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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

February UFO Sightings in the Workshop

Once again, as time goes flying by, I find myself looking around the shop and pondering the huge drifting piles of things I've been working on in between more serious projects.  It turns out I have the attention span of a chipmunk when it comes to these kinds of hobby projects and I seem to be building a collection of started things just a bit faster than I've been building my collection of finished things.

With that in mind, here's just a handful of the UnFinished Objects scattered around the shop lately.

First off, I got a bit excited during a slow day a while ago and decided to break out a handful of helmets that are in progress lately:Backburner Projects Dusted Off

The Sabine Wren helmet, Primaris Space Marine, and Samus Aran are all cast from my molds.  The Havoc Trooper is 3D printed from files made by Marko Makaj.  The rest are kits I've picked up from other makers recently.  These kinds of things are good for me to keep on hand whenever I get frustrated and need a thing I can finish in a hurry and feel accomplished.

On an unrelated note, I decided to make a replica of Jarnbjorn, the axe which Thor wielded before he got his hammer, Mjolnir:
Handle Bands Progress
The head was printed from a file I got at Do3D.com.  The handle is a scratch build I've been tinkering with whenever I find a few extra minutes and happen to have whatever tool I need in my hand.

For the past however many months, I've had my Cobra Commander helmet mold sitting on the bench where I do my fiberglass layup.  So whenever I mix up a bit too much material, I end up with another helmet blank.  Once they get trimmed a bit and painted dark blue, the Cobra Commander helmets become Cobra infantry trooper helmets.  At some point I should probably quit:
Cobra Trooper Helmet Lineup

I have a steady stream "someday" projects lined up.  So whenever the once in a while happens and there's a few days where my fleet of 3D printers isn't doing anything important, I have them constantly cranking out parts so I won't end up waiting on the printers when I have time to tinker on fun stuff.

One such frivolous project is the Halo rocket launcher prop that I don't need at all, but I've been wanting for ten years.  At this point almost all of the parts have been printed, so it's nearing the prep and paint and make it look cool stage.  In the meantime, it's huge:
Barrels Assembled

Speaking of huge, sometime last year I started making parts for Paz Vizla, the heavy infantry Mandalorian.  One of the more interesting parts was his heavy blaster.  Here's most of the printed parts all lined up together:
Heavy Blaster Prototype WIP

While I've already molded and cast most of the pieces and parts, I haven't quite made time to make a mold for the main body.  That changed last week when I finally got around to turning some scrap MDF into a cradle for it:
Mold cradle begins

At the rate I'm going, I'll be casting parts sometime next week:
Blaster Body Moldmaking

As usual, there's tons of other works in progress scattered around the workshop, I'm about to wrap up a couple of builds all at once, so stay tuned for more interesting articles coming soon.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

My Creative Process

A few years back someone named Marcus Romer posted the following tweet:

Each and every time I find myself in the middle of a project that's careening toward a deadline and getting  frustrating, I hit step 4 and remind myself of this particular tweet.  It haunts me.

But I've found that, just like the seven stages of grief, this generalized process isn't quite the hard and fast catchall rule that folks might think it is.  The various stages can affect different people in different ways or not at all.  In my case, it tends to mutate into a few different versions...

Version One:

This is the most common variant for me.  It starts with a prospective client (usually someone I've never heard of before) saying something like, "I'd like to hire you to build this insanely elaborate, beautiful, wearable piece of artwork.  Money is no object, I must have it."

This version of the process usually goes like so:

1. This will be awesome.

2. This will be tricky.

3. This will involve a tremendous amount of time and materials to do it right.

4. After noodling it over at great length, collecting as much reference as I can and generally getting really excited about step one, I tell the client, "it's going to cost $price." Then we get very quickly to the next step.

5. The end.

That's how my creative process usually goes.

Version Two:

This is the version that starts with a repeat customer or frequent collaborator hiring me for a project.  We have worked together in the past and know what to expect from one another.  This version proceeds thusly:

1. This is awesome.

2. This timeline is pretty tight, but I've done more with less, so I can pull it off.

3. The client has just remembered five details that will seriously limit the ways I can make this happen.  I'm feeling pretty good about step 1, so I agree with all of it.

4. This will be tricky, but I've got a handle on it.

5. Due to a change in location/availability/priorities/global pandemics, this needs to be finished much earlier.  In this revisited iteration of step 2, I'm still feeling pretty cocky, so it's no problem.

6. This budget is starting to get tight, so it's time to start making compromises to meet the deadline.  This usually means removing "value added" features and extras that the client didn't specify, but I was really looking forward to showing off.

7. This is shit.  I never should've taken on this project.  I don't know what I was ever thinking.

8. I am shit.

9. There's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  I hate everything about this project, but at least it's so awful that I don't have to worry about this client ever coming back to me for anything else, so I can crawl in a hole and disappear when it's all wrapped up.

10. This is as done as it's going to be.  The whole thing needs to ship tomorrow.  My mom, girlfriend, and/or shop staff tell me it looks amazing, but they don't count.

11. It's crated and shipped.  My fate is in the hands of a freight company now.

12. This might be okay.  Maybe it'll be crushed in shipping, insurance will pay for it, and the failure won't be my fault.

13. The client has received it and seems happy, but they're probably just being polite.

14. Days, weeks, months, or years later, unexpectedly, I see something and say, "wow, somebody really hit that build out of the park.  I wish I'd have done that well when I built it."

15. Looking closer, "hey wait," says I, "this is the one I built."

16. This is awesome.

Version 3:

This is the version that usually applies to my passion projects and hobby builds:

1. This is awesome and I can knock this out in a couple of weeks after hours when I wrap up my paying projects for the day.

2. This is fun.  I love having a goofy project that's just for me.

3. Someone just saw a snapshot of the work in progress online and asked if they could buy one of these from me.

4. I guess I don't mind making a second one.  At least that will offset the cost of materials involved.

5. Word has gotten around in some fan club, facebook group, online forum, or knitting circle and people know that I can make this thing.  So I guess I'm doing a few more.

6. This is no longer fun, but at least it's paying the bills for a minute.

7. Once I get the first fifteen of these things knocked out, I'll make one for me.

8. Remember that thing I started last year for fun?  One of these days I should dust off my copy and finish it.

9. Oh hey, this would be good to bring to event X.  

10. Event X is in two weeks?  Time to rush this thing to the finish line.

11. This is good enough for the event.  I'll make a better copy when I have time.  

12. An amateur photographer snaps a photo of this thing at Event X that ends up going viral online.

13. A bunch of people on the internet exclaim, "this is awesome!" while a similar number of other internet people remind me that they would've totally done a better job if they deigned to waste their time on such frivolous things and I might as well just hurry up and kill myself.

14. That was fun.

Version 4:

This is the one that usually starts with an unknown person contacting me from some dark corner of the internet and asking for special treatment.  Something like, "can I get it at a discounted price?" or "I know you wrote that you'd only paint it red, but I really want it to be green."  I usually know exactly how this is going to end before it begins, but once in a very rare while I cave and relive the following:

1. This is awesome.

2. This is proceeding on schedule.

3. The client is asking questions that make it clear they didn't actually read my last email.

4. The reply to my new, shorter explanation of what I'm doing makes it clear that they didn't read that either.

5. The client suggests postponing the project because of whatever reason they claim, but in reality it's because they've just realized they can't actually afford it.

6. After months of putting me off, the client is suddenly in a huge rush and must have this thing way too soon for me to get it done without a massive overhaul of my shop, schedule, staff, etc.  I assume they just got their tax return or birthday money or something.

7. This has shipped out with time to spare for the new, rushed deadline.

8. This tracking information shows that the client signed for the delivery, but I haven't heard anything from them.

9. Buyer's remorse sets in when the client's wife finds out he bought a painstakingly fabricated custom costume that's worth more than the family car and threatens divorce.

10. Buyer breaks out a microscope and finds a nitpicky detail error on the bottom of one of the boots and tries to use it to justify a complete refund while still keeping the finished product.

11. I bend over backwards and do everything I possibly can to replace the problem part, all while reminding the client that I am not Wal-Mart.  This is custom work made to their exact size and color specifications that I can't re-sell to someone else.  All sales are final.

12. I vow to never agree to special deals or price breaks ever again.

13. A photo of the finished piece pops up in my Facebook memories feed a year later.

14. This is awesome.

Version 5: 

This one usually starts with me seeing a character in a movie or video game and thinking, "my girlfriend has the exact right physique for that character, so I should build it."  Then it goes like so:

1. This is awesome.

2. This is tricky.

3. She doesn't seem particularly thrilled, so I'll be building it on my own, but she says she'll wear it to the next convention.

4. Some shiny new thing has caught my attention and I'm going to put this project in a box and shelf it for a minute until I can focus on it again.

5. It's been how many months since I started that?  I guess I should take another look at it.

6. I don't know what I was thinking with the build plan I had in mind.  Time to re-think the whole thing and start over.

7. This is the 187th time Dr. Girlfriend has made a snide remark about how I'm never going to finish this particular thing.

8. This is coming together nicely and I think it's going to look pretty damned good.

9. It's all strapped together and she's having a great time showing it off at the event.  

10. I wish I'd come up with something for me to wear.

11. A photo of my girlfriend has 1,800 upvotes on a subreddit for fans of the thing I built.

12. This is awesome.

Version 6: 

1. This is awesome.

2. This is tricky, so I'm going to sideline it and tinker with something else while I noodle over the next step.

3. (Roughly 5 years later) What the hell was this for?  Glue it to the wall as another reminder of abandoned projects past.

There are countless other variations, but these are pretty much the way things shake out for me most of the time.  So it goes for a masochistic stress addict with a terminal case of Obsessive Creative Disorder.