For many a Bay Area Maker Faire, Adam Savage’s Sunday presentation, something of a Sunday morning sermon, is always a crowd favorite and this year was no exception. Riding in on the back of Russell the Electric Giraffe, Adam delivered a funny, freewheeling, and at times touching hour-long talk about the importance of making, the idea that every act of creation is making, and the importance of teaching kids to be makers while lowering the barriers to making for everyone.
Adam started things off by talking about failure, giving yourself and others permission to fail, and not giving up even in the face of it. He recounted a time in high school when his science teacher admitted to not knowing something, and how that always stayed with him. At one point, he asked the crowd to stop and take a moment to remember and appreciate the special teachers in their lives.
There were a number of touching stories in the talk. One of them was when he talked about making papercraft architectural models as a child, one of his first making experiences. After a session of being in the zone, working on his project, thrilled with how he felt, he told his mother that he felt perfectly content in that moment. Any of us who’ve been deep in that zone know that exact feeling.
He also made a point of reminding the very large, attentive crowd that making is not just about 3D printing, Arduino, LEDs, CNC, and laser cutting. And it’s not just about woodshop or metalwork. And it’s not drones. Making is cooking, dance, making art and music, cosplay. Any act of creating something, bringing something into the world, is making. He also talked, as he has in previous Sunday morning “sermons,” about the importance of making as a way of telling our story, of expressing ourselves, our ideas, and our dreams. Story telling is fundamental to the human experience, he said, and making things is a way of making those stories physical, bringing them to life.
One of the most moving moments of the talk came during the Q&A when a young girl asked him: “What do you do when people are constantly denigrating your efforts?” Adam, obviously touched by the question, climbed down from the giraffe to give the girl a hug, and then, while still slightly choked up, told her to find her group, her tribe, even if it’s just one person, people who support and believe in her, “even if it’s just your mom.” Surround yourself with those people. He pointed out that, given the many creative communities available online, it’s easier than ever to find such people.
Another great response came during the Q&A when someone asked what his favorite busted myth was. After saying there were so many, he couldn’t have a favorite, he added: “The best myth busted for me is that you need a science degree to be a scientist. I am a scientist!”
One of the things that’s always been impressive and inspiring about Adam Savage is that he is as much of an artist as an engineer, a physical maker with the sensitive soul of a poet. And he is definitely a brilliant storyteller, and as he reminded us today, in the end, it’s all about the stories.