it like at a Maker Faire? After last weekend, I can confidently say, I still have no idea. The event was severely underwhelming and not representative of anything I’d call a maker faire.

There are only so many ways to say you’re disappointed, so I thought I’d tell you the story with illustrations.


I went to the Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire on Saturday with my sister. We wondered where they’d hold the event, but when we arrived, there were several people going into the store at once. It seemed we were in the right place.

Maker Faire BN entrance with lots of people going in

Upon entering the store, a large cardboard cutout loomed in front of the Nook and ebooks desk. The Maker robot had signs attached to it that listed the Mini Maker Faire hours and a disclaimer that we might be filmed.

Maker Faire sign large paper cutout of a red robot

Ready for flashy displays of creativity (and hopefully a chance to participate too), we walked further into the store and saw….nothing. There was nothing different about the store layout.

Maker Faire back of author's head looking out over ordinary bookshelves at Barnes and Noble

Confused, we decided to take a loop around the store. There was one table in the center of the store, right in front of the kids’ section. Inside the kids’ section there was another table with what looked like coloring pages.

Maker Faire BN 2 tables a blue one in front staffed by a man and one in the back staffed by a person wearing red cardigan

Later, after completing a full loop (we were browsing at the same time), we also noticed a table by the entrance staffed by the Pikes Peak Library District. They had some sort of puzzle at their station. To be fair, we didn’t stop at any the tables. And later we saw one kid messing around with a tablet-controlled robot. But compared to what we’d imagined a Maker Faire to be, this experience was just sad.

Maker Faire robot black with blue circles on its head rolling on a wooden floor

Sad, lonely robot.

I’ll have to try and attend a real Maker Faire someday.

Maker Faire disappointed pose

Have You Heard of the Maker Movement?

Inktober may be over, but the events focused on art and creativity continue. This upcoming weekend Barnes & Noble stores across the US will host simultaneously host their own “Mini Maker Faire.” When I saw the event, I had no idea what a Maker Faire was, but I’d been hearing the word “Maker” thrown around more and more frequently.

My local library opened a newly dubbed “Maker space,” a renovated section with glass doors that I would walk by slowly to get a better glimpse of what was inside.

There were “Maker Faire” events on Facebook and now at Barnes & Noble. It turns out I’m late to this phenomenon, dubbed the “Maker Movement.” This year will be Barnes & Noble’s third annual Maker Faire, and my first Google search revealed articles about the Maker Movement going back to 2013.

But if I’d never heard of this thing until recently, I figure there are others like me who don’t live in hip, always up-to-date places.

What is the Maker Movement?

The Maker Movement has been called anything from a DIY revolution to a revival of Home-EC to America’s salvation. That one certainly caught my eye. Was this just click bait or is there something about the Maker Movement I’m missing?

“Maker” is a creative movement. And a maker is defined simply as anyone who makes things. This definition includes everyone, which appears to be the point. Anyone can be a Maker. Anyone can join the movement.

Although I’m discussing the Maker in the context of visual arts, it’s far more expansive than what we might traditionally define as “creative” pursuits. The Maker Movement includes the arts, sure, but it also brings attention to projects within science, technology, and computer science. A glance through the Maker website reveals guides on 3D printing projects, drone recommendations, and articles on how to build your own furniture.

Maker Faires take place around the world. In the same weekend that Barnes & Noble will hold their event, there will be full-blown Maker Faires taking place in Germany, Argentina, and Thailand. It’s kind of a big deal.

The Maker Movement, along with Maker Faires and Maker spaces are about getting people to create and learn to become more self-sustaining. It encourages people to play, tinker, and actually use their hands to create something. It sounds like a nice movement, but for the most part, I’m still left confused.

What Can You Expect from a Maker Faire?

I’ve read articles, watched videos, and listened to people describe their experiences at Maker Faires. I could create a passable image for you by mashing the information from these articles, videos, and accounts together. But with a Maker Faire coming to town – even a mini one held in a retail chain – the best course of action seems to go attend one myself.

From what I’ve gleaned, the idea of a Maker Movement seems admirable. I’m all for encouraging people to be creative and make things. But I wonder how sustainable the idea is. The attempt to encompass every kind of “making” and include everyone also has me doubtful. While everyone can be a “maker,” the things made in Maker spaces seem skewed toward technology and robotics, which doesn’t sound particularly interesting to me. So off I go, a little skeptical, but sufficiently curious.

The Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire will be held the weekend of November 11-12th. Check out this list to see if any stores near you are participating.


Maker Faire at BN Maker Movement