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Darby Smart's Founder On Her DIY Day At The White House

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Images courtesy of Darby Smart: Nicole Shariat Farb at the White House and Darby Smart Old Glory flag tray 30-minute DIY kit

This past month, the White House celebrated the first-ever national day of DIY, declaring June 18 as a nationwide Day of Making with a Maker Faire at the White House to celebrate creativity and ingenuity. Just by coincidence, June 18 is the launch date for Darby Smart, a new brand created last year by Nicole Shariat Farb, a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs whose passion is DIY.

"I felt that there was a big disconnect between what you see on Pinterest and having to drive to a craft store like Michael's and try to figure it out. Why couldn't we just bring all this online together and help those people on Pinterest actually make money off the amazing projects they are creating and sharing?" Farb said. So Darby Smart offers pre-packaged projects from top pinners and bloggers, with the exact supplies you need to successfully complete the project.

And for the first anniversary of Darby Smart's launch, Farb found herself at the White House's Maker Faire, networking with the creators of projects like a 3-D pancake printing machine, meeting 3-D printing impresario Will.I.AM, and doing her part to help represent the arts and crafts movement. Racked DC chatted with Farb about her White House experience and why President Obama thinks DIY could change manufacturing and education as we know it.

How did you get involved at the Maker Faire at the White House?
So I had heard about the Maker Faire just briefly before they were actually hosting it and thought it was critical that I attend. And I networked my way to someone who mattered there and told them what I was doing at Darby Smart and they were full, but they sent me an invite immediately. So I consider myself pretty lucky. I was one of the few people there who was representing our aspect of the maker movement which is arts and crafts, which is a huge, huge industry, but a lot of the Maker Faire was about 3-D printing or robotics or different DIY, so it was really cool to represent the arts and crafts movement.

What was the day like? Was there a schedule? How did it go?
They had set up almost like a mini-showcase of different things that makers had done. We walked in, and there was a car that had been designed through crowdsourcing and that they'll eventually 3-D print. There was a 3-D print of Obama's likeness that the Smithsonian had done. You got to see these different contributions from various makers, there were probably 25 in total. And we talked to the different makers. A mix of politicians and then makers had been invited, and Obama popped in through a sneaky door and welcomed us and talked about why he's so passionate about this movement, and why he's declared a national day.

And then that was it, he left and we got to continue networking with different makers and seeing what they'd done and that was the end of the day. [They'd] also invited senators, people from different agencies, and it was interesting to see all the aspects of government that care about this movement.


Pancake maker at the White House Maker Faire

What do you think having a Maker Faire at the White House means to the DIY community and you personally?
I think it gives us recognition on a scale that we haven't had yet. To hear people in the room, people like President Obama, start to talk about the maker movement and recognize it was pretty phenomenal. I am deeply passionate about this, I left my job for it. Everyone that we touch in our daily lives is deeply passionate about this, but to hear that the president cares about the movement and thinks that this movement could change education and manufacturing as we know it today, just elevates it to a level that I don't think we've been before.


Darby Smart swarovski drop necklace DIY kit

Was that your favorite memory from the day, when Obama spoke?
It was. Of course, I've never seen the president live, he's incredibly personable and funny, more than it comes across on TV. To hear in his words why this matters, it was really touching. To hear the chatter in the room and see people who don't really understand the maker movement yet but are committed to helping it grow, that was really really cool.

Is there a sentence that could help people understand the maker movement?
My favorite quote from Obama was "Today's DIY is tomorrow's Made in America." And I deeply believe this. I think what he means by that quote is manufacturing as we know it on the mass scale [which has] become quite globalized or even outsourced, will change again. It will become quite localized and will return to the U.S. So I think, and i think he believes, that individual makers will disrupt manufacturing. It could be that an army of moms has 3-D printers in their homes, and they're taking over manufacturing. It could be some things like we're seeing on Etsy, that armies of sellers are making the bracelets and the goods we're using in our homes. To me, that best captured it. I think it really explains why this movement matters at a national scale.

Did you meet any crafty government types?
They might've been crafty personality-wise, but I didn't meet any crafters.


Darby Smart gold-brushed agate napkin ring DIY kit

Are you already thinking about next year's annual day?
Absolutely. For this year, we supported by doing a giveaway, so up to five people could tweet what they wanted to make and they would win everything they wanted to make. One of the winners is winning a 3-D printer so she could make her own high heels. We had hundreds of tweets, really cool example of things people dreamed about making.

Next year, I'd love to have actual representation in terms of what our designers have made and how they've contributed to the makers movement at the Makers Faire. I think in some cases we're actually helping our designers build real businesses for themselves, so I think we are definitely in line with what the Makers Faire at the White House was trying to support. One of my favorite recent stories is a project we were doing with t-shirt yarn. The designer's name is Jenny and she crocheted a basket out of t-shirt yarn. It did really well, people loved it. And she said, "Where are you buying your t-shirt yarn?" And we were buying it from one of our vendors. She said "I think I can make the t-shirt yarn, would you be willing to buy it from me?" And we said yeah, send us a sample and for sure, we'll give it a shot.

We just bought 1500 skeins of yarn from her. She's been busy all week making the yarn, but she's estatic. She's not just a designer now, she's a mini-manufacturer. Before, she was a stay-at-home mom looking for a hobby. So we've bought it to a whole different level.
· The White House Rolls Out Red Carpet for DIY Crafters [Racked]
· Darby Smart [Official Site]
· White House Maker Faire [Official Site]