Thursday, January 13, 2011

Heard a really great local public radio show last night about a Durham, NC man who runs his own design and fabrication company. He explained that while he was a student of architecture, he spent more time in the shop building things than in the studio drawing buildings. When graduation approached, he told his professor and mentor that he was more inclined to follow a path working with his hands, and knew that this was at odds with his professional education. When he asked the mentor "What should I do?", the response was at once uncomplicated and confounding: "Oh, you'll figure it out."
Upon hearing this, the student went on to set up his own design and fabrication shop. Instead of securing a financial backer or getting small business loans, he would chase the jobs that he could do with his simple array of tools, then use the money from these early jobs to buy the tools that would expand his range of services. His story and his description of events reminded me much about that business, as I was a custom metal fabricator until I postponed my future in said field to work towards my Master's Degree in Interior Architecture in 2006. While I value my education, recognizing that it will undoubtedly benefit my chosen path of product design, I long to make again. I welded, melted, ground, glued, sanded or painted custom furnishings and sculpture for nearly eight years before enrolling in grad school, and I miss it sorely.
What really resonated with me about the man's story was that there came a point when he had to DECIDE to pursue this path, to commit to it. I know from experience that it is a daunting task to commit to a life of self-employment. We all want to know that there will be a job to go to tomorrow and that the paychecks won't bounce. At eight years in, I wasn't able to make that decision, and I felt grad school was the next journey. It was the smartest thing to do for me, and it has contributed greatly to my design process, sensibilities and future.
I look forward again to making things, to cultivating the particular design philosophies and aesthetics that were the subjects of my graduate research. The notion of sustainability has opened my eyes to new ways of seeing waste and the unique opportunities that this perspective provides. As a result of three years of sketching, I have piles of drawings of things to be built. Currently, the material for construction is free to be plucked from dumpsters behind factories. Wood glue is cheap.
Buy more clamps.
Go like Hell.

No comments: