Instructables

An embarrassment of riches

I was an Artist in Residence at Instructables from September-December 2013, and words cannot express how wonderful it was.  Instructables has recently built out what I can only imagine is the world's greatest general use workshop, at Autodesk's Pier 9 facility.  You are probably aware of this shop if you're reading Artist in Residency posts, but if not, check out the overview here and the machine details here.  I tried to learn and do EVERYTHING in this shop!  I didn't quite succeed in that but I came close enough that I didn't totally finish any of my projects.  I'd planned to make an articulated model of an Escher drawing and an 8 foot tall steel dinosaur statue, both projects I could probably have spent all my time there on.  There was so much awesome to learn about and experiment with, though, that I kept getting distracted by side projects and what-if's that I might not have had opportunity to mess around with later on.  So what I actually ended up making was a series of acrylic jewelry, two small cardboard dinosaur models, MOST of the Escher drawing (I finished it later), some sheet metal walking-leg linkage experiments, half of a new Mustache Ride, part of a sixth Pulse of the City heart, tests of chemically-mediated etching on metal, a pair of 3d printed snowflake ornaments, and the beginnings of a pair of antler pants.  (I will definitely write instructables for the dinosaur and the pants, when they are complete.)

I loved it all.  I loved it all so much, and so consistently, that I had to try everything and was hardly able to finish anything.  I cut metal on the waterjet, I printed many 3d things on the 3d printers, I lased like it was going out of style, I lathed like I didn't know what I was doing (Yay Learnings!), I cut and welded and drilled and screwed and printed and ground and sewed and soldered and blasted and glued.  I was like a kid in a candy shop who can't finish the fudge because the lollipops are so tasty and then whoa! peanut brittle! peppermints! gumdrops!  The only part of the shop I didn't use was the test kitchen because, well, I don't really cook.

Three months was not enough.  Three years would not be enough.  I feel so fortunate to have been in there doing anything at all for any amount of time, though.  Things I can do now that I couldn't do last summer include:
  • turn wood on a lathe
  • cut metal, stone, cardboard, etc on a waterjet
  • etch metal on a laser printer
  • operate a small vacuum former
  • print multiple materials on an Objet Connex
  • run a jointer and planer
  • operate a Shopbot
  • TIG weld aluminum (to be sure, I'm lousy at this still, but I know How)
  • operate a sand blaster
  • bend steel tubes
I'm an introverted anti-social nerd so it has taken me to the bottom of this post to talk about the people.  I absolutely need to say how great the people there are - everyone, no matter their job description, makes things.  Everyone just gets how it is to lose yourself in making some weird possibly useless object that you might have to get rid of when you're done anyway, but you just need to work on it to figure out That One Thing that you didn't quite understand but now you do!  It is a rare and wonderful set of people.  And some of the people, it is explicitly their JOB to teach me about all the equipment and help me with any problems I had with anything at all.

If you're reading this you should definitely apply for this program.  You do not want to miss out on working in this shop.

gmoon9 months ago

It's nice to see Rachel back at Instructables, if only for bit...

Kiteman9 months ago

I wonder if I could get away with applying again?

(Although I think Kitewife might have something to say about that...)