Groovy Gizmos, DIY Delights: Exploratorium’s “The Art of DIY” Hands Out Handy Kicks


You can make groovy stuff, and even remarkable art, with toilet paper rolls. Or make a glowing neon heart out of a handful of wires and a small battery. Or make flashing bow ties to wow your friends with using aluminum foil and a few other easy-to-use materials.

Regardless of profession, age, or handiness, any mere Bay Area mortal can now build with repurposed cardboard marble machines, sculptural towers, and tiny dancing amphibian-themed boxes. And then there are those people who yearn to solder bunches of little wires and gadgets together, or use coding to create Instagram-friendly images, or capture motion on a webcam and liven up their daily routines like fidgeting. soup or make coffee or – you guessed it – trendy cool stuff with cardboard toilet paper rolls.

But where do these trends find an outlet? Where should the DIY tribe be housed? Jubilantly, such questions have an immediate and local answer: the “The Art of DIY” exhibition and studio at the Exploratorium (running until September 5). The obviously hands-on facility is, according to the website, dedicated to “experiments with science.” , art, technology and delicious ideas.

In the old days, a handyman was someone who traveled from place to place while fixing metal utensils, pots and pans for a living. In many families, the handyman has taken the form of the grandparent who tinkers with old stereos or cassette players in the basement. Silicon Valley and the titans of social media can be said to have elevated DIY status in contemporary times above those specters of wandering do-it-yourselfers or old people with fix-ups with their elation of young adults who go from noodles in garages to sitting on high-tech thrones.

Silicon blights aside, the Exploratorium knows that summer is the perfect time to tinker, sculpt light and shadow, build and break circuits, or compose music with leftovers from your last vacuum. -attic. “The Art of Tinkering” exhibition includes inspiration in the form of creations from “master tinkerers” Natasha Dzurny, Junior Fritz Jacquet, Diane Landry, Golan Levin, Reuben Margolin, Tosa Novmichi, Jie Qi, Scott Weaver and Daniel Wurtzel .

“Air Fountain” by Daniel Wurtzel

Brooklyn-based Wurtzel’s “air fountain” is breathtaking. As in many of his kinetic sculptures and installations, air, lighting and light materials take off from the fabric. The work projects the textiles into a fabulous choreography, each movement of which is a moment never to be repeated. It’s been described as “hypnotic” by many critics, and the term fits, but it fails to capture the majesty of the work. “Air Fountain” is more like the spell cast when a hiker stumbles upon a waterfall made luminous by oblique sunlight, or a grove of trees whose branches and leaves blow gloriously in the wind.

Technochic founder Dzurny is a do-it-yourself dominator whose background includes working as a designer, tech craftsman, maker, and content creator. Technology, engineering, and electronics predominate in the business content and crafting kits she creates for businesses, educational institutions, and other DIY enthusiasts. On its websites, templates, blogs, and YouTube tutorials, deliver these projects to the masses. She of the blinking bow ties recognizes few limits (other than issuing clear warnings about battery safety and so on), and her work in the exhibit is sure to ignite tempers. (But not literally. Remember those battery warnings – and on Technochic’s website, a long page on privacy protections regarding the online purchase of project kits.)

Toilet paper art by Parisian paper artist Junior Fritz Jacquet.

Parisian paper artist Jacquet will have you stocking up even as the worst of Covid recedes, but not exactly toilet paper. Instead, you’ll be looking for that paper core in the center of each roll. Manipulated into expressive masks that bring organic shine to the precepts of classic origami, Jacquet’s sculptures are finely lacquered in ghostly tones of copper red, mustard yellow, blue, brown and green. If one attempts to create these beauties without the remarkable artistry of Jacquet, you may end up with something that looks like your worst nightmare. But that will only spark greater appreciation for such miraculous art.

Amid all the fun and cosplay and failed or successful attempts to master wires and widgets and understand the wonderful possibilities that result from tinkering, there’s learning and laughter in “The Art of Tinkering” . What could be better? A handyman might say, “No more cardboard!

While the exhibit is perfect for families, adults who prefer to craft less kids will be welcome at Exploratorium’s After Dark: Build on July 21. The evening is open to adults (18+) only, and food and drink will be available for purchase at the museum’s Seaglass Restaurant. Activities include using everyday materials to create art and engaging in architectural experiences based on real-life engineering feats performed in the Bay Area.

Exploratorium’s “The Art of DIY” runs until September 5. More information and tickets, go here.


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