Author Archives: Kim Werker

Meet Your Makers: The Knot Tying Guild

Kim Werker interviewed Carol Wang, newsletter editor for the Pacific Americas Branch of the International Knot Tying Guild.

In three sentences, would you please sum up the goals and activities of the Knot Tying Guild?
From the guild website:

We are an educational non-profit making organisation dedicated to furthering interest in practical, recreational and theoretical aspects of knotting. Our aim is to preserve traditional knotting techniques and promote the development of new techniques for new material and applications. We attend public events to advertise the Guild and its work, and conduct talks and demonstrations by arrangement with interested groups.


Note that the “theoretical aspects of knotting” mentioned above is not, y’know, Knot Theory.  😎


It’s an international guild, and you’re part of the Pacific Americas Branch. What are some locally focused projects? What about international projects?
The guild’s main focus is teaching and general proselytizing, so its main activity is sending delegations to (usually) boat-related or scouting type festivals. Many members teach workshops or classes. A surprising (or not?) number of members have authored books, made instructional videos, websites, and apps. Members have consulted on movies, TV shows, novels, and historical re-creation events (both for entertainment and scientific research purposes).



What first got you excited about knots?
I first got interested in knots way back in grade 6 when I was visiting relatives in Taiwan (no specific dates, ha!). My college-age cousin who was supposed to be entertaining me gave me a Chinese knotting book and some string. As they say, the rest is history.


What keeps you excited?
Ok, this will date me: for the longest time there was no information in English about Chinese knotting with the single exception of “Chinese Knotting” by Lydia Chen. Part of the story that is told in that book is that the art of knotting nearly died out for lack of participants as the cultural revolution on the Mainland and the drives to modernize elsewhere left people little time for that humble little folk craft. But Ms. Chen got obsessed and went around interviewing surviving practitioners and recording what she found. It offended me that part of my cultural heritage was nearly lost due to craft secrecy and lack of proper recording and sharing practices, so a few years later I set about assembling a learning resource for Chinese knotting on the newfangled world wide web as a public service, more or less.


These days decorative Asian knotting has achieved a fairly low-key form of success in the English-speaking West, with a number of books written and the occasional magazine article. A more mature web brings the scattered pockets of practitioners together, but there’s still a gap between Asian and Western knotters due to the language issues. While I can’t actually read Chinese (or Japanese or Korean), a working knowledge of the subject matter allows me to sift the blogs and forums of decorative knot tyers in China and Japan for new and/or interesting developments, not to mention research new book releases in China and Taiwan (Japan and Korea, too) which I share with the Guild (plus the rest of the Anglophone world on my website and blog. Plus I like to think that my independent research and experimentation efforts occasionally contribute new things to the general body of knowledge.



I tie my shoes. Well, I tie some of my shoes. Those are pretty much the only knots I tie. What will I learn about knots when I stop by your booth at Vancouver Mini Maker Faire?
What would you like to learn?  😎  We will have a display of both practical and decorative knots for you to inspect and admire. We will have a selection of make-and-take projects for you to try your hand at. If you have any specific questions about particular knots or knotty applications, we will do our best to answer, discuss, teach or demonstrate if we know. We will occasionally demonstrate the making of rope.


Say you found yourself stranded on a deserted island and were able to fashion ropes from grasses you found. Would you prioritize applying your knot-tying skills to using your ropes to build shelter, or to build a vessel to sail away?
Being a complete land lubber, I’d stick with shelter.




Meet Your Makers: The Vancouver Robotics Club

Kim Werker interviewed Bob Cook, one of the organizers of the Vancouver Robotics Club.

In just three sentences, what’s the Vancouver Robotics Club all about?
The Vancouver Robotics Club is an informal group of hobbyists who share a passion to make robots! We meet once a month to exchange ideas, show off our creations, and encourage more robot building.

Vancouver Robotics Club photo


What’s your role in the club? What about robotics excites you?
I’m one of the club organizers, looking after the website, mailing list, and try to do my part to encourage more robot building. I find the combination of mechanics, electronics and software (the three basic building blocks for robots) really interesting, with many new things to learn all the time. It’s really rewarding to make something that can have a “life of its own” – even when it drives itself into walls all the time.


I take it you don’t have to be a robot to join – is membership open to anyone who’s interested? Robotics experience required?
Membership is open to robot builders of all ages and experience levels. Most of our members are working professionals with some experience in software or electronics. On occasion we’ll have tutorials or workshops, but often our meeting discussions are of the kind “let me show you what I’ve made” or “wow how did you make that?” Everyone is encouraged to share their knowledge and skills.


Vancouver Robotics Club photo


What will the VRC be showing off at Vancouver Mini Maker Faire? What’s your piece de resistance? Will you have any hands-on materials people will be able to learn with?
We’ll be showing off the typical line-following and mini sumo robots that people can build themselves with only a moderate investment of money and time. These are autonomous robots that “think” for themselves (rather than remote-controlled toys), and are great to build as a first project. We’ll likely be showing off some larger, more complex robots too. Club members will be on hand to give lots of demos, talk about how each robot works, and how people can get started to build their very own.



Which fictional robot do you find more impressive, or at least more companionable – Rosie from The Jetsons or R2D2 from Star Wars?
Ah, excellent and very difficult question! Rosie certainly has a charming personality and certainly could keep my workshop tidy (something I’m really terrible at – most days it looks like a tornado came through). On the other hand, R2D2 seems to have a quick wit and an excellent sense of humour. At least it sounds that way (requires a bit of an imagination, with all those whistles and pops). He is quite good at getting around – most robots only have legs or only have wheels, but he has both. And R2D2 seems to have no problem navigating deserts, swamps or space stations. Better than a GPS!



Last Chance for Early-Bird Ticket Prices at Got Craft? on Sunday


Andrea and Robert of Lotus Events, the lovely folks who put on the Got Craft? craft fair twice a year, have generously given us a table at the spring show this Sunday. We’ll be there all day with information about Vancouver Mini Maker Faire, some pin-back buttons for the lucky amongst you who grab ’em quick, and the last batch of tickets priced at the early-bird special of $12.50 for full weekend admission. So come say hello and pick up tickets and swag!


Got Craft?
Sunday, May 8th, 10am-5pm
Royal Canadian Legion
2205 Commercial Drive (@ E. 6th Ave.)