Friday, March 18, 2011

Ah, to be a maker

I've been a Wired magazine subscriber for years.

It's edgy. It's geeky. It's ridiculous. It's offensive.

But every once in a while it's totally inspirational. It kick starts my creative juices in a way that no job, hobby or book can.

Today I finished the magazine that came in the mail just yesterday and felt a jolt of refreshment. The ideas have just started whirling inside my head.

This month's magazine features "How to Make Stuff" and is chock-full of the kind of information one in our latest DIY-crazed society needs to get be a maker.

They list the latest "tools" to be a maker.

No, it's not a sewing machine. That was my first maker phase.
No, it's not a camera and darkroom stuff. That was my next maker phase.
No, it's not children (the hardest maker phase I've attempted).
No, it's not fabric, batting, needle, and thread.
No, it's not paint and brushes along with design software.
No, it's not HTML and java-scripting.

The latest tools I would need:
  1. Computer-aided design software. It's a natural next step for me considering the design software I've been using and the year I spent doing 3-D computer modeling in a past life. Any suggestions you CAD aficionados, for the Mac?
  2. 3-D printers "unlike mills and lathes, which make parts by removing material from a solid block of stock, 3-D printers make physical objects by adding material a little at a time...melting powdered metal or plastic into durable 3-D parts...or liquid polymer." How cool is that?!
  3. Arduino micro-controller. " connect input pins (sensors, say or buttons) and output pins (LEDs, motors, sirens, servos, and more.) Then use the free software to write a program that tells the outputs what to do with the input signals." Simple, versatile.
  4. Rapid-prototyping services. Hey, just like the service bureaus for designers in the late 80s. Somewhere to upload my designs and have them made of wood, plastic, rubber, or metals.
The wheels are turning!

Okay, wait, maybe I'm just enamored with the IDEA of being a maker.

I credit a certain can-do maker attitude to a certain Algebra teacher in 8th grade, Mrs. Jensen. She told us she was an inventor. We giggled behind our hands at that. Why would an 8th grade Algebra teacher be teaching Algebra to us every day if she was an inventor?!

She would come to class all excited to tell us of this idea or that and again we would giggle. She told us of all the ideas she had first, that someone else had now made real. She constantly encouraged us to think new thoughts and not wait to act on them. (She also had an amazing talent for explaining a math concept in four or five different ways until everyone in the class understood in their own way.)

Looking back I see it as a defining moment in my life...that. has. laid. dormant. for. years.

Maybe it's time to jump start the little spark ignited by a Jr. High math teacher.

Or, maybe I'm just poised to start a new career considering where I am with the current one.

Or, maybe I'm just inhabiting my rich inner life with these new dreams.

Or, maybe just being curious is so satisfying. (I just recently picked a friend's brain regarding his e-Bay store of collectibles, how he goes to auctions, how he manages shipping, and how he's grown his business to almost a full-time pursuit.)

I love self-discovery. I love seeing what makes people tick, makes them (and me) whole, makes one feel well and happy. Somewhere in all these ramblings is the answer to the positive change I seek in my life.

Or, maybe I'll put my brilliant mechanical-engineer brother onto the idea and watch him create a second career! After all he had the same Algebra teacher!

What inspires you? And why aren't you acting on it?!


Cool links:
Wired's how-to wiki
How to make stuff videos

P.S. Related article: 3-D printing using sawdust


  1. I love this!
    I have a lot of why's right now, but I'm TRYING to act anyway. Biggest obstacles seem to always be 1. money and 2. expectations from my support system that leave very little room for error or failure. I'm not the least bit afraid to try and fail, but I am afraid of the disappointed condescending backlash I get from my family when I fail. A bit sad, isn't it?

  2. Because I'm too tired! But I WANT to be more creative and make more stuff (other than just making green oatmeal for St. Patty's day). But I agree...this was inspiring to read. It makes me want to dust off my design corner portion of my brain and let the creative juices flow! Thanks for the articles!


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