Meet your maker at RVA MakerFest

Blacksmiths, crafters, chocolatiers, and more, a new event highlights our community of makers.

Local innovators and hobbyists will make their way to the Science Museum of Virginia later this month for RVA MakerFest where they’ll discuss and make works of science, fashion, technology, music, crafts, and more.

One local maker believes people across the globe are drawn to making tactile things.

“Currently, both here [in the US] and in Europe, there is a massive movement of people being interested in physically creating with their hands,” said Kyle Lucia, blacksmith and co-owner of Phoenix Handcraft with his wife, Johannah Willsey. “It truly is a maker revolution, a backlash to shipping our industries overseas.”

Lucia will be one of nearly 60 makers and companies on hand September 27th for MakerFest, an event he said embodies RVA Makers, a group he and his wife created to educate Richmond “on who the makers are in the RVA community as well as how they go about performing their craft.”

Phoenix Handcraft will join fellow blacksmiths from the Central Virginia Blacksmithing Guild to create a variety of projects outside the museum throughout the day, as well as discuss the history and physics of blacksmithing.

Here’s a short MakerFest video about Lucia:

But Richmond’s maker community goes beyond smithing. Serving as a microcosm for maker growth the world over, the city’s makers are “huge and extremely well-skilled,” Lucia said. “It is staggering how many makers are actively working full-time in their craft here.”

Jeff MacDonald, a creative technologist at local advertising titan The Martin Agency, is another participant in MakerFest.

“I really wanted the opportunity to show off what kind of work we do as an agency,” MacDonald said. “I’ve been working at The Martin Agency for almost three years, and most of the time in our Lab.” The Lab is a “make and break” hub for Martin Agency employees to create technology for its clients, as well as play around with equipment and gadgetry.

“MakerFest gives me an opportunity to share some amazing projects that are at the intersection of commerce and creativity,” MacDonald said. The Martin Lab will show off a “variety of projects that were created for clients as well as things we built for fun.”

“We’ll have a three-foot cube with us called PartyBot that is a sound reactive LED box with a full sized car stereo system inside.”

Here’s a PartyBot preview:

MacDonald hopes MakerFest makes people reconsider what The Martin Agency actually creates. “I hope that people who leave our exhibit will see how advertising agencies are innovating outside of the 30-second TV spot,” he said.

The ad agency creative technologist doesn’t mince words when describing the city’s community of makers. “Richmond’s makers are a self-starting group of badasses who all work to make Richmond a better place,” he said. “Everyone who I’ve met in the community are amazing and love showing off all of the cool things they are making.”

Kyle Lucia of Phoenix Handcraft agrees, and wants MakerFest attendees to appreciate what Richmond has. “I hope people walk away amazed at the sheer volume of hand-made goods and services that are available right here. They can keep their money local and support their neighbors,” he said. “They get to shake the hand that makes it.”

But he also thinks the makers should make something of the event for themselves. “I hope maker types revel in the strong community they have fostered and continue to inspire each other to keep creating,” he said. “They should be proud to be part of this.”

RVA MakerFest takes place on Saturday, September 27th from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM at the Science Museum of Virginia. The event is free and open to the public.

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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