Meet Your Makers: David Gowman – The Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra


David Gowman, or Mr. Fire-Man as he’s better known online, is a prolific instrument-maker, performer, orchestra leader and culture creator.


Mr. Fire-Man creates events that allow viewers to become participators. He trains volunteers to act as ‘shills,’ or prepared performers hidden in the audience. He also creates physical artworks (horns made from local, natural materials), and composes song structures that allow simple interactions to happen – such as a ‘Call and Response’ song.


The result of such meticulous preparation is not only to make musical instruments, but also to create a cultural moment that sicks in participants’ memories. The result is a unique event where the barrier between performer and audience is removed, resulting in the union of creator and consumer.


From his Maker Faire bio:


“In 2002 I made a horn from a stick of elderberry wood. It took about two hours of labour to produce a sound. Nine years later, a band called the Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra entertains with the descendants of that horn (there are over forty as of last count). Looking back, that simple act of burning a shaft through the pith to make a chamber was a turning point leading to a near decade of music, interactive art and instrument making.”


As I learned more about him, I became more and more intrigued. Homemade horns? More than forty of them? All made from natural materials? Combined to create a Horn Orchestra? And anyone can take part??




So I caught up with Mr. Fire-Man to find out more about his work, and hear what he plans to demonstrate at this year’s Maker Faire.


What’s the The Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra all about? Can you describe your sound?


The Legion of Flying Monkeys is an interactive art project that happens to have an orchestra specializing in singalong music. We also have monkey puppets, parades of clowns, diabolical corporate geneticists and dangerously hypnotic lounge experiences, but perhaps for this interview I should focus on the orchestra.


Our sound is midway between Circus Sideshow and Zombie Apocalypse, though you should judge for yourself.


You make horns from local, natural materials such as old felt hats, hardwood branches, the dried stems of giant cow parsnip and papier mache. What are your favourite materials to work with, and why?


My current favourite material is empresswood because of its ease of carving, lightweight nature and speed of growth. Also, I am cultivating it locally at the Means of Production Garden with some success.  A well pruned empress will produce 18 feet of new, hollow growth in a season.



A neat thing about your live events is how they allow the viewers to become participants. Can you tell us more about how this works?


Most of our songs have an interactive element, meaning a part that the audience can sing (or yell as the case may be). Simple structures such as a call and response style facilitate easy entrance into the spirit of participation even for the uninitiated.


How can someone check out your events? When do they happen, and where  are they located?


My events are always posted on my website. Currently we’re playing Midsummer Fete at Colony Farms on Sunday June 24th, the Jazz Fest on Saturday July 1 in David Lam Park, the Railway Club on Wednesday July 18th (9pm) and Maker Faire before all of these, on the Saturday afternoon.


What do you plan on bringing / demonstrating at Vancouver Mini Maker Faire this year? How interactive will it be?


I’ll be bringing several horns for random visitors to try, many alcohol wipes to disinfect them in-between, and a huge selection of razor sharp tools for children to handle (just kidding). You can expect loud horn blasts to emanate from my booth throughout the day.



Meet Your Makers: Rachael Ashe


Rachael Ashe is an emerging Vancouver artist working in the mediums of altered books, photography and collage. She often works with recycled materials and found objects to create three-dimensional altered books and mixed-media collage.


As well, she plays with paper, paint, rubber stamps, reclaimed papers, and old book pages to create her work. This particular piece is my favourite:



Her compositions feature whimsical scenes inspired by the natural world, and she combines colour, texture, and striking compositions to create imagery that is personal and expresses a love of imagination.


Being a bit of a book nerd (not just in terms of reading, but in terms of collecting idiosyncratic, book-related things), I was excited to pick Rachael’s brain to find out what she plans to demonstrate at this year’s Maker Faire, and to learn more about her artistic process.


Your work is beautiful, and I am a particular fan of your altered books. Can you walk me through your creative process?


Opus Art Supplies recently did a video feature about my work, and gives the viewer a terrific view of my process:



My process is iterative and often spontaneous. I do my best work when I get out of the way and let the ideas flow. With respect to the altered book work I create, the compositions I come up with are either inspired by a particular material or object I’d like to incorporate into a book, or because I’m experimenting with a new way of manipulating the pages through cutting, folding, etc. Most of the books I use to create altered books end up with me because someone no longer wanted them.



You often use recycled materials and found objects to make your art. What is the most unique found object you’ve ever worked with?


The most unique found object I’ve worked with to date would have to be a crow’s foot. I was working on a series called, Forgotten Knowledge, which combined natural found objects with a set of encyclopedias. I just happened to come across it in a park, and decided to use the foot in one of the books after carefully preserving it. I’ve also used bones in my compositions a few times.



Who / where do you look to for inspiration?


I get inspired by the materials I work with, and by the challenge of coming up with new ways of working, but the content of my work is heavily influenced by nature. I also make a point of meeting up with my fellow artists and makers because I get inspired and energized by sharing ideas with others.


Your work has been shown in cities all over North America and in the UK. Is there something about your work that makes it distinctly Canadian, or West Coast?


I’ve managed to show outside of Canada because I sought out those opportunities. I don’t really feel my work is distinctly Canadian or West Coast. I actually feel my work doesn’t fit very well at all into the Vancouver art scene.


What do you plan on bringing / demonstrating at Vancouver Mini Maker Faire this year?


As with last year, I’ll be displaying some of my recent work. I’ll also have a second table set up for people to hang out and make things from books and book pages. I recently acquired a donation of materials from a law library decommissioning some of their collection, and I’m bringing some of these along for people to work with. I won’t be teaching a formal workshop, just offering suggestions and guidance if needed. I’m curious to see what people will want to make, as it can be difficult for people to get their heads around working with books as a material.




Check our more of Rachael’s work on her website, twitter, and Facebook.

Makers Assemble at North Van Elementary Schools


Last Friday morning, June 15th, I brought three makers with me to put on assemblies at two North Vancouver elementary schools.


Andrew Milne, Jesse Scott, and Vincent van Haaf brought their joy of making and some of their original creations to show off to the children. Despite being a bit nervous to present to 150 eight to twelve year olds, all three makers were super energized by the children’s enthusiasm. We were all impressed by the intelligent comments and questions, but our favourite was, “Do you do birthday parties?” Well, after the fun we had presenting in North Vancouver, birthday parties are under serious consideration…


Jesse Scott explains laser graffiti to a captive audience.

Andrew Milne shows off his hand-built 3D printer


Meet Your Makers: Kim Werker of Mighty Ugly


Hannah Miller interviewed Mighty Ugly project creator Kim Werker.


You’ll find Kim Werker’s Mighty Ugly table at VMMF littered with crafting odds and ends. You’ll notice the other participants at her table, their tongues stuck out in concentration, deeply engaged in constructing creatures that may strike you as not so pretty, or even – hideously ugly. Kim will invite you to join them and be a maker yourself. The one challenge: make something ugly – on purpose!


Mighty Ugly


As adults, there are times when our expectations or fears about the final product of our making may limit us. Would you say that Mighty Ugly takes the focus from the ultimate result and places it back onto the act of making itself?


Yes, Mighty Ugly definitely focuses us on the process of making, rather than on the product. I even tell participants to pay particular attention to the decisions they make as they work to create an ugly creature – how are those decisions different than the ones they make when they usually make stuff? Very few people end up keeping their ugly creature, which I find fascinating. We’re not usually so quick to toss our work in the trash, but I take this as evidence the focus on process over product really works.



Obviously, it’s a message that many creative-types can relate to. Have you had participants from unexpected industries apply your lesson?


My dream is to do Mighty Ugly with industry groups. Alas, thus far I’ve worked either with arts or crafts groups, and with individuals who participate at a large event like Maker Faire. But there are definitely some participants I remember clearly. There was the man at last year’s Vancouver Mini Maker Faire who participated with his young son. As his son happily made his own creature, the man literally sweated through making his entirely out of buttons. He explained to me that he has a button phobia, so to him, a creature made of buttons is the ugliest thing he could imagine (I thought it was adorable; he was horrified by it). And I once had an artist in a workshop use only staples to assemble her creature, explaining that in her opinion, technology has no place in art.


Who do you think struggles the most to make something ugly?


I’m always surprised that I don’t find distinct patterns in this. Certainly artists and crafters exhibit the most discomfort. But once people get going, regardless of their background and their experience, I think it’s the perfectionists who have the hardest time.



Even though the challenge is to make an ugly creature, the creatures documented in your flickr pool could be seen as beautiful in their originality! How do you define ugly and beautiful within your project?


Heh. I don’t. I push other people to talk about *their* definitions of ugly and beautiful.


Something I do stress is that Mighty Ugly allows us to explore beauty by paying very close attention to a quality we often try to pretend has no place in our work (ugly). And I also stress that my hope is that through the exercise of making something ugly on purpose, people will see that there’s great value in exploring our concept of ugly. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is ugly. See my comment about the man’s adorable/terrifying button creature, above.



What lessons do you bring from your Mighty Ugly experiences to your other crafting work, when it requires you to follow a pattern, or make something wearable or fashionable?


I’m much, much more relaxed as a crafter now. I’m far more comfortable ripping something out and starting again if I’m unhappy with what I’m doing – and I’m also more comfortable living with mistakes. I’m more inclined to try something that intimidates me, instead of shying away. I almost never feel shame anymore if I fail miserably when I try something new. And I’m far more comfortable admitting my ignorance about something, and asking lots of questions.


Insane for Indie? Hysterical for Handmade? Got Craft? is Too!


Got Craft? is Andrea + Robert: a husband and wife event management and wedding coordination team based in London, UK and Vancouver. Providing crafty wares to young, trendsetting individuals, they share a love for handmade indie craft that goes beyond the simple charms of the macaroni art piece.


Got Craft? aims to bring together a community that fosters handmade and DIY culture by supporting like-minded events such as DIY @ Museum of Vancouver, the Austin, TX and Vancouver Premiere of Handmade Nation, Swap-O-Rama-Rama 2009 and 2010, Vancouver Mini Maker Faire and the Sweetie Pie Press 2011 Summer Craft Tour.


When they’re not busy filling their blog with field trips and beloved crafty things, you can find Andrea and Robert selling their handmade goods at local events, or hosting fun and interactive badge-making workshops.


We recently caught up with Andrea to learn more about what Got Craft? is all about, and to find out what they plan to demonstrate at this year’s Maker Faire.


Can you talk a bit about what Got Craft? and Lotus Events is all about?


Lotus events inc. is an event management and wedding coordination company that Robert and I started in 2004 to work on a mix of corporate, independent contracts, and self-produced events such as Got Craft?. Got Craft?, aka myself and Robert, is a husband and wife team that shares a love for handmade indie craft. We are devoted to the Vancouver handmade community by supporting like-minded events such as DIY @ Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire, the Vancouver Premiere of Handmade Nation, Swap-O-Rama-Rama, and Indie I Do.

As designers ourselves, we wanted to curate a boutique event to showcase some of our favourite handmade artists and provide Vancouver the opportunity to shop for one-of-a kind goods in a casual environment. Attendees are able to meet the makers in person to talk about their handmade goods and creative processes, as well as craft their own take home DIY project.

Aimed at bringing together a community that fosters handmade and DIY Culture, Got Craft? was founded in 2007 and is held twice a year in May and December featuring 50+ handmade designers and an average attendance of 3000+ a year.


What events do you host in the city, when do they happen, and where they are located?


As I mentioned above, we are we have been involved with events such as DIY @ Museum of Vancouver, the Austin, TX premiere of Handmade Nation, and the Sweetie Pie Press 2011 Summer Craft Tour. We are also happy to have had the opportunity to produce events such as the Vancouver Premiere of Handmade Nation, Swap-O-Rama-Rama 2009 and 2010, and the Sweetie Pie Press 2011 Summer Craft Tour. As well, we are super excited to be a part of the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire again this year!


What do you plan on bringing / demonstrating at Vancouver Mini Maker Faire this year?


Got Craft? will be hosting a DIY button-making workshop at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire! We’ll have two sizes of buttons for you to choose from including a large selection of pre-made patterns and custom Got Craft? images, or you can draw your own unique design! We’ll be on-hand to turn those creations into your own custom button!


Who are some of the crafters that came out to Got Craft’s event in early May? Any highlights, or new features?


Last May was one of our busiest Spring shows ever with the swag bag line up starting at 5:15am for a 10:00am door opening. We even had a special guest, Carol, that flew in from Chicago for the second time to attend the show!


We truly believe that it takes a village and we heart each and every one of our vendors! It wouldn’t be fair to us to have to choose our favourites, so you can check out our website for a full list of vendors that joined us for our Spring show.


Any exciting plans for Got Craft? in 2013?


We are always tweaking different aspects of the event or working on ways to make Got Craft? event better. We do have a few big announcements that we are working on, but you are just going to have to wait a bit longer!


To learn more about Got Craft?, preview their upcoming events on their website or check them out on Facebook.


Photo credits: [stu-di-o] by jeanie.

‘Biopoiesis’ Project Profile: Carlos and Steven Invite Makers to Help Create Cybernetic Art



Carlos Castellanos and Steven J Barnes will be showing their project Biopoiesis at this year’s VMMF. They are members of Dprime Research and Carlos is a graduate student at SFU’s School of Interactive Art and Technology. You can see Biopoiesis at the SFU booth, or check it out June 5-10 during an interactive exhibition at Gallery Gachet.


Biopoiesis is an electrical device that grows its own wires. Before I saw it in the gallery I didn’t even know that was possible. Can you tell us more about how it works and where the idea came from?


The project is based on cyberneticist Gordon Pask’s work in the 1950s on electrochemical computational devices [in electrochemical solutions electricity causes a chemical reaction]. In Biopoesis, the solution is held between two plates of glass with wires running into it. When we send electricity into it, the solution grows its own wires, or “threads” as we often call them.



The threads are made of conductive crystal structures and they grow unpredictably, but we can make them react to their surroundings by hooking the wires up to a sensor, like a microphone. So in Biopoiesis, the threads are capturing information about their environment in the way they grow. We’re also recording the growth of the threads with a video camera and using that to alter the electricity going into the solution. This is a classic cybernetic feedback loop, the threads grow based on electricity in the wires, and the electricity in the wires is altered based on how the threads grow.


The project is part of an exhibition called Proof-of-Process where visitors can interact with and change the work on display. What led you to organize a show like that?


Much of interactive or new media art is what they call “process-based”; the work is often characterized by continuous prototyping and testing. Typically the artist creates several pieces that explore a central concept, and then displays them in an exhibit.


We wanted to open that process up. Basically reversing the standard gallery exhibit, where you see the finished product but not all of the work that went into it. This is pretty common in the art world these days, and this is just our particular take on it. When we started DPrime Research we wanted to try and make interesting/weird art-science projects but also bring them and the ideas surrounding them “down to earth”. So there is this tension between our complicated ideas and theories and this sort of community-based, open-sourcing of the work, where people can come and change the art without knowing all the theory behind it. I think having that unresolved tension can be good.


I’ve often heard members of local makerspaces talk about how diverse the maker community is, and the School of Interactive Arts and Technology is an interdisciplinary department. Has working with people from different backgrounds had an impact on your art?


I think it has but probably not in the way I may have imagined. I should say that my background is originally in music, I never really wanted to be an “artist” in the stereotypical sense. And I have always been interested in technology. Being at SIAT is probably what got me interested in alternative modes of computation like Biopoiesis. It’s like I said to myself, “everyone else is coding all the time, let me try and NOT do that”.


What’s your favorite part of the project so far?


It’s open-endedness. All of the projects in Proof-of-Process can be configured in so many different ways. We are really looking forward to others coming in with their ideas. I’m sure they will come up with things we never would have thought of.


Vancouver Mini Maker Faire at Got Craft?

This past Sunday, May 6th, Got Craft? put on an epic show. With over 50 colourful vendors and just over 1300 attendees, it was impressive that all that crafty cuteness could fit in one room. A job well done to the organizers, vendors, and everyone involved. My personal favourite: Rice Babies. So cute!

The Public Art Crew (Mike + Christina) were the masterminds behind our set-up. Mike brought out 2 tall bikes that he had built (Don’t forget to ‘like‘ the Art Bike Project on FB), which were such great substitutes to flimsy posters: He just rolled them in and it was like instant signage. Christina, Anna, and Kim all put their minds together, and pulled off some super fun yarn bombing outside of the front entrance. Check it out:

See those objects hanging off the pole? Those are recycled bottles that Christina has re-purposed and covered with crochet. She also put an old tank top to use, and used the materials to cover one of the art bikes.

A big thanks to Kim for coming out and helping out as well! Hai Kim!

Some of the details: Anna crocheted the flowers:

We had a few scraps left over that were knit up by Anna. I couldn’t help but use the remainder to yarn bomb part of the pakora truck. Thanks pakora guy! (Chris).

Set up for Vancouver Mini Maker Faire Fundraiser at the Museum of Vancouver

Check out all of the groups that are coming out! It’s going to be awesome. Don’t forget to get your tickets in advance! All proceeds go towards making Vancouver Mini Maker Faire happen again!



oh hey and check out this kinect-powered visualization that Vincent van Haaff (A Flying Octopus!) will be showing off!

Kinect/Box2D Mashup, Now With Penciled Outlines! from Vincent van Haaff on Vimeo.

Help Fund An eatART project with KickStarter

Did you get a chance to check out the 8-legged walking spider this year at Maker Faire Vancouver? Well, the organization that put that project together is moving forward full steam on another project – which will be a giant moving snake.

Charlie Brinson from eatART has put together a kickstarter campaign to help fund his most recent creation, Titanaboa. Want to see a giant snake in Vancouver in the near future? Charlie needs your help! Check out his video below and learn more.





Learn more on KickStarter.

Meet Your Sponsor: Metro Diverse Service’s Panterragaffe: A Pedal-Powered Walking Machine

Interview by Emily Smith, Featuring Paul Lock from Metro Diverse Services.


Metro Diverse Services is a 3-person team specializing in unique fabrication projects for monumental art or for architectural and landscape decoration. They are sponsoring this year’s Vancouver Mini Maker Faire, and will be showing off their elegant walking machine. Learn more about the project in the interview below, and check out the video if you want to see it work its magic!










1. What exactly is a Panterragaffe, and how did you guys come up with the name?

Based on Theo Jansen‘s Kinetic art, Panterragaffe is a pedal powered two person walking machine, a walking bicycle. The name has a few elements to it. It’s a play on pantograph, which is a mechanism for copying drawings, since it’s similar to the leg mechanism. Also; Pan – all or spanning. Terra – earth. Gaffe – an unintentional act causing embarrassment to it’s originator or just goofy-ness. A bit of goofy-ness for everybody. To most people the name doesn’t mean anything, therefore its meaning is flexible.


2. Do you have any previous experience building things?

We make our living from designing, building and fabricating. All of us have hands on experience in our backgrounds, from construction and manufacturing to sculpture, jewelry, and photography. We also have virtually every skill set covered from software and coding to welding and metal casting. It’s shorter to say we’ve never laid bricks, but we know we could.



3. How did you know that you would be able to make a structure like Panterragaffe, and what was the driving force behind it?

None of us are the “let’s ask for permission” types. Our biggest problem isn’t deciding what we can do, it’s having the time to do all the things we know we CAN do. Panterragaffe was conceived from the beginning as a public exhibition piece. It’s purpose had shock value and public participation in mind from the start. After building a seven inch prototype, it was clear that a mobile entertainment platform was possible. It was only a small step after that to decide to add a power source, music and lighting to suit events. The rough frame allows us to add character coverings, Panterragaffe can dress up differently ever time it goes out. Hence the flexible name.


4. How does it work? I mean, I understand that it’s pedal-powered, but it looks as though there are some pretty advanced mechanics going on there. How does each leg know how to go forwards or backwards at a given time?

The legs are based on a mechanism made popular by the kinetic sculptures off Theo Jansen in Holland. We didn’t have access to drawings, so it took us 13 months of spare time and 3 iterations to reverse engineer them. There are two leg boxes containing three pairs of legs each, spanned by a bench for two pedalers. Three pairs of legs are required to ensure there are enough points of contact with the ground for stability. Each side is driven by a crank shaft, which is in turn driven by pedals and one of the riders. There are two leg boxes and pedalers to allow steering. Similar to a skid-steer loader, one person stops pedaling while the other keeps going and you turn a corner. The feet are heavy steel cups that are allowed to spin something like casters, helping to reduce the friction on corners.


In this configuration it requires smooth hard ground, but we’re working on a modification to the mechanism to pick the feet up higher with each step. We should then be able to walk on grass and slightly irregular ground.



5. Can you talk a bit about construction? I assume there was some welding involved, is that right? Do you have anything to add that would pique the interest of the technically-inclined?

It’s made entire of mild steel, with ball bearing joints and pivots. The bench and two leg boxes are three separate pieces, held together with hitch pins for easy transport. It weighs nearly 700 pounds loaded without passengers.


The legs are only 1/2 inch square tubing with 1/16 inch wall thickness. This material bends very easily, but with careful leg design we were able to use this extremely small tubing to reduce weight and present a lighter appearance.


It’s very common for new Makers to over build. There are lots of monstrously heavy prototypes out there. Using conventional wisdom, this machine could easily have ended up weighing over a ton. It’s easy to build test pieces and do a little destructive testing before you build.



6. Where do you store it? I assume that you have a studio, but where does it live?

Panterragaffe lives in our manufacturing studio in West Vancouver. We do all of our design and fabrication in one building, practically under the Lions Gate Bridge. Our neighbours can’t here our noise over the sound of the traffic on the bridge, so it’s the perfect spot.