Author Spotlight: Gmjhowe



Jake Howe, also know as gmjhowe, is living the maker dream. He's working for himself as a graphic designer and spending lots of time with like-minded folks at the Nottingham Hackspace! He's best known on Instructables for his steampunk/cyberpunk projects. Had it not been for his projects I think many of us on Instructables would have had no idea of the oncoming steampunk craze that has taken over the internets in the past few years! :D

I recently got to ask him a few questions about what he's doing now and if he's got anything big planned for instructable #50. He also gave us some photos of his work spaces! Excited about his projects yet? Follow him on twitter or check out his website.

How did you discover the site and what inspired you to start posting projects?

I first discovered the site through Makezine, their project page used to link through to the make instructables group. For a while I just used to browse that, then as I got more interested I started to browse the site on its own. Instructables must have been fairly young at this point, and it has been great to see it grow from there.

I wouldn't say I was inspired to start posting projects by anything in particular, it was more that I had been inspired by projects on Instructables and I wanted to play a part in inspiring others. Its nice to make something awesome, however it is even better when you see someone else inspired by your work. There are several people that have made specific instructables inspired by my projects.

I also think its great just to have your stuff seen by people, its nice to make something and have it sat on your shelf, its great to show that thing off to other people.

Having said that, it is the amazing thing to be able to teach other people how to do that thing which really appeals to me now.

If you could give one piece of advice to all of the other authors on Instructables, what would it be?

My advice would be never to rush a project. We have all been there, deadline for a contest coming up, an idea in your head you just have to get out or just not enough time to work on something.

All my best projects have taken me over a year to complete, thats not because I spent an entire year making them but because good projects need time. I often spend hours just playing around with ideas, bits of stuff and thinking things through. Sometimes you might sit in front of a project fiddling with it as you plan, other times you might lay in bed longer than usual while your mind processes ideas and projects.

Once you have solved the problem and had the idea, don't try and force it all out in a day/week/month. A lot of my projects often go through a 'shelved' period, where the project has lost momentum only to get picked back up and turned into something great.

Is there anyone or anything that has been particularly influential towards your work?

Without a shadow of a doubt I would have to say my Mum. While I have plenty of people around me now to encourage me, my beautiful wife, my steampunk friends, the people at the hackspace, it was my Mum who started it.

When I was younger she would feed me cardboard and sellotape, they would be turned into my latest sci-fi guns, planes and cars for my toys. They are great learning tools for any budding maker, if you have children you want to get into making things, give them cardboard and help them to play with it.

So, my 'anyone' would be my Mum, my 'anything' would be cardboard.

You're one of the most prolific steampunk/cyberpunk authors on Instructables! When did you start doing these projects and what inspired you?

I kind of touch on this a little in the above question, I have always made guns and props, its just as I got older and learned new skills and patience they got better and better. So I can not remember a time when I did not make those things, I remember an early project where me and my dad draw up a cardboard revolver most likely after seeing some western on the television.

Steampunk/cyberpunk have been around for a long while now, both Instructables and the internet is full of continued inspiration for those things. I am also an avid sci-fi fan, so a lot of inspiration can be drawn from various movies including Aliens, Bladerunner and Firefly. Although my projects have their own aesthetic its those kind of things that make me want to make sci-fi stuff.

Tell us more about Nottinghack! We love to hear about hackerspaces.

Instructables is great for sharing your projects with the world. Hackspaces are great to interact directly with those same type of people. I originally get involved with Nottingham Hackspace by attending the UK Maker Faires in Newcastle, the first one I attended I heard about Hackspaces, and it was due to that faire that some people in Nottingham started to form a Hackspace. It was not until the second Maker Faire I attended (2010) that I met those guys and they made me come and visit.

As for talking about Nottingham Hackspace in general, like all good hackspaces it started off in a pub, after a while of meeting they decided to move into an actual space, which was a little two roomed area we rented for £100 a month. Just over a year ago we were faced with needing to move out of that space after the building was sold. Dominic one of the Nottingham Hackspace founders pushed us all to look for a bigger space and we found our current hackspace at Roden House, at over 4000sqft it was a risky move, but one that paid off. With some help from some friend both in time and donations. In our first year we had just 20 members, since moving into the larger space we now have over 120 members and growing.

There are a few things I love about Nottingham Hackspace I want to share. Firstly, membership is pay what you like. This is a great way to manage membership, it means members are the ones who choose what they think the space is worth, which I think is a great principle to have in place. Secondly, its a space you can use at any time, members get 24hr access which is all done with key codes and RFID, which means unlike other clubs that are similar, you can just always get in and get your hacking fix. Finally, Hackspaces, despite the name, are less about the space, and more about the people, meeting and interacting with like minded individuals is priceless and something all makers should be doing.

The Nottingham Hackerspace

How has it been freelancing for a while now? What convinced you to take the plunge and work for yourself?

I blame Mitch Altman. At the first Maker Faire we attended Mitch did a great talk about how if someone is not happy in their job they should take the initiative to quit that job and do something you love. You spend a 3rd of your life working, so why spend that time hating what you do? I think it is becoming easier for people to make a living doing what they enjoy, whether they work freelance, or just find a better job, say working at Instructables.

Jake's work space

At the time I stuck with my current job for longer than I should have, I kept telling myself 'in this economy you should be thankful to have any job' it took over a year inbetween hearing Mitch's talk and choosing to quit my job. Thankfully I did, and I have never looked back. I work as a Graphic Designer, which sometimes overlaps with the making side of things. Working for myself means I have the scope and freedom to try my hand at making things, developing ideas and products around my design work.

Any big projects in the works? You have to do something big for Instructable #50, you know!

I always have big ideas in my head, I even have some fairly epic projects shelved here and there. As for something big, well, I guess I need to give that some thought. I have always wanted to build a full sized TARDIS, however I don't thing that is original enough for a 'Big' project. #49 is most likely going to be a Keytar I am working on (Because everyone needs a Keytar).

For #50 I would like to do something on a physically large scale, maybe as an installation somewhere, however for that to happen I would need someone with a big space to show it off to come forward and ask me.