I started making things when I was a little kid. We did not have a lot of money to buy toys, so I made them, I would look through construction sites, dumpsters, we even had a leather company near us that threw their scraps away. I did not always make good decisions when choosing my building materials, but hey, I was a kid and kids do dumb stuff. One such bad choice was a Western Electric telephone ringer box, that was in our home, because I thought it looked like a shuttle craft from Star Trek. I took the insides out and slapped some thin metal strips, or “skids”, on the bottom,  drew doors and windows on the cover and it was a shuttle. I really wish that I had a picture of the one I built, I thought it was amazing. To my recollection, that was the first time that I was actually a “Maker”, even though to my mom I was a destroyer. I am very sorry mom if you missed any calls because of my desire to create.

Years later my father got me into model building, he loved doing them and I loved the details that he put into each one. He was making a Colossal Mantis Diorama model by AMT, you know, the one where the giant praying mantis is attacking a city. It was part of the Gigantics Diorama Kits series from AMT that were produced from 1972-74. Well, I never got that model for reasons that became clear when I became an adult. I, like my father, am a perfectionist, and being such sometimes means that projects must be set aside until I find that perfect piece to make the project, well, perfect (there is a Star Trek TOS Enterprise still waiting to be finished, 20 years now). I am sure that with therapy I can overcome it.

When I was a teenager, I started building things from scratch, I would always be on the lookout for good pieces to make something cool out of. When the 1986 move The Fly came out, I made a small teleporter out of studio key lights that my brother had given me from the local public access studio he was working for. I found out that they used photo flash bulbs, you know the ones like light bulbs with all the squiggly filaments in them that you can only use once, to make the flashing light effect. So I bought a (figurative)ton of them, made a circuit board with clips to hold the wires, attached the wires to a nail board, and teleported a kitten. Somewhere I still have the footage that I shot on super 8mm film. It worked perfectly! Also that year, I made my first costume from scratch, a Ghostbusters costume.

Starting with the “Proton Pack”, I found some 1/4 inch plywood and rough cut the motherboard, I had a couple of plastic VHS that I used as some of the boxes, a metal turntable plate and lamp shade is the cyclotron, rubber tubing, wires, glass from a Radio Shack fluorescent handheld lamp, whatever I had lying around or could find went into the pack. I was not going for screen accuracy as much as the feel of the pack. I threw together a costume to go with the pack. I put all of this together and felt empowered, I was a Ghostbuster! I wore my homemade costume to a convention where the visual effects art director on Ghostbusters, John Bruno, was in attendance, and I met him, in my costume, and I thought “Oh my god he is going to think that I am an idiot.” but he loved the costume, he loved the pack, he signed my Ghostbusters headband (pictured above). I was on cloud nine, someone that works on movies, and my favorite movie at that time, has seen my work and liked it. I was hooked, I had to make costumes and props, I had to build things.

When I was building as a kid and as a teenager it was difficult to find the right reference photos, get access to props, or even find the right materials. Now, there is a (literal?)ton of reference material, access to props in museums or traveling exhibits, and building material via sites like Amazon. With sites like Tested.com and YouTube, there is a wealth of information on how to build some pretty amazing things.

It is a wonderful time to be a Maker.

As an adult maker, I have had to create in a variety of spaces. I have had a garage, a workshop, craft room, but mostly I have had to build my creations in an apartment. For the last few years I have lived in an apartment, it is a nice size apartment for living, but not really ideal for creating, but I have learned how to utilize the space that I have to work with, and in this space, I have created some fun things.