Making a Van Slam Poster

Illustrator Eric Button was born in Whitehorse but is currently based in Vancouver. His artwork often features nature, Canadian culture and his cynical sense of humour. He’s recently taken on the project of designing and drawing the poster for YuKonstruct’s 2017 edition of Van Slam.

Van Slam is a showcase of the many unique DIY camping vehicle conversions in the Yukon. The “expo for vagabonds” has featured everything from converted ambulances to monster off-road campers. (See the blog posts about the 2015 & 2016 events) This year’s event will be happening in May and YuKonstruct is currently looking for volunteers and vehicle owners to show off their creations (check the forum for details).

Eric will be working on the poster during his live art broadcasts on His broadcasts are an interactive art experiment. It is a collaborate effort between the artist and the internet.

Last week he started work on the Van Slam poster; first coming up with a general concept and overall composition, thumbnailing out ideas, and taking audience feedback.

You can tune in this week while he’s working on an initial rough drawing to work out the finer points of the design. YuKonstruct members can sign in to the chat to offer suggestions on the ultimate Yukon camper van and watch them be incorporated into the design. He’ll be broadcasting at 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and earlier during the afternoon on Friday.

The next step in the process will be a larger drawing done in pen and ink. Finally the image will be coloured in Photoshop.

Watch the live broadcasts Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm and Friday afternoons:
Eric Button’s Pocketlive Channel

Hoser Drawings with Eric Button

Building Lanterns for Winterval

YuKonstruct was pleased to participate in Unlikely Events Yukon‘s Winterval parade again this year.

The theme for this year’s event was “Festival of Lights”. Our makerspace volunteers designed and built 3 large lanterns complete with jack frost and his friends.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped cut lumber, paint the pieces, attach the screens, model for the winter fairies, assemble the lanterns and pull the carts through the snowy streets!


What happened to the bee houses constructed during the “Work Bees” in May?

The “Work Bees” contributed to the 80+ solitary bee houses monitored in Yukon this past growing season.  Forty were equally divided among five local farms.  Citizen scientists and I installed the remaining ones around the territory, with the greatest concentration close to Whitehorse, and the northernmost sites along the Dempster Highway.

To collect data on the use of these bee houses, half of the 60 holes in each bee house were lined with removable nesting straws for the duration of the growing season. Then, just before the accumulation of snow asserted the arrival of winter, we collected the nesting straws.  Insects and spiders living in the remaining 30 holes were left in situ to perpetuate local populations.

I candled the collected straws over an old salvaged scanner repurposed as a light box.  The penetrating light enabled detection of occupants in the nesting straws.  Occupants included spiders, moths, flies, and egg sacs as well as bees and wasps.  Aphid wasps were among the most common inhabitants, a minute insect that provisions each larva with a stockpile of aphids.

The straws containing nests of bees and wasps have now gone to University of Ottawa where they are being reared in a controlled lab environment.  We will be learning what species we have, what plants the bees gather pollen from, and who the parasites are. For some species, it may take two years before fully developed adults emerge.  Nature instills patience.

Thanks again to all who contributed and the Environmental Awareness Fund for sponsoring the “Work Bees”.

Seamus’ Telegraph to Tweet Project

Like many YuKonstruct members, Seamus is a problem solver.

In addition to being one of the makerspace’s volunteers and site moderators, he is a Senior Software Developer with Make It. His job recently brought him face to face with members of the royal family when he was asked to develop a very special piece of technology for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to the MacBride Museum.

Seamus was challenged to connect a one-hundred-year-old telegraph key to modern social media, to turn the museum’s gold rush era telegraph office into a digital guestbook.

“This project was an interesting example of different technologies combining to create something new,” says Seamus. “The development of the Telegraph to Tweet concept really allowed me to leverage different areas of expertise to achieve the end goal. Hardware, software, mobile, cloud technologies and even woodworking went in to the development of this technology.”

Seamus set up a microcontroller with built in wifi to record the duration of time the telegraph key is pressed and released. Once the operator completes a message in morse code, the microcontroller sends the recording of the signals to a webserver which converts the signals to text.

To safely house the microcontroller, Seamus designed and built an enclosure at YuKonstruct. “I wanted an open concept for the case that would still allow for accessibility of the wiring for both the front and back. Took about 30 minutes to design and then cut it on the laser cutter!”

The Duke and Duchess sent out the inaugural telegraph to tweet message on September 28. Visitors to the museum can now contribute to the guestbook and the messages are viewable at

Telegraph to Tweet technology
Telegraph to Tweet technology

Photos courtesy of Make It.

Renovations to the Makerspace!

YuKonstruct’s Makerspace has undergone and survived some spring renovations and facilities upgrades!

The laser room (re-named fabrication lab), hacker space, sewing room, wood shop and metal shop have all received some fresh paint and tool organization to both improve aesthetic appeal and overall functionality. Portions of our bathrooms have also been painted bright yellow to improve performance in there.  The main entrance into the backyard has been transformed into a collage of leftover colours!

All working spaces have had vinyl stickers cut out and installed on them. Finally and most importantly, all tools have been marked with the corresponding colour of the door to the space in which they belong. Hopefully this will stop the daily migration and trading of tools within YuKonstruct.

Come check out the new look of the Makerspace if you haven’t yet this summer!

12 Days to End Violence Against Women Community Project

YuKonstruct partnered with Splintered Craft, the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, Les EssentiElles and White Ribbon Yukon to make a project for the 12 Days to End Violence Against Women campaign. Over several days we built a large sculpture with the help of many volunteers.

infographic 12 Days

The sculpture depicts a woman walking forward, with the support of her community represented by glowing hands lifting her up.
YuKonstruct member Chris Lloyd designed the sculpture in SketchUP before it was brought to life in the real world.
The 7-foot-tall woman was constructed by wrapping copper wire around a welded skeleton. The 50 supporting community arms were made by “casting” volunteers’ arms with clear packing tape.

Solar Panels at YuKonstruct

Polarcom was here at YuKonstruct last week setting up solar panels as part of a research project. This project is being run by Polarcom, ML and Associates, and Cold Climate Innovation at Yukon College.

Capture 2

The goal of this project is to compare how different solar photovoltaic technologies perform in the Yukon. The project will be connected to the internet via a wireless sim card connection which will allow real time and gross power production data to be accessible online.


All data produced by this project will be accessible to the public via an online website along with a series of reports analysing which panels perform best under various conditions (cloudy, winter conditions, peak sun, rainy). The goal of this project is to provide a publically accessible data set that will allow Yukoners to determine which solar technologies will provide them with maximum benefit should they be pursuing a solar installation.

There are 4 kinds of modules installed- 4 Polycrystalline, 2 monocrystalline, 4 Thin Film modules and 2 Bi-facial modules. These solar panels were mounted to the tops of our shipping containers in the back of the shop yard. This location is ideal for the research project since it is high, well exposed and out of the way from people and vehicles.

YuKonstruct was interested in getting involved with this project for several reasons- it is a sustainable and renewable energy source that provides us with some power and saves us money on our power bill! It’s also an interesting project which is a first of its kind and will potentially be replicated by national and international research bodies!

Little Free Library for DUGS

In the heart of downtown Whitehorse there is a community garden which was planted in 1998. The people who founded it? The Downtown Urban Gardeners Society (DUGS). With almost 20 seasons of growing food and flowers, these gardens are flourishing.

But gardening in the Yukon isn’t always the bees knees. With the long season comes challenges. To help understand and overcome some of the quarks associated with planting north of 60, DUGS wanted to create a way for people to share information and knowledge about gardening.

The organization approached YuKonstruct to help build a Little Free Library for gardeners to share books, magazines and other literature with one another. We were excited to help make this happen and got straight to building!

The building of the Little Free Library took 3 YuKonstruct members and 2 Highways and Public Works volunteers 4 hours to make. We assembled the box using the table saw, chop saw, drills and lots of screws. The doors of the box have plexiglass windows (donated by Northerm), hinges, and handles with magnetic fasteners. We also added a laser cut design on the doors for decoration. Lastly, we screwed on a tin roof to protect from the elements.

volunteers for LFL

It has now been bolted to the side of the tool shed at the community gardens downtown. So let the resource sharing begin and bring on the next growing season!

LFL building of

Local business benefits from YuKonstruct

Who doesn’t love cheese? Whitehorse locals Larra Daley and Stephan Biedermann saw on opportunity to bring quality cheese to Whiethorse and are located in Horwood’s Mall on Main Street. They opened last Tuesday and cheeses from around the world have been flying off the shelf.  Say hello to Cultured Fine Cheese!

Larra and Stephan joined YuKonstruct to help them with their business. About a month ago, Larra signed up for a weekend workshop on business development being offered by local consultant Michael Pealow through YuKonstruct. Stephan, a contractor and carpenter by trade, took the Laser Cutter 101 course to create their shop sign.


“I can’t believe how easy it was” said Stephan, “and the sign looks so good. As a contractor, I loved that I could do it myself”. Asked if he would be back, Stephan replied: “I was blown away by what YuKonstruct has. The equipment, the expertise…I will certainly be back for Cultured Cheese but also my home building business!”

Up and Etsy: Tips on Overcoming the Road Blocks

I recently opened my Etsy shop Backyard Spruce, selling needle felted creations and laser cut shadow boxes. Currently I have 14 items up which cost me a grant total of $2.80 (at $0.20/listing). It took me roughly three months from conception to opening to get everything just (mostly) right.

What’s my biggest recommendation? Be a copy cat!

Recently I embraced being a copy cat as an unabashed way to learn, get inspired, and create. Today I’ll talk how being a copy cat helped me overcome my three biggest and most time consuming road blocks to opening my Etsy shop.

Overcoming Road Block #1: Photography

I spent hours looking at others’ photos on Etsy. How did they style their scenes, angles, and aperture? What did I like and what did I find appalling? I was able to get a rough idea of how I wanted my pictures to look, and through quite a lot of trial and error I found the settings that I felt best represented my creations.

There are lots of helpful hints available on Etsy as well, though I found it more helpful to see what various shops were doing with products similar to mine.

Shameless plug time: Yukonstruct now has a photography tent ready to use! I am excited to try it out with my future creations!

Etsy photography take #1. It’s blurry, has terrible colouring, and is a poor representation of this cute little critter.
Nope x 2.
Etsy photography take #2. I’m experimenting with the background now, but the photo is still not professional and I don’t like the composition.
Bingo! Third time's a charm!
Etsy photography take #3. Third time’s a charm! I’m pleased with the composition, quality, and true-to-life colour.

Overcoming Road Block #2: Policies & Shipping

For policies I looked at numerous other Etsy shops for how much information was given, how they stated it, and which policies they put in place. I then created my own based on what I believed would be helpful from the initial opening of my shop. I’ve never shipped an item to a customer so it was great to think about what I will do in case of damage or the customer being unsatisfied with the product. I also joined a Whitehorse Etsy team to see what was being done locally.

Figuring out the price of shipping was an interesting challenge and I will simply have to learn by doing. Right now I have approximate fees that I found through Canada Post’s website for my packaging sizes, and I’d recommend anyone opening a shop do the same. There are still a lot of unknowns for me, including the cost to ship to what Etsy calls “everywhere” and grouped items, but I’ll cross those bridges when I get there!

Don’t let shipping scare you away from opening an Etsy shop! There may be a few dollars lost when a product costs more to ship than expected, but I’m going to consider this the cost of learning.

The guide I found most helpful is the Canada Post Shipping Guide of Glory. How can you go wrong with a name like that?

Overcoming Road Block #3: Pricing

Pricing was perhaps the most nerve wracking part. How much is my time worth? What price points are simply too high? Will anything actually sell?! Again, I searched through Etsy to get an idea of how similar products were being priced and found a way to justify my costs.

So, here’s how I did my pricing. Let’s take my needle felted ermine for example.

Materials = $5.80
Roving $3.00
Glass eyes $2.50
Pipe cleaner $0.20
Felting needles $0.10 / project

Labour = $150
$10/hr for 15+ hours

Expenses = $5.66
$0.20 Etsy listing
3.5% commission from Etsy (based on $156)

Total = $160

Consider your labour costs carefully. For me, this is a side project I enjoy with low material costs, but I would still rather keep my ermine than sell my time for less than $10/hr. Keeping in mind, too, this cost does not factor in the time it took for me to set up my Etsy shop (which in itself took 15 – 20 hours), or the time it will take to package and ship this little fellow. I have chosen to absorb these costs but you may decide to include them in your product pricing.

I hope this is helpful to your Etsy shop endeavors. It was a lot of fun to create Backyard Spruce and I will continue to learn and grow with it, and hopefully make some sales along the way!

Check out Backyard Spruce on Facebook to follow my shop updates!

Andrea at YuKonstruct
Backyard Spruce


  2180, 2nd Avenue, Whitehorse
  (867) 457-0150

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