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SMW3D

Are you missing MAKE in your life?

Posted by Brandon Satterfield on

What binds a maker to create? Where does the need come from? Something internal, culture, exposure? 

As for me personally it has been years in the making. I can recall a guy who had a wood shop close to our house when I was still in my youth. I really did not understand what he made or why, but I did know he took chunks of tree and made beautiful things that neighbors awed over. All with his hands. It also seemed to bring him great joy. I did not understand the impact it had as he would let me play about the shop and lend a little hand occasionally. 

My grandfather owned a music instrument repair shop that I also frequented in my youth. He could take a flute that had been ran over by a car and completely reshape and tune it back to better than OEM with specialty tools (still hand tools), he hammered and reamed and tested continuously. I can still recall him in the back of the shop late afternoons cold working the metal and wood instruments taking great pride in is craft. Again, I did not understand the impact it had on me. It was fun though to be asked to hold something or lend a hand sweeping. 

In my early teen years I really did not chase any creative acts. I was busy with studies, friends, girls.. There was always something missing and now looking back I can see that I was not feeding my creative needs. Which was probably the reason for a few bad decisions. In the place I was at though, there were not many outlets for this and exposure was at a minimum. I recall building model cars, tearing apart lawn mowers and go carts, and things of this nature, hindsight this was creativity looking for an outlet.  

As my focus turned to driving a few years later my creative juices started to flow again. I worked for a couple of years mowing an uncle's property every weekend to buy his old Ford truck. It was ugly as sin but the thought of the open road was intoxicating, I did not care what it looked like. On his property, there was always something that needed fixing or tinkering, although really, I just wanted to play with that truck. The uncle taught me to use my hands once again, to isolate an issue, do root cause, and not only replace the broken item but prevent it further. He was a QC in his professional life, this also had an impact on me later but in my professional life.

The next few years blew by, I never fed my creative juices. College classes, girls, work, girls..girls. I held jobs that guys do in their late teens early 20s, but in none did I craft or make anything, or for that matter, did anything that impacted anybody anywhere. 

Soon I dropped out of college and started my first business. Moving business, terribly unmotivated and overworked it only lasted about a year. Feeling a failure I drifted a bit more. There was always something that left me feeling incomplete. 

Shortly after, I moved to Texas and in with my father for an interim time. He worked with his hands as a welder. I quickly followed suit. Something was great about this (besides travelling around the country and the money) I was part of a team building things. Looking back I believe this was a pivot point. I followed his lead and we both moved into upper management in industrial construction. I started feeling a longing again. Sitting at a desk typing, meetings, reports, believe I did this for about 8 years. My time on the road had hardened me, I was only working about nine months out of the year but it was always a rough nine months and I was wasn't feeling fulfilled. 

During one of the times off I bought a motorcycle, I hadn't had one in years. I always enjoyed riding but certain locations I went to it just wasn't feasible to have one. I believe I had it a week before changing the exhaust. Next jetted the carbs, this went on till I had even repainted the entire bike. When there was nothing left to do to it, I bought another, then another, specialty tools, lift, etc. I was feeling fulfilled again. The next job was local, believe at a Bayer plant. The whole time I continued to build a collection of old beat up bikes and nice tools. That project finally came to a close. I decided on my last day when I gave back my company truck and badge, I was not doing this again.

I opened a motorcycle business that Spring. I was managing the business but kept my hands dirty. I had reached a state of pure enjoyment, well, minus some of the customer I had to interact with. This ran on for a few years, a poor business decision to add a partner got me in the end. I closed shop and once again felt lost.

Something was still pulling at me, I recognized I needed to create but my skill set was limited. In my mid 30s I went back to college to get an engineering degree. I often argued with professor's theory, it may work out on paper but that is not how it worked in the real world. A few professors took a shining to me, they linked the theory and my real world experience, later they even gave me a degree. 

Out of school I searched for a fulfilling career. I recall all the engineering interviews I had, my quest was to find out how much I would have to sit at a desk. I have never worked one day as an engineer. 

In one interview a CEO ask me what I really wanted to do as I expressed sitting at a SolidWorks station 8 hours a day was not going to happen. He brought up project management. Thrilled I jumped at it. I was all over the place, leading teams, creating, interfacing with the end user. I was creating but not directly. A year in SMW3D was created because what wasn't fulfilling me in my profession, I was getting at home building 3D printers and using other CNCs to MAKE. 

Now, this is what I do. I MAKE. I have never felt more fulfilled. I do the business side as a necessary evil. I really enjoy being part of people's building process. I love to see a machine I designed being used to cultivate and broaden other people's MAKE. 

So does everyone have this in them? My wife is happiest when she is sitting at her vinyl cutter, or creating a dinner masterpiece. I have never met a "wadded-up" artist. Can fulfillment be had by designers sitting at a desk, or is there something about working with your hands? I have read the therapeutic actions of working with one's hands, but is it for all people? Or is this due to personal early exposure? Is it generation specific? I often watch my younger son with Lego blocks he seems very content, but my teenage son does not go out of his way to create things (possibly because his father makes him MAKE often). The younger generations are provided an information overload and electronics in every aspect of their lives, are they missing this vital age old tradition since the creation of the first tool by a cave man. Is it necessary for our kids to MAKE, will they know if they are missing it? Maybe this is just my own personal journey. 

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