Name: Scotland Symons
Home: Seattle, WA (But I travel quite a bit :D)
Makerspace: My own personal shop as well as Black Lodge Research & Metrix
Day Job: Security Architect
How’d you get started making? I guess I couldn’t give you an exact moment in time that I started making. Growing up my parents had a huge impact on me, they were both self-starters and makers in their own right. My mom ran her own restaurant, catering, and design business and my dad was an independent sound engineer for the film industry. I watched both of them make and build things that they needed for their work and it just seemed like a normal thing. My mom would want to do new décor for the restaurant and would often be crafting new centerpieces or decorations out of whatever she could find including things that would light up and at that time in the world it wasn’t common to find displays that looked that way. My dad was working in film was constantly tinkering and building new gadgets and rigging for the sound work he did on films I often thought he was some kind of mad scientist of sound and honestly I bet his peers felt that way to as he had a tiny bit of a reputation: if Tony couldn’t do it no-one could. This type of way of life was also true at home. We weren’t a rich family but my parents made it an awesome as they found ways to buy cheap land and build a house for half the cost. This all meant from an early age that doing our own thing and building the things we needed and wanted was a staple part of my childhood. Oh and books, did I mention books? I read voraciously when I was a kid and my house was full of books on pretty much everything and although we had TV I spent most of my time reading until we got a computer and then I spent a ton of time working on the machine that got bought to do taxes, but was never touched. But when I wasn’t doing those things I would usually be helping my mom or dad make something for their work or for us. My dad would always let me play in the garage and taught me everything I knew and when I wanted to make something silly for my bike or had a silly idea we would just do it. Making just felt like what you do, it was a normal thing that looking back feels like it was an everyday activity.
In school I was lucky enough to be selected to be in the advanced classes both in the arts and the sciences and what was great about that was there was always a hands-on project, a chance to make and build something. One of my earliest memories of a project was for school in around 1992 where we had to invent something futuristic and I built this elaborate tablet computer, well as elaborate as a kid could make it. I built this mock up out of foam and things I found around the house as well as put together a decent write up and I was awarded for the best project in my class. Thinking back, I think that moment may have been the moment that making became a thing for me even if I didn’t realize it at the time. After that I became know as the one who built things to my friends and in school and since then it just hasn’t stopped.
I would credit my parents as they instilled in me that sense of making and I want to thank them for that as well as the fact that they never set the stereotype the no matter what gender you are building, making, and following your dreams and ideas was for everyone.
What type of maker would you classify yourself as? This is a tough one for me because I tend to be all over the place with projects. I work in computer sciences but my heart lies in the art and sciences and I think my work tends to reflect that. I work and make in everything from the digital, paint, wood, metal working, and chemically created art.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve made? I can’t pick just one so here’s my top two favorites. First off the fire guitar. After I saw the recent Mad Max movie I couldn’t resist building one for myself. And two weeks later I had my very own. I think of it as one of my favorites because of how much it makes other people smile and how many younger girls that have come up afterwards to me and say how awesome it is to see a girl with something they say the boys always get to do. Those moment floors me which makes the project feel bigger then the project I built.
The second would be my art series that I call Microstellar, simulating stellar formations through chemical reactions. Basically, this is where I take different chemicals and liquids and I combine them on a glass plate. This glass plate floats in the middle of an empty space where I create particle and lighting effects in the space above and below the plate. I consider it one of my favorites because of the trial and error I went through to come up with how to make them and the constant way it challenges me in how the reactions are sometimes never the same and how the setup is itself a unique and challenging project. I also really like the temporary nature of the work. Although I photograph the plates as the process is going they constantly change and after I’m done and the solution is neutralized the work is gone forever.
What’s something you’d like to make next? I just started working on something that interacts with the world of electronics now that all have features based on audio. Much in the same way I built the fire guitar based off a movie prop I want to build something that takes inspiration from fiction but makes it real and interactive in the real world.
Sound is really interesting to me as is not only one of the major ways we interact with each other but it’s one of the major senses that we have as humans. Right now I am in the first stages of the project mainly reading, researching, planning, and sketching. My hope is to build it over the next few months so stay tuned.
Any advice for people reading this? I think Adam Savage said it best “failure is always an option”, I know he’s not the first to say it but I think he talks about it in the best way. When I met him, and listened to his talk in 2011 it really struck a chord with me when I was feeling lost in my art and projects.
We all fail at things and we always tend to tie a negative feeling to that word. I let failure get to me for a long time and it wasn’t until I really embraced the fact that failure happens in everything and that it’s an opportunity to learn and change did I really start to become unafraid of trying. Since then I’ve been build more and building better stronger ideas and things.
Since then I have adopted three philosophy’s that always help me:
Fail fast and fail often – By being not afraid to try and knowing that a failed state to a project could happen I find more of my projects succeeding and more of them getting done.
Everything can be recycled – Honestly I try and reuse everything including failed projects but I have a limit. If I don’t use it in the next 6 months then I recycle, donate, or trash it. As an example, lots of failed 3D prints tend to be great for scratch building.
Done not Perfect – The act of knowing when to say the project is done and setting a done point. Too often I catch myself working a project to perfection when I met the goals of the project ages ago. I like to set a mental reminder that I can finish a project when my goal is met not when it’s perfect.
Let’s take an example of a recent quick project that I did to create some travel covers for the motors on my quad copter. I needed to make tiny caps that slip over the motor to protect the locking mechanisms from getting bent. I measured the motors extensively and built the caps in CAD, I allowed for the tolerance for them to slip over the motor and created a little ridge to allow them to fit snug so they were easy to take off and won’t just fall off. I thought I had it done on the first go and 3D printed one to try but it didn’t fit. I made adjustments and the second and third one didn’t quite hit the mark either. But with everyone that didn’t work I learned something new about designing a pressure fit cap and by the 4th one they were perfect. The caps that didn’t work became containers that I use for SD cards and I got all this work done in a couple hours completing the project by not obsessing over the picture perfect part and no I have knowledge and a head start on something that I could refine further if I want to do more.
Are you going to any upcoming Maker Faires? I would really like to if my schedule holds out I would really love to make it to the big maker faire in San Francisco and I would sure love to go to one of the world Maker Faires.
Who else should we profile? Fabienne “fbz” Serriere Seriously this lady inspires me and recently just had a successful Kickstarter for KnitYak
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