Every year, the Exploratorium throws a holiday party for our members and this time around the Tinkering Studio hosted several toy-related activities for our guests. We set up two workshop stations in the Tinkering Studio led by collaborating artists and two more activity areas spilling out into the skylight area of the museum. The party was a farewell to our current home at the Palace of Fine Arts and we had lots of long time members reminiscing about the early days of the museum. But, we also are looking ahead to an expanded tinkering presence at the piers and we're hoping to get our most dedicated "power users" excited about some of the new things we will be testing out at our future home at Pier 15.
Leslie Henslee of the Frankenartmart led an inspired workshop in the niche, making "toys gone wild" (little motorized robots made out of natural materials). Visitors used sticks, leaves, bark, offset motors, remote controlled car parts and other materials to make whimsical creatures that made patterns on a large table covered with sand.
Former featured makers Shana and emiko took over the workshop area of the tinkering studio with an accessorize with toys activity, making beautiful ornaments out of recycled board game pieces, plastic toys, and miniature figurines. Many visitors learned how to use hot glue guns for the first time as they attached materials together and make unique sculptures.
At the last minute we decided to put the wind table prototype on the floor to replace the visible pinball machine (which was gone for repairs) and it was a huge hit. Once again we really liked the social interactions that are possible around the large shared air table.
We brought back the balancing toys activity from January Open Make and with a little last-minute facilitation coaching by Sebastian, we started visitors making sculptures that balance on small bit of wire. It took a little tinkering to make a balancing toy out of corks, wire, doodads, and toy-parts but by the end of the night we had an entire hacked pegboard wall full of people's creations.
It was a fairly busy, chaotic, and messy night (what else would you expect?) but it was really satisfying to go out with a bang and give our members the opportunity to try out some tinkering activities in various stages of development. We're looking forward to figuring out even more creative ways to get members involved with the tinkering studio at the piers and hopefully we'll see many of the familiar faces from open makes and nights like this.