"Put down the Snapchat, throw out the videogame console, and actually build something."
That's the motto of Albert Jeffers, a tattoo artist and metal fabricator.
"We are raising a generation of pencil pushers," he laments.
"Makers at MODS," 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 24, at the Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-467-6673, or visit mods.org. Admission costs $14; free for museum members.
This Saturday, Jeffers will join his cohorts from Makers Square — a membership-based tool shop and craft school, run by bohemian misfits who love making things by hand — for the "Makers at MODS" showcase at the Museum of Discovery and Science.
"Makers" is the name given to a rising subculture of modern-day artisans and craftsmen. The movement that burgeoned in hipster enclaves like San Francisco made its way to South Florida last year, when John "Jack" McNulty cofounded Makers Square, offering classes in crafts like welding, pottery, and costume making, plus workshop space and tools for people working on their own projects.
Saturday's daylong festival will show the community "hands-on application of the industrial arts and technology," McNulty says. The shindig lasts from noon to 5 p.m. and will feature 30 makers in full force. Attendees can observe blacksmithing and woodworking in action. The idea is to inspire people to pick up a tool and tinker away, possibly learning a marketable skill — or just learning how to program a monkey robot for fun.
The makers' movement is an antidote to today's computercentric, sedentary lifestyles, which, Jeffers says, came about due to a variety of factors, including a decline in shop classes and home economics and an economy that has outsourced manufacturing jobs.
"A lot of metal fabrication has gone to China," he observes. And that's a shame, because working with one's hands is good for mental health and confidence and even the wallet. "Fabricating things with metal benefits me because it exercises my brain. I can go to the store and see something on the shelf and figure out how to make it. And I'm make a living doing it. I feed my kids." On Saturday, you can find him assembling tattoo machines. He taught himself how to work with metals and has sold his machines online for the past 14 years.
Other makers will take over the two-level museum, high-tech classrooms, and outdoor area of the science museum. Attendees can tinker with 3-D printers, which can be used to make anything from jewelry to clothing to funky little statues. Boynton Beach's Hack Lab and Makers Union will have a robotics booth where visitors can play with arduinos — pieces of electronic hardware that work as microcontrollers.
Also, more stripped-down craftsmanship will be presented. Lee Sky will show the crowd how to turn wood. He sells wine stoppers ($10) and birdhouses ($25 to $150) and vases out of wood he sometimes finds on the side of the road. "I'm an artist, so I don't make a lot of utilitarian items," Sky says. "In 14 years, I've made 14 salad bowls.
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"It's therapeutic to take a raw piece of wood and make something useful or beautiful from it. It's really satisfying. I can pick up a log that I find in bulk trash and inside it there's this beautiful wood, and then I make something amazing out of it."
Artist Joshua Hunter Davis will show a striking 14-foot structure that resembles a grotesque cyborg monster. He calls it his "unspecified cenozoic life form." The gray monster symbolizes the disturbing distance human beings have from the natural world. In a sense, his monster represents the "nightmarish consequences" that society undergoes while we lose our relationship with the environment and allow technological advances to distract us from human connection.
The event is a cool pairing for MODS, which often gets overlooked as just a playpen for youngsters. There's also appeal here for science nerds looking to understand the latest in robotic-assisted health care, read up on the makeup of the Earth's volatile weather system, or watch the latest 3-D flick on the IMAX screen. But staff have struggled to change the public's perception and draw more adults, even with the 2011 expansion that added a 34,000-square-foot wing and outdoor area. Hopefully that will change with a food and wine festival and the makers event.
And don't forget to check out the river otter exhibit. Ever seen one build a den? Those guys are the original makers.