Making Makers at the Colorado Association of Libraries 2014 Conference

Since the 1970s, when it became cheaper to buy a new color TV than it was to fix the old one, we’ve lived in a throwaway culture. That’s what Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing creator, Editor and Chief of Make Magazine and Boulder native told an audience at the Colorado Association of Libraries 2014 conference yesterday. I was on a panel at the conference and was lucky enough to sneak over to Mark’s talk.

Mark said that 100 years ago, 80 percent of Americans were natural makers – we lived on farms and had to create the things we needed. Then there was the Great Making Lull (GML) of the 1970s through early 2000s, when the perfect storm of desire, access to inexpensive research and development tools, prototyping materials, funding sources like Kickstarter, access to manufacturing like 3D printers, laser cutters etc. and DIY sales channels came together to lower the barrier to entry to innovation and making.

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5 Ways to Foster Innovation in Children

Last week, Maker Boulder published a series of short posts by Alice Kembel describing how to foster innovation in kids. She should know: her husband, George, is Global Director and Co-Founder of the Stanford D-School and Alice is a thought leader in maker education. The Kembels are new to Boulder and bring with them their three innovative boys. And after last week’s series a couple of you intrepid readers asked if you could pretty please just have all the tips in one place instead of having to click post-to-post and inevitably getting lost in the process. So here they are: Alice Kembel’s 5 Ways to Foster Innovation in Children!

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Cardboard to the Left, Monsters to the Right…

C’mon, we know you want to sing it: Here I am, stuck in the middle with you-oo! And we’re right there along with you during these excruciating weekdays between excellent Maker events. We had a hootenanny at last weekend’s Cardboard Challenge. And we’re planning a hootenanny-squared for this Saturday’s Monster to Love building event. Consider registering early: we finally had to cap registration for the cardboard challenge and we expect Monsters to be equally popular.

You may have heard of Monster to Love, the Fort Collins company run by Ray Tollison and his sons, Sam and Ben, donates a hand-sewn monster to charity for every monster purchased. At Friday’s homegrown sew-fest here in Boulder, CO you and yours will have the opportunity to make two monsters: one to keep and one to give away. For $30 it’s not only a darn good deal for an opportunity to learn about the design-and-sew process from a family that lives it, but an opportunity to give a little monstrous joy to a child who could use it; Monsters to Love has given away more than 1,500 monsters to charities like Realities for Children in Larimer County and directly to hospitals around Colorado and abroad (because we all know that anywhere outside Colorado is “abroad”).

When you think about it, the idea flow is pretty logical for Sam and Ben, fraternal twins: you make two monsters, neither exactly the same, and then when you’re holding one monster you know that somewhere out there in the world is its twin.

“It makes you feel less alone,” says Ray, who by day is website manager for the aid organization World Relief.

Ben is the lead designer. Sam and Ray do the sewing. But they’re limited in their ability to reach people by the constraints of time and their 10 digits (well, 30 digits if you add them all together). Ray and the boys stopped by the Maker Boulder booth at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire and Ray said that he’s looking into the possibility of expanding past their basic Singer sewing machines. But until that happens, they need your help. And ours too: we’ll be there sewing and we hope you will be too!

Here’s the 411: Saturday, October 18, 3:00-5:00pm at Mackintosh Academy in Boulder. It’s $30 and preregistration is recommended. Parents should consider staying to help their kids under age 12 and the event isn’t necessarily recommended for mini-Makers under age 5 (you know: scissors, needles and all that).
Eventbrite - Monster to Love -- Create a Monster!

For inspiration, please see the Monster to Love Pinterest page, or the too-cute, ugly images below:


Why the D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 1)

Anyone visiting our home will stumble upon numerous unique creations designed by our three boys: bats with five-foot wingspans made of paper and masking tape, daggers whittled from sticks, bug zoos designed with wine corks and popsicle sticks, night vision goggles consisting of toilet paper tubes and duct tape, snake traps constructed from cardboard and string, and a two-pronged lice comb that my oldest son made for his kindergarten teacher out of wooden skewers and Scotch tape.

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Throwback Thursday: History’s 5 Most Underrated Inventions

What are the most important inventions of all time? Some people go for big, obvious things…like boats, the printing press, or gunpowder. Don’t get me wrong, those are all pretty great and everything. But the printing press is nowhere without paper and sans compass, boats were pretty much stuck paddling around in sight of land. This list rights the wrongs of history’s tunnel vision. Here are history’s 5 most underrated and overlooked inventions. Read more

Images as Communication: Logos, Icons, Infographics, Oh My!

We remember things better when we anchor them to images. We see this in the mnemonics of memory competitions and we also it with the recent info-graphic craze, in which artists illustrate the driest data, bringing it to life in a way that makes it both more digestible and also easier to remember.

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How to Can Plums (Without Giving Your Kids Botulism!)

Last week a friend ended up on my doorstep. She has 3 plum trees in Wheatridge, Colorado and she had 5 pounds of plums – for me. For me this was akin to wishing for a pony – and then getting it. It was a lovely gesture and plums are great eats and all, but now I have to do something with plums. Five pounds of them.

I’m a canner, I admit it. A cabinet full of Ball jars full of different foods is my nirvana. My mom chastises me for this, saying that canning is so violent on the food. But I say that anything that is left to stew in its juices for a few months is awesome. I’m kind of a foodie, so just putting plums up in jars was never really an option; I had to step it up a notch.

That’s where the booze comes in.

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Maker Movement Infographic

Infographic: The Maker Movement

Thanks to the good folks at for creating this excellent little piece of propaganda.

The Difference Between a Pinwheel and a Dog

Flashback with me: squiggly lines, squiggly lines, squiggly lines. We’re at the Denver Mini Maker Faire in early May, 2014. The National Western Complex is busy with inquisitive children, adults, childlike adults and even a couple childish adults all buzzing with the excitement of various hands-on activities and demonstrations. had a booth at the Faire — it was one of our first incarnations. And in addition to a Makey Makey and a couple other jazz-hands attention grabbers, we had selected an engaging little craft: a clever pinwheel made out of simple straws, tape and some soft wire.

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