Last week I visited Jimmy DiResta in his crowded, labyrinthine workspace beneath a Manhattan salon. We talked inspiration, tools, and why he’s so silent on video and so talkative on “Making It”, his podcast with Bob Clagett of I Like to Make Stuff and David Picciuto, aka the Drunken Woodworker.
Making It, says DiResta, happened because he and Clagett and Picciuto developed a rapport over their comments on each others’ videos. They ironed out a plan, record over Skype, and publish an episode every other week or so.
Now, nine episodes in, they’ve covered topics from materials and tools to things that scare them, all with the goal of exploring the creative process. “What inspires us? How do we come up with ideas?” asks DiResta. “We didn’t want it to be overly technical.”
Episode 7, for example, discussed failure. But DiResta and crew reached an interesting conclusion: “Bob said, ‘What did we learn from this podcast? That there really is no failure, failure is not an option’,” DiResta says. In his words, “True failure is abandoning a project, and we’ve never really done that.”
There’s a big YouTube community among wood and metal workers, which tends to follow established practices and stringent guidelines, says DiResta. “I wanted to talk about the process of exploring, learning, different ways of making things and different methods … I encourage people breaking the rules from the onset, because that’s how new things are invented.”
Invention is a hallmark of DiResta’s videos. Often, he doesn’t create wholly new things so much as he invents new uses for old stuff, or new ways to build familiar objects. Ever since I first saw his videos, I’ve wondered why he didn’t speak. “So many people ramble on and on in their videos … I felt I could tell the story without talking,” he says. “I’m coming to see each one of my videos that I don’t talk in as like a song or a little piece of art in itself, and I feel if I talk through it, it kind of spoils that.” Plus, he didn’t want to spend a lot of time editing sound to match the sped-up footage.
If you watch those videos carefully, you’ll see DiResta’s shop from the inside. He has maintained this current shop for a decade, and before that had two others in New York City and Long Island. Friends and proteges drop in regularly, and his girlfriend, Taylor Forrest, makes some leather furniture there. The ceilings are low, and ornamented with tools and old projects. DiResta admits to being a bit of a hoarder, pulling a chisel, which he’ll use for an upcoming project, from a drawer full of dozens of them. Another drawer is full of nothing but medical clamps. The DiResta logo is spray painted or etched into scattered old projects, like guitars and old saws. The entry descends from street level into a large room with a ShopBot and stacks of wood DiResta picked up from a colleague who moved out of another shop. His cat, Spike, has free rein.
He’s got another shop though, a work in progress, on some property in the Catskills. “No neighbors, no complaints,” he says. Will he bug out entirely? “If I had a giant shop that I’m envisioning and that we’re developing, I probably would never leave it. I’d be able to put all the tools I have together in one spot.”
Oh, I took some photos, too. (Extra points for each one of his Make: builds you can find.)
Subscribe to “Making It”: makingitpodcast.com