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Reflections on the Pier

Writing this is one of the hardest things to do. Writing this means that my artist-in-residence at Pier 9 has come to an end. What motivates me to keep writing is something that I learned and deeply embraced at the pier. The pier taught me that giving back to the community you're in is priceless and extremely valuable. More on this later. First, I want to tell you a little bit about my journey at the Pier. 

During the first quarter of the residency I was overwhelmed by the things I could make at Pier 9. Pier 9 has it all, it's a makers / artist / designer / engineers paradise. So when I got there, I realized that I could make anything, which then made me question why I wanted to make those things and if those things really mattered... What impact would they have on the world, on me, on my surrounding community...

This period of questioning was frustrating and hard. While others at the pier were making amazing objects and projects that were getting a lot of press and attention I was just sitting there... thinking as time was quickly passing by. Maybe this was something akin to writer's block. Maybe this was just me being an emotional artist. Maybe this was just me being burned out from a hard year of working at start ups in Silicon Valley. Maybe this was just growing pains (because I was transitioning from writing software to making physical things). 

Things got better tho. What really helped get me out of this rut was the community at pier 9, especially Vanessa and Company. The community at Pier 9 is hands down the most valuable asset the pier has. The machines are great, but its really about the people that the pier attracts. Never have I worked in a space where everyone is so excited, helpful, funny, and happy about their work and the community around them. The culture at the pier is what helped me find my path and eventually helped me make a couple fun projects. I could go on and on about how awesome the community is, but I want to give you a couple concrete examples of things that happened to me that helped me grow and morph into who I am today. 
  • Vanessa Sigurdson would sit down with me every so often and ask me how things were going. When I got really stuck on something she would immediate connect me with someone who could help me or show me something that could inspire me or help me get through my block. Thanks Vanessa, I owe you big time. 
  • I asked Noah Weinstein a ton about his shop in Oakland and how he started it. His super valuable knowledge made me feel empowered and able! He is an individual that really follows through with what he says, very admirable! Thanks Noah!  
  • Andy Lee and I would sit around and talk about triangles and math. Andy is an awesome maker and brave individual. He taught me to just try things out and not care too much if they failed. Andy's experiments at the pier made me feel comfortable prototyping ideas and concepts. Not everything has to be a final art piece. Being an artist / engineer is also about exploring and failing! Thanks Andy!
  • Paolo Salvagione connected me with a major museum in SF. Next year I'll be showing a couple pieces there. His work has been an endless source of inspiration for me. The mechanical beauty in his designs inspires me to make every element in my art pieces elegant and beautiful. Paolo you are the man. 
  • Dot Matrix and I went on runs along the Embarcadero to Crissy Field. Dot gave me some great perspective on the projects I was working on and vice versa. These runs helped clear my mind. In addition, looking at the ocean reminded me that the world is bigger than me. Its a great stress relief. Thanks Dot!!!
  • Sitting next to Andreas Bastian was one of the best parts of the residency. Every time I thought what I was doing was hard, I'd just look at this desk and be humbled by the challenges he was taking on. Thank you Andreas, your work ethic is off the charts. 
  • Craig Dorety blew my mind with his LED sculptures. Experiencing one of his pieces was like a DMT trip (from what I've heard :) ). Craig also taught me a ton about the art world and about how to do miter cuts on the water jet! IGES files are the key!! Thanks Craig! 
  • Robb Godshaw taught me how to follow my impulses. If you have an idea brewing inside of you, you MUST make it! You are an awesome individual Robb! Keep killing it! 
  • Observing Anouk Wipprecht taught me about being fearless and tackling challenges with authority. In addition to being an amazing designer, maker, hacker, and person, Anouk really knows how to reach out to her networks and communities for feedback, involvement, and help. 
  • Dr. Woohoo taught me how to connect with people, and empowering others around me. His optimistic & mature perspective and hilarious nature always helped me find my way though all sorts of problems and challenges. 

I could go on and on. So many good memories and so many things learned... Side note, I believe that Autodesk's Pier 9 will go down in history as the Xerox Parc of our modern day. So many talented people / things / concepts / ideas / pieces of knowledges come in and out of it, I don't know of any other place in the Bay I'd say is more innovative, cutting edge, open and inviting. Maybe Google X, Maybe Tesla / Space X... MAYBE....

Towards the middle/end of my residency when I was wrapping up projects, and new artists were coming in, I had this deep urge to help the new artists find their way just as the coordinators and other past artists had helped me find mine. Helping the new artists was one of the most satisfying things I did at the pier. I'd like to think my residency at Pier 9 has come full circle, but I think it even goes deeper than just my time at the Pier. I did my first instructable (as in I made someone else's creation) in 2007. Now 7 years laters, I hope that the instructables I have written and will write in the future will inspire young makers to keep making and eventually give back to their community in any way they can! 

Thank you Pier 9, Thank you Instructables, Thank you Autodesk, Thank you fellow Artists. I will try to pay you back one day.  

fozzy132 years ago

Sounds like an incredible residency. I've enjoyed following along with your projects. Thanks for sharing with us!

as I begin preparations for the trip out to SF to start my residency, your reflections are encouraging and helpful, thank you. The wistful reminder that the residency is finite is agitating me already to make the most use of this amazing opportunity. I imagine that havingg an opportunity like this could spoil one's standards for life!

Kiteman2 years ago

That is heart-rending...