TINKERING is big. There are people out there meddling with stuff and things and bits and bobs gathered from here, there and everywhere, and putting them together and making, well ... new stuff.
A fascination with creating has perhaps become more apparent since recession and austerity hit and a general culture of recycle and reuse, make-do-and-mend has become more essential, but it’s been a long-standing underground obsession for thousands of people. And they’re not all called Tinkerbell.
So tomorrow fellow tinkerers will be getting together as the finale of the Edinburgh International Science Festival is launched: the Mini Maker Faire.
It’s the first time such a fair has been held in Edinburgh – the idea began in the US and has already spread as far as Oslo and Newcastle – and it will be a showcase for the crafty and technical talent that exists in the city.
From furniture designers to soap makers and sugar skull designers to sound engineers, the Faire will be displaying all the technological inventiveness and crafty resourcefulness available in Edinburgh, and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.
That’s certainly what Tam Treanor is hoping. The sound engineer and audio consultant from Leith will be there with his own invention – a reactive dance floor – but is also aiming to be inspired by the creativity of others.
He’s also proof that tinkering can ultimately lead to real solutions for modern-day problems.
“I have been interested in electronics and computer coding for quite some time and technology that you can build yourself,” he says.
“The disco floor, for instance, came about because I was putting together things for a geek chic discotheque party and I thought it would be a fun project to explore, and that has led on to other things.
“The floor responds in light and sound to where you stand on it. That’s an idea that has interested Sense Scotland which believes the software could be developed to help disabled people, so it’s gone from something that was for fun, to something which could have real value. That’s where tinkering can lead.”
“It could help people with no sight be able to navigate their way through their homes better, or it could just appeal to people who want a technologically modern home.
“I’m really looking forward to the fair because it will let me meet other tinkerers of tech, who are a nice group of people who like exchanging help and ideas, and engaging with the public to share the joy of building something yourself and the fun you can get from that.
“I’ll also be interested to see what old tech, like TVs, people have used to create something new and useful.”
Which is the philosophy of Amy Dolan, the creative brains behind Ziggy Sawdust, a furniture re-design business. Amy up- cycles retro and vintage furniture once destined for the skip, to make contemporary creations with a twist.
“I like to think what I produce is an escapism from the recent trend of generic, flat-packed furniture,” she explains. “Most furniture today just isn’t built to last, but the pieces that I source have already stood the test of time and, with some TLC and vision, are transformed into pieces which will shine for years to come.
“I always have had an eye for sourcing things that are a little bit different and I love working with colour to create a look that is unusual and unexpected, yet fits perfectly. My mission is to mix the solid quality of yesteryear with a fresh contemporary aesthetic.”
Louise Smith is another who likes to inspire the public into making – which is why she founded the Edinburgh Contemporary Craft Centre in January last year and has seen it go from strength to strength.
Already 200 people have taken part in courses and it’s become so successful it’s about to become a charity and move into a permanent home in Blair Street.
Louise, who works in print, metal, clay and wood, says: “My vision was to establish a multidisciplinary workshop to support new and established makers and encourage public appreciation and enjoyment of craft.
“Makers benefit from access to a range of tools and equipment, the chance to push their work in new and interesting directions and the opportunity to collaborate with other makers, while the courses and projects get the public involved and inspire everyone to get making.”
Others displaying their wares tomorrow include the Edinburgh Hacklab – the brains behind the Eyeborg camera which was put into a filmmaker’s false eye – who will be showcasing a robotic arm as well as a quadcopter; Granny Sally’s Soap Kitchen, a family soap-making firm which produces 1950s glamour- inspired smelly stuff; food artist Mahala Le May, who makes Mexican sugar skulls; product designer Euan Lind with a new flexible construction toy for kids; and Sandy Noble’s polargraph drawing machine.
A spokesman for the Faire said: “This is the hottest show and tell in town, a showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness and a celebration of the Maker movement. The Faire will show off the skills and ingenuity of people from across Scotland from traditional crafts to innovative technologies, rapid prototyping to skills honed over many years.
“Basically it’s just about celebrating the diversity and quality of an exciting world of creative endeavour and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.”
• The Mini Maker Faire will be held at Summerhall tomorrow from 10am to 5pm. Tickets are £2.50. Visit http://makerfaireedinburgh.com for more information. Also visit www.tamtreanor.com, www.ziggysawdust.co.uk, www.edinburghcontemporarycrafts.co.uk, www.grannysallyssoapkitchen.com.