Tell us about yourself.
I am an Associate Professor at UWM that teaches Digital Fabrication and Design in the Department of Art and Design. I run the Digital Craft Research Lab which is a hybrid studio lab space where student can access both analog and digital tools to create objects. These objects can range from art objects that convey specific ideas to functional objects that solve design or engineering problems.
I was trained as a Metalsmith in the tradition of fine craft, but I grew up in a household that was built on DIY ingenuity and thoughtfulness. My father was a factory worker and he would often have personal projects that he would would work on after work or on a weekend day when he wasn’t working. He could fix or make just about anything and that led me to the realization that anything is possible if you have the desire to learn, and the ability to be resourceful. I am sure I became who I am from just absorbing things during my time hanging out with him in the shop. Those same skills and experiences have led me to become a teacher that helps my students solve problems. I hope that their experiences working in my classroom lead them to a fulfilled life where they get to use their skills to make a difference in the lives of others.
What are you presenting at Maker Faire Milwaukee?
I will be presenting my work with Enable, 3D printed hands, machined pizza cutters, tools, and other functional objects, as well as student work from UWM’s Digital Craft Research Lab.
Why is making important to you?
Making is important to me because I believe that the “act of making” is an innate characteristic that embodies what it means to be human. Making is the ultimate way to connect things; making connects the hand and mind, it connects unrelated fields of study to form new solutions, and it connects people. Making is way to connect to others, solve problems, be creative, and communicate ideas through the things we create.
What was the first thing you remember making?
My earliest memories of making are from taking things apart and “fixing” things but I’m sure some of the first things that I built from scratch were related to toys. I used to have a set of “building blocks” that were left over pieces of wood that my Dad had made for me; from “cut-offs” from a building project. I don’t believe there was a single block that was consistent in it’s dimensions, so this allowed for a multitude of configurations to build houses and roads for my Hot Wheels cars or Army Men to travel on or take shelter in. I remember hours of play in creating structures and roads with these wood blocks so my cars could navigate the thick shag carpet of my childhood.
What have you made that you are most proud of?
I am very proud of the design work and 3D printed hands that I have built for local and international children. I am proud of this work because it has connected many people that have been in need with people that are able to help others. It has made making something that is pure in spirit. Rather than looking for monetary gain or personal property or fame (which is sometime the goal of makers) it has opened the door to meeting other people with similar motives when is comes to making and sharing. This is something that I hold dear to my heart.
More than the things that I have made, I am extremely proud of the things that my students have made and accomplished with the skills they have learned in my classroom. There is no greater pride than seeing the success of my students as they find their own individualized way of connecting their passion with their life.
Given an unlimited budget, what would you make?
Given an unlimited budget, I would probably build a workspace that contains all of the latest tools and equipment needed to build almost anything, and I would find a way to make that space available to people that would like to come together to solve problems and work collaboratively. I would also find a way to make it a place of learning for people who are interested in investing in their knowledge and skill. It might look something like Autodesk’s Pier 9 or Digital Craft Research Lab on steroids. Then I would get to work building things and working with people that are just as passionate about making as I am.