Creative talents converge together for Makerfest

Daniel Parker
Contributing Writer

Participants at the RVA Makerfest presented an interactive pottery exhibit. Photo by Ana Gonzalez.

The first convention for makers was held at the Virginia Science Museum Sept. 27, bringing creative minds from all over the city together to present their latest projects.

Jeff MacDonald, adjunct professor at the VCU Brandcenter, has worked as a creative technologist at the Martin Agency for the past three years.

“We’re all about showing our capabilities,” MacDonald said. “That ranges from building party bot that three foot box over there, to the slipdot board and 3D printing.”

The Martin Agency is one of the main sponsors of RVA Makerfest. The festival was run independently after experiencing licensing problems with Make magazine, an international organizer of Maker fairs.

“They were organizing a maker fest in San Francisco,” said Melanie Barker, a member of the board for RVA Makerfest. “It made them hard to contact so our timeline just ran out, so RVA Makerfest became an independent festival and I think that’s more in the spirit of Richmond.”

RVA Makerfest had two goals, one was to give a place for makers to show off their talent and the other was to allow the public to see the process of creating.

“There’s just a really creativity energy right now,” Barker said. “I’ve lived in Richmond now for nine years and it really seems like it’s taking off.”

RVA Makerfest featured 65 vendors, the great majority from Richmond and other surrounding counties. The fair included tables on virtual reality, mobile applications, laser art, glass work, aerial drone photography and solar power lumber mills.

Local printmakers presented hand-made designs at the inagural RVA Makerfest. Photo by Ana Gonzalez.

“I thought I found a lot inspiration for creativity there,” said Louis Huynh, a VCU advertising student. “I’m doing work for a class of mine and I found a lot to work off there.”

Solarmill, a lumber mill from Henrico County, makes wooden iPod cases and cutting boards. All of their products are built by a machine using solar-powered cutting. Manufacturers often avoid using solar power but Solarmill founder, Bert Green embraces the technology.

“I saw this awesome opportunity of combining … solar power with robotics,” Green said. “All those have a connection except solar and manufacturing.”

Green founded the company in 2011, and plans to take everything at the mill off the grid in a year. Green said he found connecting to other makers to be one of the main benefits of the festival.

“There’s a great sense of community,” Green said. “To be inspired by what other people are doing.”

Big Secret also held an exhibit on their laser art. The company burns intricate designs onto wood and glass, and larger pieces take around two hours to create. Jason Lefton founded the company four years ago, after seeing laser art online.

“I took a risk and bought a machine,” Lefton said.

Big Secret started as a side project for Lefton. The company grew into a side business and now his job is full time. Laser art works by transferring an image into a scanner, then onto software that burns the image with a laser.

“I just fell in love with the process,” Lefton said.

As the festival ended, creaters packed away their innovative products, leaving Richmonders with the inspiration to create something of their own.

All of the makers who participated in Makerfest can be found through rvamakerfest.com

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