Being a Maker

“Are you a maker?” inquired my new boss (edit: almost a year and a half ago now).

I replied with a blank expression (an excellent first impression, I’m sure). She elaborated, and I learned that several of the women in the office were “makers” meaning that they made things.  Knitting and sewing were the predominant methods of creation, but it varied. I probably would have used a term like “crafters” to describe this sort of interest. However, that connotation fills my head with bored housewives making bead lamps (whom I have nothing against; I’ve spent my life aspiring to be that crafty) but my co-workers don’t fit that mold at all.  Designers would be more appropriate perhaps, given the level of expertise and creativity (and formal design training) they bring to their chosen hobbies.  Or, makers.  I liked it.

I’m a maker. I went to architecture school to learn to make things.  I figured that if I didn’t like making buildings, I could segue. Frank Gehry had just started his jewelry line for Tiffany’s, the second nail driven into the coffin of my college social life*.  I like to make jewelry.  I’ve evolved into a decent model maker. I write.  I design.  I’ve been crafty since I was a little girl; my family nicknamed me ‘Martha Stuart’. When other kids watched cartoons, I watched HGTV.  My parents are makers. My mom is excellent with fabric and led her Girl Scout troop through any number of random craft projects. My dad can make machines and wood do his every bidding.

After five years of being driven by the conception and design of buildings, I’ve spent the last six months working.  I’m in a related field using my skills happily, as a CAD drafter for shop drawings and various Adobe programs for marketing for FilzFelt, a company which sells felt. I’ve learned a ton about running a small business and product design, and all the behind the scenes things. It’s been a wonderful change of perspective.  Futhermore, it’s given me the time and reasons to rediscover the maker side of me.  I’ve been slowly exploring other sorts of design. I took a shop class this past few months, and rediscovered my love of powertools.  And it came out pretty well, thanks to 4 months of wood model making.  I’ve still got to stain it, and polyurethane it.  (edit: still haven’t painted it…)

For me, being a maker is about a specific mindset more than anything else.  The medium is almost irrelevant, beyond being enjoyable.  The creativity driving the art/writing/bead lamp is the focus.  It’s about finding an outlet for expression, combined with a desire to keep learning and growing.  Some people prefer a jack of all trades, dabbler approach.  Others dive deep and become experts.  Both are valuable mindsets to cultivate, perhaps even worth trying to juggle their conflicting demands. But the way to forward both are to just keep learning and doing, which is why I think that everyone should consider viewing their hobbies through this perspective.  Even if it’s not resonated for you, it might push you to the next interesting thing.  Which is the whole point!

*A watercolor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house was the first nail.  Years of HGTV might be said to form the walls of the coffin, but that might be taking my metaphor too far.

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