Getting Our Bearings at Maker Faire

PRG skaters and volunteers at Maker Faire

PRG skaters and volunteers at Maker Faire

When I decided to become a roller derby skater, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I had mentally prepared for all the falling and hitting and the dreaded time trial required as part of the WFTDA’s minimum skills assessment. There was one thing I didn’t think to prepare for, however: Crafting.

There’s a surprising amount of crafting required in roller derby. MVP trophies. Team spirit awards. Some leagues even sell skater-made crafts at their bouts. Although the crafting angle hadn’t occurred to me, it’s actually not surprising when you consider roller derby’s DIY roots. After Sassy magazine went under and we got tired of publishing zines, the women of my generation had to find something else productive to do. Why not invent a new model of feminist athletic enterprise?

Last weekend, PRG went to Maker Faire, where we staffed a booth and helped out with safety patrol. Staffing a roller derby booth usually involves chatting with fans and potential skaters about how the sport has changed since 1970, exactly how much contact is allowed—no, you can’t throw any elbows—and where to catch our next bout. While the Maker Faire crowd was interested in all of those things, there was one other surprising thing that kept attracting folks to our table: Bearings.

We were selling necklaces made from the bearings we use in our skate wheels, thoughtfully crafted by a league volunteer. I lost count of the number of people who stopped at our table to check out those bearings. It makes perfect sense, though, since the maker movement is all about fabricating cool stuff. 

Some of the folks who stopped to chat were surprised to find a roller derby team at Maker Faire, but I think it’s fascinating to see how both movements express that DIY ethos. From fire-breathing robots at Maker Faire to strong, confident athletes on the track, it’s amazing what we can create when we put our minds to it.