For OpenMAKE: Tools we revisited one of our classic activities – plastic fusing! I was particularly interested in doing this activity for tools for two main reasons. The first is that I liked using a common tool (irons) in an unusual way (to fuse scrap plastic into “fabric”). The second was that it provided an opportunity for visitors to use sewing machines to construct their fused plastic into personalized tool holders. Visitors made holders for lunch consumption tools, pencil bags, paintbrushes, and more.
We set up in the stage area of the museum with a circular communal table for materials in the middle and four tables surrounding it for cutting, fusing, machine sewing, and hand sewing.
At the cutting table we provided “patterns” to stand in for common tools that people might want to make holders for. There were also patterns for spoons, forks, chopsticks, safety glasses, and paint brushes.
My favorite moments throughout the day were seeing collaborations between visitors. They shared ideas on different ways to layer the plastic, gave tips on using the sewing machines, and brainstormed on what kinds of tool rolls they could make. One of our first visitors to try it out brought back his whole boy scout troop to try it as well! He made a second tool holder for himself, and took on teaching others how to get started.
This was one of my first opportunities to use sewing machines with visitors. It was great to see visitors grow in confidence as they went from never having used a sewing machine before to deftly sewing seams. Parents and kids spent a lot of time working together to learn and relearn how to sew. One challenge that arose was that sewing machines can be tricky. It took a dedicated facilitator to help out and troubleshoot at just two machines. Occasionally they would jam or come unthreaded unexpectedly. Next time I would use bigger spools of thread and have lots of pre-threaded bobbins so the machines could sew longer with less interruption. I was thankful that visitors were really patient with the technical difficulties.
Plastic fusing has so many possibilities with what you can create and I hope it makes another appearance at OpenMAKE: Trash!