Aaaaaaand another Maker Faire is a wrap, and very successfully if I do say so myself. If you would like to see the pictures we took at Maker Faire this year, please click here.
Now for the wrap up. The booth was once again in the Craft section in the Expo Hall, which remains a good fit for the project. (I am so glad that there are still a few of us who are focused on providing art making experiences, not just tech skills or demos. I think it’s really important to keep the Faire STEAM not just STEM.) There was a big post in the middle of the booth space so we had to configure the booth a little differently than usual with the “photo booth”/sign and special materials in the center of the booth instead of on the side, but it still worked out fairly well. I hung the handwritten “Freak Flag Manifesto” poster on the post though and lots of people stopped and took pictures of it. I had plenty of fabulous freaky assistants (big freaky thank you’s to Keri, Cassandra, Maya, Lisa, Jamie, Molly, Anjanette, Heather, Steven, Eileen, Russell, Matthew, Susan and of course the Husband of Pure Awesomeness) and the Faire closed an hour earlier on Saturday night so I was not as exhausted as I have sometimes been in the past.
Even with all those helpers though we still didn’t manage to take a picture of every flag made. I would guesstimate that a good 40-50% of the people who make flags don’t take a picture with us, whether because they actively choose not to or because they just get missed by one of us. And we still are lacking a parade marshall so there weren’t any parades again this year—although I did see a few flags out in the “wild” of the rest of the Faire during the couple times I managed to escape the booth.
We made fewer flags this year than last year (400ish instead of 500ish) but the booth still felt consistently busy all weekend (well, at least on Saturday and Sunday; Friday was pretty slow). Donations held relatively steady at about 42% of people donating the requested $4/flag (last year it was 44%). So we have a little bit less in the bank to buy craft supplies and other materials for next year, but fortunately we had a fair amount of craft supplies left over after this year so hopefully that will work out okay.
We had a bunch of repeat customers from prior Maker Faires, which is always a satisfying thing. A few people even told me that they’d enjoyed making flags so much the year(s) prior that the FYFFH booth was the one they headed to first to make sure they didn’t miss it.
Most exciting of all, though, FYFFH won two awards this year! An “Editor’s Choice” blue ribbon and a “Best in Class” red ribbon. And the people who gave them to me were very complimentary and appreciative of the project and its “Maker spirit”, which was so nice to hear. Sometimes I do feel insecure and wonder if anyone is noticing FYFFH and all the effort I put into it and the awards and kind words (along with the repeat customers and the donations) proves that yes, some people are.
Overall I had a great time talking to people and explaining the project and why it was important to reclaim the word “freak”, even to the little kids who just wanted to play with the sequins and pens and pipe cleaners. Often people wanted to tell us stories about times they had been shamed or ostracized for being different—in my opinion, supportive, non-judgmental listening to those stories is itself one of the most healing and helpful parts of the FYFFH project.
For future reference, here is a version of the “patter” I used with people when explaining the project and afterwards when they were finished:
“Hi, are you ready to make something?” (or “would you like to make a flag?”) Or sometimes, “are you ready to make something or are you still at Looker Faire?”
“Okay, let me explain a couple of things to you before I give you the flag and let you loose on the sparkly stuff. So do you see that all the flags have the same word on them? What’s that word?”
“Freak” (or “I don’t know”, and then I’d ask “can I tell you?”)
“That’s right. What’s a freak?”
(Sometimes they’d say something like “someone who is different”, in which case I’d say “that’s right!” or they’d say “someone who’s scared of something—like freaking out” and then I’d comment “well, sort of. ‘Freaking out’ might also mean you’re just really excited about something, right?” But most often they’d say…)
“I don’t know.”
“That’s good! That means no one ever called you that before in a mean way. Because sometimes people use this word in a mean way, and we don’t like that. We want this word to be a compliment. So can I tell you what *I* think a freak is? A freak is someone who’s different. And guess what? We are all different! I’m not like you, you’re not like him, or her.
“And that’s great! If we were all the same, it’d be pretty boring. So we are all a freak in some way, at some time, to someone. I also think a freak is someone who loves something a whole lot. Like when you look at me, can you tell what I love a lot? (Answer was usually “sparkles!” or sometimes “dressing up!”) Right! I am definitely an art freak, that’s why I do this project. The question is, what kind of freak are you? [POINT TO SIGN] See, we have a whole list of questions to help you think about it. But let me ask you some now. What do you love a lot? What is your favorite thing? When you’re not in school, what do you like to do?”
(Answer, with response and bonus high fives where appropriate.)
“Great, put that on your flag. You can draw it, or write it, or use any of the craft materials we have here to represent it. Or you can just play with the materials, that’s okay too. So listen, you can use anything on the tables, and anything from this extra stuff up here in the middle of the booth. But I have one important pro tip that you have to listen to. Are you ready? Okay it’s this: if you use glue, just use a little. ‘Dot dot, not a lot!’ Because if you use too much it won’t dry and then it’ll drip and things will fall off your flag or you’ll be walking around the rest of the Faire holding it in front of you and then you’ll be a sad freak. And nobody likes a sad freak. Got it?
(Give them a blank flag.)
So when you’re done, come back and see me or my lovely assistant, and we’ll take your picture for our gallery. We’ve been doing this project for 5 years now and we have an awesome gallery of hundreds and hundreds of people with their flags, and now you get to be there too.”
Then when people were finished and ready to take their pictures…
“Hey, can I see? Wow! What a great flag! I love what you did. (Here I would try to comment and compliment them on at least one part of their flag, and if there was time ask some questions about what they put on it.) Are you ready for your closeup? Step into my photo booth. Great! Would you like a little card to remind you of where to go look for the picture? I’ll have the pics up in a few weeks, but in the meantime you can look at all the other great flags there. Because you know what? They’re all different. Just like we are. And they’re all awesome, just like we are. And if you had a great time and you’d like to make a donation to help us do this again next year, we would be really grateful. You can freak it forward and help us buy more glitter pom poms for next year!”