After chasing him with questions and photo requests all the way to Mongolia, I was finally able to get Ryan McFarland, aka zieak, to tell us about his work, his wife, and his preference for Instructables authors who use their own photos. Here's what he had to say:
How did you discover the site and what inspired you to start posting projects?
I don't recall how I stumbled onto Instructables. But it was the lure of a free t-shirt for projects posted in March 2006 if I recall correctly. I documented putting a card reader in a Nintendo controller.
In your profile, it says that you run a bicycle shop and an Etsy shop. How much does Instructables inform your real-life/for-profit ventures?
I don't like to make the same thing twice. So often the projects stay home and are not sold. Even if my original intent was to sell it. I'm a packrat. And after I get around to making something with the stuff I had I seem to keep it. I'm pretty bad at making money off of my projects.
Your wife is also on Instructables. Is there any competition between the two of you or do you cooperate to make even better projects?
It has been really neat to see us play off of each others energy and ideas. She'll find something I have squirreled away and then she's making jewelry or something with it. Or I'll have her keep an eye out for supplies a the local thrift store. We salvage at the town's dump almost every weekend. She'll roll her eyes at some of the things I bring home but has spent plenty of time helping me remove license plates or seat belts from cars, piling my trailer with scrap wood, or lashing some odd treasure form the metal pile onto the roof rack. We both get excited about a new idea so it is mostly cooperative. But she is tenacious and will pick up something that I will quit because I deem it too difficult or tedious.
Of all the projects that you have posted, which is your favorite? Any that you regret?
I have a few that are definite favorites. I have a few that I almost regret publishing too... I guess I look at my "lesser" projects as an exercise. It may have honed my craft or tested my photography or challenged my writing. And it probably tested my timeliness because I seem to be motivated best by contests.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new author on Instructables, what would it be?
Drink lots of water. Oh, you probably mean regarding publishing projects. Use your own photos!
Is there anyone who has been particularly influential towards your work on projects for the site or in your life in general?
Most of my projects involve breathing a reincarnating fresh breath into an old item. So anyone else that is doing work like that is inspirational. The TV show with the two brothers that would pluck up some curbside trash and then transform it into something useful but totally different, many of the projects in Readymade magazine (RIP), and scores of Instructables contributors.