Andrea Biffi has an incredible eye for detail in both his photographs and Instructables. His work continues to influence photographers, Sugru enthusiasts, and designers on Instructables, and his positivity comes through in every comment he writes. I was fortunate enough to interview him about his experiences in life and on the site, and made a friend in the process.
Andrea moonlights as a maker when he's not freelancing as a structural engineer. He attributes his passion for making and photography to his father, who taught him to appreciate crafting at a young age. He picked up his first tool at age 1 when no one was looking and began working on a doorjamb. Today he's welding bicycle trailers and hauling around cargo (sometimes friends) with him through the streets of Milan, Italy. Read more to learn about Andrea's path to becoming a prolific author on Instructables.
How did you first discover Instructables and what led you to post your first one?
I joined Instructables in 2009 and I used to follow the featured posts with regularity — reading and admiring (sometimes with a bit of envy) the most awesome projects. Some years later, thanks to a gifted pro-account which gave me a push, I uploaded my first small Instructable, and a picture of my pano-head for spherical photography.
My first successful project was the column drill, and I remember it was among the ten most viewed Instructables that month. The push to become a prolific author came from the Instructables community, and its awesome “be nice” policy. That and the demonstrated interest from the community is powerful enough to encourage thousands of makers in the world.
What about Instructables makes it a good place for you to share your creations?
Before I began posting on instructables, I didn't know how much I’d love to teach and write tutorials. Writing a good Instructable requires many skills: making, documenting, writing, photographing and learning as you go to make an even better one the next time. It's always a challenge and keeps my brain sharp.
Instructables is also very well rounded site. Authors and readers make an awesome community, founded on the desire to share knowledge with one another, and to offer feedback and suggestions. I love to receive comments about my projects, and I always try to answer to all of them. It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to reach such a large number of readers, and to know that many of them think my original ideas merit positive feedback and sometimes even a try.
Of all the instructables that you have published which one are you most proud of?
There are two instructables which were main milestones in my author career. The first was my column drill, since its popularity gave me a clue about the power of a good original project and about the satisfaction to have a such receptive audience.
Next was my first nixie clock, which is a proof that with perseverance and determination you can complete difficult challenges. I fell in love with nixie displays more than two years before, but had to study electronics and programming to develop my own clock. Of course I also made a lot of prototypes and versions during that time to reach my goal. The result left me astonished and I'm still very proud of that.
You are a member with an eclectic mix of projects. What is your background and how has this affected the things you made?
Growing up I liked maths and physics, and I graduated college in Milan as civil engineer. My dad handed down his passion and techniques for both crafting and photography, and I developed my own interests in computers and software. Now I’m a designer with skills that encompass a range of disciplines, from seismic calculations to architectural design, from spherical photography to 3D graphics, from woodworking to circuit development.
When did you know you wanted to be a structural engineer?
Actually I don't feel like a 100% structural engineer, and I always had an artistic side of my mind/heart that wanted to be set free. Life led me down the path of engineering, and of course I'm happy about that, but on my ID card my title is "artist"!
Is there anyone who has been particularly influential towards your work on projects for the site or in your life in general?
I have to thank my dad which introduced me in crafting (it's not so common here in Italy) and photography. I'm also very grateful to a friend of mine with whom I feel particularly in accord and which incentivized me in pursuing my projects. He is a busy engineer too, and I wish he will find time to post on this website. Thanks also to many instructables authors which became friends and advisors.
Are there any new authors that have inspired you and how?
Walnut bicycle made by JMYilla is an awesome project! I wish to make one as soon I have the right tools, and I will be looking for his next Instructable. "Frankenstein Laser Engraver" by ianmcmill and the "MicroSlice" by SilverJimny are laser cutters which actually were inspired by the "Pocket laser engraver" by Groover, they all convinced me to build myself a very similar tool (project is still work in progress). Then there is azükiBEAN's "Living in your Truck", which makes you dream of an adventurous life.
Can you name 3 authors that you think should be featured next?
This is a mischievous question, of course this is not difficult, but it's hard to choose between so many awesome authors... ASCAS is such a prolific writer, and his projects are awesome, his interview will be so interesting. Junophor makes wonderful steampunk stuff, he has a beautiful style and I can guarantee he is a very kind person, you will enjoy speaking with him. Kipkay and shazni wrote countless instructables and received millions views, it will be interesting knowing more about their creativity.
If you could give a piece of advice to a new author, what would it be?
I always suggest to new members to complete their Instructables with a small number of good quality pictures, to make a good subdivision in steps with synthetic titles, and to add references and links to the sources for in-depth analysis. They also have to be sure that the information is easy to understand and reproduce.
If you'd like to learn more about Andrea, or ask him additional questions, you can do so by leaving a comment on this forum post.