New Festival Comes to the Rogue Valley – TinkerFest, a Celebration of Thinking with Your Hands

By Pat Tellini

When designer Richard Jarel was eight years old, he took apart his father’s watch. “I carefully put it back together and it worked fine,” he recalls. “The only problem was that I still had three parts left over. My dad was not happy!”

That experience did not dampen Jarel’s tinkering spirit. He’s gone on to design toy prototypes for Mattel, and special effects for Disney, Universal Studios and others. From the Batmobile to kinetic sculptures, to a remote-controlled flying Superman, Jarel’s creations populate our cultural landscape.

Jarel will share his creative journey and what he calls his “eye candy” of prototypes, props and models at ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum’s first-annual, TinkerFest on September 21 and 22.

Jarel will join other creative thinkers and inventors for two days of playful invention and exploration at TinkerFest. Members of the Rogue Hack Lab, Ashland Art Center, SOU’s Department of Digital Arts and other inspired tinkerers have worked with museum staff to create a variety of tinkering tables, “playshops” and activities.

“One planned activity that is sure to be a big draw is the car take-apart,” said Chip Lindsey, Executive Director of ScienceWorks. “Kids love being encouraged to take things apart, and that leads to wondering how to put them back together again.”

TinkerFest focuses on hands-on, open-ended discovery that celebrates science, technology, engineering, art and creativity. Parents and children will have the opportunity to play at a wide variety of tinkering tables which offer such opportunities as dismantling and fixing small appliances, constructing copper-wire trees incorporating LED lights, building sculptures from odds and ends, crafting wiggly recycled tire creatures, and manipulating robotic warriors.

TinkerFest brings technology together with craftspeople, educators, families, and artists to learn from each other. “The broad focus is to bring folks together who want to share their passions for building, designing, creating and performing,” said Lindsey.

The festival will also include interactive performances featuring dance, music, and robotic demonstrations in a three-ring circus of art and technology.

On Sunday the museum will offer in-depth playshops requiring advanced registration by internationally-acclaimed artists, Georgina Hayns and Arline Fisch. Hayns turned her childhood love of puppet-making into a career, producing award-winning 3-D animated films like Coraline and ParaNorman. She’ll share her process with aspiring puppet-makers, teaching them the basics of armature building, costumes, hair, sculpting and claymation. Contemporary master jeweler, Arline Fisch will lead a playshop in knitting and crocheting with wire, techniques she used to create shimmering jellyfish wire sculptures featured in her traveling exhibition, Creatures from the Deep, which will also be featured as part of TinkerFest. For more detailed information and a schedule of events and times, visit TinkerFest.org or call ScienceWorks at 541-482-6767.