Sayaka Ganz makes art out of thrift store plastics.
Jim Merz makes computer-controlled, moving sculptures.
Together, they created Luminariales, an art exhibit of computer-controlled, moving chandeliers made of vibrant plasticware and internally lit with LED modules.
The exhibit traveled from the Fort Wayne Museum of Art all the way to Cecina, Italy, and the idea for Ganz and Merz to collaborate was born at a Fort Wayne Regional Maker Faire.
That’s the purpose of the fair, said event producer Jane Applegate. It creates a community for collaboration among creative minds as part of a national maker movement – a movement of people who tinker, invent and replicate interesting creations in their basements, garages and backyards.
“Our goal is to connect makers with each other and the general public, and give them a way to share their passion,” Applegate said.
The third annual Fort Wayne Regional Maker Faire featured about 100 exhibits over the course of the weekend. Makers hosted booths and interactive workshops for the public in Headwaters Park to show off their creations, and they thought of such things as virtual computer games, engines and even a life-size plane that really flies.
In the back corner of the park, some of the smallest toys made the most noise. A long, explosive sound, such as that generated by a rocket during liftoff, came from the center of a crowd of about 20 people.
They stood in a semicircle around a jet engine that was only a few feet long. Those standing closest to the engine covered their ears with their hands. Allen Bontrager of Shipshewana watched in amazement with his four teenage nephews.
They came to see “cool stuff” today, he said, and the boys agreed that the jet engine was one of their favorites.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Bontrager said. “It’s neat to see all the different things people make.”
When the engine stopped humming, the four men behind it started fiddling with another one of their contraptions, a “Hit and Miss.” It’s a miniature replica of an 1898 internal combustion engine they built 20 years ago, said Randal Sordelet, the owner of Randal’s Machine Shop in Fort Wayne.
The four-man team calls itself the Ultimate Tinkers.
One of the Tinkers, James Touchstone of Fort Wayne, spun the little engine’s wheels and lifted the exhaust, so it made a high-pitched screech.
“Everybody gets annoyed with that,” said Chris Merriman of Albion, another Tinker.
He and his father, Grant Merriman of Albion, met Sordelet and Touchstone at a house party last year. This year was their first time attending the Fort Wayne fair together. Their collection of engines and noisy toys won a first place ribbon in July at the Detroit Maker Faire.
They also showcase their work at local schools.
“This is educational for kids,” Sordelet said.
“We do this to teach kids that there’s more to life than cell phones,” Touchstone said.
Applegate hopes to establish a similar space in downtown Fort Wayne for the city’s growing coalition of makers who are members of TekVenture, a nonprofit for local makers to share space, tools and ideas, so they can flex their creative muscles.
They’re currently operating out of a 50-foot trailer in one of the Allen County Public Library’s parking lots where they offer classes and house equipment for creating contraptions.
Applegate said the TekVenture supporters hope the Fort Wayne Maker Faire will help raise awareness and money for them to find a permanent home downtown, but the process has been slow.
“It has been tough to get funding for the initial push out there and become self sustaining,” Applegate said. “We’re hoping by doing the Fort Wayne Regional Maker Faire we can generate enough excitement from the community that people are like, ‘We have to have this here.’ ”