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MAKE Asks: Making and the Arts

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MAKE Asks: Making and the Arts

MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: We all know that making isn’t just nuts and bolts– there’s plenty of creativity involved. Do you have an artistic talent that informs what you make in some way?

I was a professional musician for many years, and when I think about it, it was the desire to build my own guitar pedal that got me into making. The pedal was a failure, but it got me curious, and in the coming years I successfully built effects and even musical instruments.

Post your responses in the comments section.

12 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: Making and the Arts

  1. Greger Stolt Nilsen (@gregersn) says:

    I am not quite sure where I would place myself. I don’t feel I do that much making, but it is a great inspiration for my art practice. I subscribe to Make Magazine, and I love going through back issues. I think I’ve seen every post on the makerblog, and it constantly feeds my head with stuff that can be used as basis for artworks. So it is not a much that I use “making” to make tools for my art, it’s more I make stuff as art.

    So I guess that what it bottoms out to isn’t that my artistic side is what drives me to making, And that is also the goal.

    Though as I am planning on trying to put together a CNC I guess the tool making is about to start.

  2. kjunkins says:

    I design and build sets for local community theaters (and sometimes props). That is all about the meeting of art and making. I’ve built a cow with a robotic swishing tail for “Fiddler on the Rood”, a grandfather clock that runs on accelerated time for “Rope”, a foam sculpted car for “Grease”. Trees and sand dunes. A dilapidated, empty swimming pool on stage. Even a recreation of the Oval Office.

    If theater isn’t the ultimate conjunction of art and making, I don’t know what is.

  3. burnsbothends says:

    I was an artsy person long before I was a maker. I drew, danced, did color guard, sewed, sang in choirs (even went on tour once), did theater, painted, made ceramics, sculpture, photography, poetry, went to school for journalism and layout — did just about everything you don’t need significant tools or space for, and it definitely colors my creative “making” pursuits.

    The significant time I spent doing physically creative things gave me a sense of how sometimes just “feel” right, and that’s something I search for in all of my current creative pursuits. In bookbinding, I consider how a book will feel to the holder- should it seem like a tome or a multipurpose tool? Should it feel like something significant or something everyday? For wood lathe turning (which I’m just learning now), does the curve feel right in the hand? I’ve applied this to learning how to do things, too, since (for me) the feeling of rightness often correlates with really understanding something. I know I’m nowhere near understanding electronics and microcontrollers, because I just don’t feel the knowledge in my bones.

    I also tend to overuse rhythms and base 8 in my projects, since I’ve spent a majority of my life in musical pursuits. The plate armor piece I’m working on will probably have 8 plates- shoulder, 4 upper arm plates, 2 forearm pieces, and an elbow cover. My books typically have signatures of 4 or 8 sheets, and often the number of signatures divides evenly by 4 or 8. When I made crocheted lace necklaces, the number of repetitions of the motif almost always was divisible by 4, often slightly exceeding the desired measurement. This gave them a bit of overlap, which benefitted people with larger necks than I’d planned on.

    Really, everything I really know, I learned from my independent creative pursuits. Journalism left me with an aversion to passive verbs and a profound desire to mark everything with red pen. Knitting and crochet taught me how to not put my tension into what I make. Color guard taught me to learn and teach by example (often as much of a drawback as a benefit). Drawing and inking taught me the importance of doing work that isn’t blatantly shown in a final product. Poetry taught me the power of revisions. Ceramics taught me about form and function. Music, sewing, knitting, and crochet taught me math better than any teacher ever did. Photography taught me physics and a bit about computers (digital, no film). Teaching anyone else taught me analogies. Making stuff, whether as an artist or a maker, taught me everything

  4. Bill Ritchie says:

    I am known as a print maker (the two words are usually run together) and I taught this art and craft at a university for years until I realized print making was bigger than I thought. Print making is the ancestor of all technology and science because the printed image/word constructed a wave of human ingenuity repeatable in time and space. Painting, drawing and sculpture have not had the worldwide impact that print making has; in fact, the fine arts owe everything to print making, especially in art education and the so-called profession of art. I designed a tiny etching press that liberated me from the print making studio, going everywhere on boats, trains and automobiles–even printing outdoors like the plein-aire painters. Today I go to maker groups, meetups and workshops, and I bring my mini press and I print for them. My goal is to put my teaching self in the press itself, and finally, to make a game out of learning printmaking. Maker (magazine) and the Maker Faire phenomena makes me want to put on a Print Maker Faire like it – maybe even publish a magazine called Print Maker.

    1. Michael Colombo says:

      That’s great Bill! You should bring your press and knowledge to a Maker Faire! We had a press at Bay Area Maker Faire this past year that was powered by a 3 hp steam engine. It was pumping out MAKE themed beverage coasters. :)

      1. Bill Ritchie says:

        Will do! I’m looking for the people who do the Seattle Mini Maker Faire so I can bring a lot of printmaking community people to next year’s. Print Makers do their own thing at art fairs, but this is more interesting to me.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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