7,500 visitors roamed the aisles of the first Maker Faire Paris on the 21st and 22nd of June at Centquatre. A public success despite some muddles.
Text and pictures by Quentin Chevrier
The void is filled. After a test run organised in Saint-Malo in October 2013, the first ever edition of Maker Faire Paris took place on the 21st and 22nd of June at Centquatre. The event was highly expected by the community of makers who saw Maker Faires travel the world from Hong Kong to Rome via Barcelona without ever touching down in France.
The French version of this DiY fair – that gathers tens of thousands of visitors in the United States where it was created in 2006 – was co-organized by FabShop, which claims to be the “French leader in 3D personal printing” with its Maker Bot battalion fully operational in the central area. “It looks a bit like the Empire army in Star Wars” says an exhibitor with a smile.
The 7,500 visitors (15,000 expected) strolled about the Maker Faire encountering prototypes, fablabs, associations and sometimes running into a master Jedi or a drone. All those largely interspersed with resellers of 3D scanners, 3D printers, 3D printing-pens, 3D printing filaments… “It’s a shame, it is only a tool, but it represents the hook for the general public, the “wow” effect whereas there are so many other technologies and projects that deserve just as much “wow”…” comments a Parisian fabmanager.
Sarah, manager of the fablab Maker sur Seine is rather “pleasantly surprised”. Noticing that the atmosphere on Sunday was “essentially family”, she points out: “However on Saturday I met some people who had interesting projects and with whom it would be interesting to collaborate.” Great names also met in the aisles. Even Philippe Stark was seen lingering.
— ecodesign fab lab (@ecodesignfablab) 22 Juin 2014
Welcome to the ConsumeMaker Faire of Paris
Leroy Merlin, partner of the event, greeted visitors in a rather abrupt manner: even before they had passed through the doors of Centquatre or had had a glimpse of a robot, a team of women interviewers questioned each visitor on their affiliations with the “maker movement”, their speciality (understand their favourite department in the store), to finish with their monthly income and of course their email address on which to send advertisements. Not a very warm greeting for a festival announced as “fun and family”.
Entrance fee at 15 euros…
The entrance fee to the Maker Faire Paris – 15 euros for the day pass – was the target of a great deal of criticism. No unemployed or senior rate. The Maker Faire in Rome for instance charges 8 euros for the day pass and the price goes down to 4 euros for students or minors. When one knows that the Parisian edition became profitable on the evening of the first day, one has a right to ask oneself if an effort on accessibility should not be considered.
More than 4,000 lead-soldered badges
The organisers and Leroy Merlin had thought of a mini workshop with guaranteed success: sit at a workbench and solder two LEDs on a badge showing the effigy of the Maker Faire mascot. A true DiY moment accessible to all. The idea was good but badly carried out. The tin wire used over two days contained lead. And it must be kept out of reach of children and one must not breathe its fumes. Even though the staff supervising the mini workshop was providing the public with goggles protecting against LED projection, no protection was offered regarding the inhaling of lead. This is particularly regrettable in the sense that Leroy Merlin knows about these risks. It even details them on its website. For the next edition, leadless tin should be privileged…and fortunately Leroy Merlin sells it.
In order to count makers, let’s count 3D printers
Stuck up in the corridors of Centquatre, a computer graphics poster (created by the We Are Social agency on behalf of FabShop) summarised the “maker movement” with rather odd criteria. So, We Are Social counted in 2013 “6,907 objects created from scratch” and “266 repaired”. There would have been a 32% increase in the number of 3D printers and a 200% increase in the number of 3D scanners.
We presented this computer graphics poster to fabmanagers present at the Maker Faire. Considered as “very questionable, in both form and content”, as “very simplistic and incomplete” or as “quite comical”, the computer graphics poster set off considerable criticisms (to which we rally). First of all the “maker movement” is not quantified by tens of 3D printers or scanners. Next, the number of members seems totally unrealistic and the notion of “objects made from scratch” has no sense in a lab. And even so, this data leads to an average of 2 “objects created from scratch” per “member”. Not very productive these makers… Last but not least, it is an easily avoidable mistake to want to quantify the “maker movement” by questioning only 29 fablabs in France. Next time “call upon experts” recommends one of the fabmanagers (surprised not to have been questioned for this enquiry).