Friday, August 17, 2012

Some Thoughts on Mini Maker Faires

Happy to say that Mini MakerFaire Rhode Island was quite a success!  I really enjoyed spreading the good word of needlefelting to everyone that stopped by my booth, and if you were a lucky recipient of a felted heart, flower, flamingo, etc., please send me a pic of what you created with it, and I'll post!

Many and huge thanks to Matthew, Marty and Amy for helping me out, needlefelting alongside me for demos, watching the booth for snack breaks and providing support!!!  Also to Brian and Kip - without those two it's possible there would be no Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island.  They put their hearts and souls (and wallets!) into this event to make it happen, and they do an amazing job!

Now here's where the group hugs end and it gets ugly.

One of the visitors to my booth made a rather snide comment to me during the event, one that I must say flustered me a little (where was this coming from, anyway?) and one that initially made me extremely angry the more I thought about it.  Now that I've taken a couple days to get over my rage process it, I think maybe sending out a little education to those that may not be in the know is a better way to approach the situation.  Without getting into it, the nasty little comment was about "community events" and "charging admission".

1) Many Times, It Is Free:  Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island has been free (YES TOTALLY FREE!) for the four years it has been in existence.  Come out, walk around, meet cool people, see amazing things, have fun!  [Your comment to me, sir, has been invalidated with this point.  Enjoy.]

2) Bigger Crowds!:  This year, the Faire was indeed part of another festival.  It was part of another festival in its first years too.  I won't go into details here because this happens all the time - Mini Maker Faires have an awesome chance of getting better crowds (read: spreading the love) when combined with other festivals, museums, events, whathaveyou.  Sometimes those other events / museums / etc. charge admission.  Sometimes not.  This time, the *other* event was charging admission.  I won't apologize for that - none of my business.   Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island doesn't make any money from that.

3) Despite Popular Belief, Money Doesn't Grow On Trees:  Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island, like any other Maker Faire, or festival for that matter, *costs money* to put on, yet you as the event-goer are not being charged admission.  Process that one for a second.  Rented tables, electric bills, street closures, rented spaces/tents, insurance, the list goes on.  Where, exactly, does money come from to cover all of this?  For this event, it comes straight out of the pockets of the people who believe in the event (and making things!); from the people who want not only to see the event happen, but also want the world in general continue to make, learn, create and innovate.  Donations came in from believers who lived very far away and couldn't even attempt to make it in the day of the event.  So please, do enjoy for free what others have donated for, and try to be a little more grateful!

4) How I Get Paid:  Plain and simple fact of the matter is, as an exhibitor, I get paid in satisfaction, smiles and fun.  Satisfaction - in that I'm helping to spread the word about a little-known craft, and hoping to bring new needlefelters into the fold.  Smiles - as I get to watch visitors to my booth light up in their eyes and faces as they really *look* at my project.  Fun - because these events are just a great time and the perfect chance to meet tons of other like-minded folk.  Unless you're selling a product, service, etc. at one of these events, you don't make money.  You're not paid just to participate.  I don't sell my craft items anymore, I don't teach public paid classes on how to do this craft, and so I don't make money from it.  In fact, it costs *me* money to participate, as the craft supplies, giveaways and gas money to get there all come directly out of my pocket!

5) This Is Hard Work!:  I've happily spent massive hours completing projects and planning for booths, traveled hundreds of miles, donated and volunteered countless days of my "free" time, stood around sopping wet in the rain, hauled and lifted and scraped things three times my size, lost my voice, skipped meals, and winced off sunburns and dehydration with my shoes melting into the blacktop in 100 degree + heat - all in the name of making and participating in an event for the greater good.  On top of a full-time (and then some) job, and taking care of my family.

So in summary, I ask of you only one thing:  Please keep these things in mind the next time you feel like making a nasty comment directly to a participant about having to pay a small admission fee.  I didn't get to pay that nominal admission fee for a day-long festival absolutely packed with amazingness and awesome people, and enjoy another free event on top of that, and walk around all day relaxed and enjoying a beer.  Instead, I chose to donate my entire Saturday (that's right - 9am through 11pm for this particular one) and help educate anyone who would listen.

There's blood, sweat and oftentimes tears in a Maker Faire of any kind.  Please appreciate, don't heckle, the makers.

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