Maker Spotlight: Rob Richards

Maker News

While on the hunt for potential exhibits for Maker Faire Bay Area 2024, I found Rob Richards and his upcoming project, “Echoes of the Heart,” that he’s bringing to Burning Man 2024. Based in Los Angeles, CA, Rob is both a visual artist and an industrial engineer.

Echoes of the Heart” is ambitious — a 9-foot-tall, biomorphic anatomical human heart intertwined with a network of LED-lit tubes that carry a series of audio recordings from the inner speakers to the outer openings of the shell. These recordings range from painful to loving and and imbue the piece with a kind of living memory contributed by participants (up to 50,000 recordings!). 

What’s particularly striking about Rob’s project aside from the visual design is its commitment to sustainability. Crafted predominantly from eco-friendly materials like geopolymer cement, it combines artistry with environmental consciousness.

We will be following along on the build journey and invite you to join us. Rob and team have just opened up a fundraising campaign and you can also back and support this project.

We also asked Rob to fill out our Maker Spotlight Form to share a bit more about him in his own words!

How did you get started making?

I learned mechanical drafting in high school and have been designing components and systems ever since. In 2014, I took welding classes at a community metal shop, and quickly turned it into a side job. I joined Hexlab Makerspace as their welding instructor four years later, where I learned advanced CAD design, laser cutting, 3d Printing, casting, and basic CNC. I launched my own business in 2016, and now have a 650 square foot fabrication studio of my own.

What type of maker would you classify yourself as?

That’s challenging to answer, as I deal with everything from metal working to electronics. I guess I’d be most commonly known as a visual artist, as most of my time goes to designing art experiences. But if I had a choice, I’d refer to myself as a Polymath.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve made?

I’d have to say the robotic stegosaurus tail I built for Dreamworks TV. On of the most challenging mechanisms I’ve ever designed, but also the most satisfying to watch in action. I’d love to build more projects like that.

What’s something you’d like to make next?

I’ve been wanting to do another iteration of my LED armor from Burning Man 2022. I’ve been talking with another amazing artist, Chrome Monarchy, about collaborating on a more elaborate piece, but our schedules just haven’t been lining up lately.

Any advice for people reading this?

Trust yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. But as long as you take responsibility and learn from them, you’ll continue to grow. The road is never going to be a straight line, but stay true to yourself, what you’re good at, and what that deep inner voice tells you, and you’ll learn how to tune out all the noise. And seek out mentorship and collaboration as much as you can. Try to learn, more than you try to teach.

Who are some makers who inspire you?

That’s such an insanely long list. I’ve been a huge fan of the Hacksmith ever since he toured our building back in 2019, and I’ve always enjoyed working with my friend Allen Pan of Sufficiently Advanced; we’ve done some really crazy and fun projects together. One of my oldest inspirations as an artist is Jamie Koala; she’s incredibly skilled in so many different mediums. Kt Octopus, a very good friend and colleague of mine, and one of the most highly skilled sculptors and fabricators I know. Her work is so singular and unique. Alec Gillis of Studio Gillis, one of the best minds in the practical creature FX industry, who’s one of the first people I go to for technical advice. Kate Greenberg, a Burning Man installation artist that designs some truly mind boggling and experiences. Chris Bathgate, one the first machinist artists I ever knew about, for his incredibly unique and other-worldy designs and unparalleled technical skill. COZO, another installation artist well known at Burning Man, who’s work has always tickled my brain and my love of geometry.

Rob Richard’s eye candy time…

Find Rob on the World Wide Web!

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Gillian Mutti

About Gillian Mutti serves as the Director of Marketing for Make: and also holds the role of Co-Producer for Maker Faire.

View more articles by Gillian Mutti


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