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Maker Faire links oddities and art across generations

The thousands of people coursing through Maker Faire at Union Station Saturday could lay their eyes — and often their hands — on all kinds of creative oddities.

But not Dave Boux’s whiskey bottle.

He stashed it away years ago, in the tradition of master plaster workers, behind one of the ornate stone pieces he recrafted during Union Station’s renovation nearly two decades ago.

On Saturday, Boux was back as a first-time Maker Faire artist displaying his ornamental plaster work in a booth outside among the hundreds of men, women, young and old, showing off their creativity in the seventh annual celebration of people who make things.

“These are people who aren’t doing what their boss told them to do,” Boux said. “But what you want to do … creating a business for yourself … turning back to hand-made and hand-crafted.”

Describing the range of works on display, which Boux saw for the first time as a patron a year ago, is hard — with everything from a “Back to the Future” DeLorean to a giant hamster wheel where children grind their own snow cones to blacksmithing shops to elaborately constructed music-making gizmos.

What connects all of these inventors, innovators, hackers and artists, he said, is that feeling that “we’re the makers.”

Boux, 59, a co-owner now of Plasterkraft in the West Bottoms, was a union ornamental plasterer working for Hayles and Howe when Union Station was rebuilt in 1999.

Standing Saturday in the middle of Union Station, looking up at its cathedral ceiling above the Maker Faire crowds, he pointed to the handiwork. He remembered how, when up on those scaffolds 10-stories high, you could see the hand strokes of the artisans who did the original work more than 100 years ago.

The Kessler whiskey bottle serves as a time capsule, he said, with a note inside with the names of some of the workers, the date they were there and a wish of “cheers” to the future.

Maker Faire, which began in the San Francisco Bay area in 2006, has always had it in its heart to link the past to the future — recycling, re-purposing, re-imagining.

For Gus Davis and his boomboxes fashioned out of suitcases — the older the suitcase the better.

The 68-year-old retired electrician and technician from Salina, Kan., is having a blast with his Gdd Boombox business, now on his fourth trip to Kansas City’s Maker Faire.

The old suitcases, with wood cases sheathed in metal or vintage tweed, make the best sound, he said.

One of his daughters gave him the idea when she came across a re-purposed suitcase a few years ago. She figured her dad would have fun with this sort of thing. They’ve been rescuing relic suitcases from flea markets and estate sales ever since.

“This one’s been around 100 years,” he said Saturday, picking up a suitcase rimmed in metal with brass clasps. “I don’t want them thrown away. This (being a boombox) gives it a reason. These are lost art forms.”

If Maker Faire really works, said Michael Tritt, head of marketing, then the thousands who wander among the works will leave here thinking they, too, can go forth and be makers.

Garret Tufte, 32, works as a civil engineer and land surveyor in Lawrence, Kan. But he is also a writer and — as the limestone carving taking shape with his hands showed — a sculptor.

This is his fourth time displaying works at Maker Faire, but his first with his own booth. He didn’t necessarily think of himself as an artist until he was living near Florence, Italy, in 2012, having chased and lost a girlfriend, surrounded by Florence’s beauty.

“It made me want to breathe beauty all the time,” he said.

He was dressed in black, but coated in the white dust of his work, filing on a stone hand as if giving it a stonemason’s pedicure.

It could be a monument to the hands at work, of all the people Tufte has seen around him and their work — “creative things, electrical devices, inventions,” he said. “A great, incredible variety,” he said. “The only limit to it is the people.”

And by that, he meant no limit at all.

Maker Faire

Continues Sunday at Union Station from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Union Station, admission $16 for adults and $13 for youth.

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