Archive for the ‘Launch Pad’ Category

Make Your Space

April 28, 2022

Make Your Space

Last month I rambled on about Launch Pads. You may have said: “I love that idea but do not have a shop or studio to do that in.” No worries. Use your kitchen table. Most people have access to a kitchen table in one form or another. My very first apartment did not have one but it did have a “fancy” French passe-plat, between our kitchen and our 20 sq.ft. “dining area.” That may have been a bit too fancy. Maybe, I should use the German word Durchreiche which still pretty translates to a “hole in the wall with a small shelf.” Does not matter- when I had my first place, this is where I would work on projects up until the time that I bought a Mid-Century coffee table at a rummage sale for $2.50 (in retrospect, I should have kept that).

Throughout my life, I have always found a place to launch my projects no matter where I lived. Even in the military, I had a 10”x24” bookshelf that I used as my space. Writer/artist Austin Kleon cited Author Joseph Campbell writing about “Bliss Station” with everything set up so that when you have the time between kids, work, life, you can immediately pick up where you left off with your project. My drawing professor, Brigham Dimick, at SIUE would initiate each semester by having students choose a drawing table and pin board to perform their work at. We were instructed to take everything that is dear to us and pin it on our board. We did not have to draw it, we just had to recognize our dedicated creative space.

Of course, making a bliss space in which to place your launch pad will require a bit of organization. I think about this always. Organization is not an “end all.” It is a type of kaizen, a constant learning and adapting to meet your requirements. I still have my original tool box. In my first apartment, it was my EVERYTHING tool box, a few years later it was my hand tool tool box, then my plier storage. Now, it is my model scratch building box. Spaces. Containers. Tools. They can all evolve as you go through life. During my (still) epic search for the perfect space, I have written pages of notes based on other people’s views of organization. As a creative person, there is always the fight between space and objects. Marie Kondo preaches controlled minimalism, Austin Kleon delineates “organized” tools, messy supplies, Adam Savage from Mythbusters and YouTube believes in keeping everything, just have your work areas open. I often play his Tested shows while working in my shop. James May of Grand Tour says to take more of a manager position and keep nothing. Watch his shows like Toy Stories on Amazon. They are true entertainment!  One of my most respected graduate professors insisted on 8 clean workbenches and a 50 foot wall of well labeled matching totes for supplies and research materials. (More on that larger-than-life professor later) I guess that I am a mix of all of these influences. We each look at other peoples spaces and steal what works for our own.

As currently can be displayed and dispensed, I am not 100% into my Bliss Space. I enjoy having a computer near me for referencing/writing, I enjoy my climate controlled Finish Shop for physically working on projects, but also like my garage where I can make dust, get dirty, and store project parts in totes. Ok, at this point, I am not sure if this is helping or not! In an attempt to rescue this post, I will provide some things that definitely work for me.

Top 10 things I have in my workspace: (In no certain order)

Identical storage totes. This sounds simple but when Aunt Mary sends you some mementos to dig through, or you pick up a bargain at a rummage sale, mis-matched totes are a bane to organization. I go with the clamshell totes like the USPS uses that are available here, and sometimes home stores. I admit, I do have some Dollar General versions that are a couple of inches shorter but I can live with that. For larger items on the bottom shelf, I use the Commander tote from Lowe’s. 

Pallet Racking. You have to have somewhere to store items. I am a firm believer in the Extreme Garage steel storage racks from Menards. Pro tip: If you buy two sets, you can separate horizontal bars and span them 18 feet long!

While shopping at Menards, you can Save Big Time by purchasing their lock-together Small Parts Storage by Performax. These babies can lock vertically, horizontally, or be spaced about your studio to organize small bits that would otherwise be lost in a flappy dust covered box under your workbench.

Since we are in the area of small parts storage, one of the best gifts I ever received from my wife was a two sided hardware cart with 72 plastic bins! I have used and reused these for years to adapt to what I was working on. You can get one here at Harbor Freight.

Cutting mats. It does not matter if you are doing printing, modeling, collaging, or anatomical dissecting, you need a good cutting mat. I have multiple. The small ones can be placed on a Launch Pad for whatever current project. BTW snap-off razor knives always accompany each cutting mat. 

Cork Stripping. You may not always have space for a cork board like I did in undergrad, but you can line the bottom of your shelves, or a strip on the wall above your bench with aluminum channeled bulletin bar! This is one of my greatest upgrades ever. That stuff that the school put around the chalk board (or white board) in third grade is great for the shop! Whatever I am working on at the time, I pin references into the strip for the duration of the project.

Notebook(s) Should I have placed this earlier? I did say that there was no particular order to this list. Often, artists and makers like Austin Kleon will have one “holy grail” notebook to log their daily ideas, sketches, drawings, poems, random thoughts in. Not me. I have a sea of sketchbooks that I bounce around between. The important part is that you are iterating- somewhere.

Binders. Admit it- some projects take longer than you thought they were going to. I have an R2-D2 that I have been building for a couple of years. They require a lot of data, measurement, design references, and other tertiary information. Knowing this, I first created a binder for the project with clear references so that when I revisit it every couple of months, I can instantly see all of the relative data before I purchase any given part. 

Pegboard. After 40 years of making, I just purchased a 16” x 16” piece of steel pegboard. At my day job, the simple task of protecting and storing paint brushes was a daunting task. This one simple $15 purchase at Menards solved it. Now, in my shops, I have hundreds of square feet of pegboard but it does not always take that much. Often, you just need to find the right solution for a problem. Speaking of my shop, my finish shop particularly, the pegboard now has kind of a “feature” look to it, highlighting tools that I use often. I always remain flexible in pulling out all of the pegs and starting over. Nothing is permanent. 

I know I said “Top 10” but there is always one more thing. This time, it is graph paper (here). I maintain two large tablets of graph paper in my Finish Shop. When I get an idea, or I am ideating with another maker, I can quickly grab a pencil and explain my idea visually. If it is a good one, I can graduate the grids, and rapidly begin designing to scale. 

In efforts to not bore you too much, I have included many hotlinks. Should you find my blog insufferable, just skip all of my bullshit and click directly on the hotlinks to get a higher quality experience to improve the creative side of your life.

For more intimate pics of my making life jump to IG Sandcruiser13 where you will see behind the scenes shots that happen when I should be working.



Blog 3.0

February 18, 2022

Hello. It is a blustery night on the prairie as a take time by a warm fire to share with you the announcement of my new blog format. I have been planning this for nearly a year and have finally decided how to make the most of my time and yours! Instead of seeing a blog post come across your social media and thinking you should give it a pity “like”, I implore you to click as my blog will be set up like an abstract or table of contents with hotlinks. You can scroll through quickly and see if there is something you like. (if not, please go with the pity “like”)

I will be choosing topics and references that I am consuming regarding making by sharing links. Here is an example: I follow Rob Walker who wrote the book the Art of Noticing. He often keeps my creative mojo going. Notice that? You can read past, go to the website, or get a link to his book. Great dude.

For those who I interact with regularly you know that I have been working on notes about my “future book” on Getting Shit Done to optimize my shop and making experience. Many of my inspiring moments come from artist/writer Austin Kleon who is an amazing blogger. Artists may know his books like Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work, and Keep Going. I felt like I spent months spinning my wheels on how to begin until I read an edition of his blog where he talks about John Swartzwelder from the Simpsons that said to write a “shitty first draft.” That was my impetus to begin writing now & more. More posts, more blogs, & more trade articles. I have found that it works well for me. Just throw crap on the screen in a stream of consciousness manner then go back and edit it later.

At this moment, I am working on the idea of a “Launch Pad.” After exploring ideas of kitting, bubble maps, an Kanban flowing, (all of which have their uses) I settled on my own method of “Launch Pad.” I have a deep love of all things space exploration and this just came naturally as you will see. For years, my wife and I have built model rockets with all of our kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. As we neared launch day, our spaces became overfilled with rockets and parts in various stages. To organize this mess, I pulled out scraps of white foamboard and laid on a bench where a kid was working. The rule was that all of their parts and sub-assemblies had to remain on the white foamboard. This brought many great improvements including containment, being able to see parts easily, the ability to write notes directly on their launch pad, and not losing track of sub-assemblies. While the kids were working, I still had projects going through the shop so I decided to put them on foamboard so they would not be confused with the kids’ projects. Instantly, I noticed that my own production had drastically increased! In the last two years I have tweaked on the idea, added temporary cutting mats, used Kanban Post-its on the foam, and even expanded the idea to recycle floating IKEA Lack Shelves to build Launch Pads for the morning launch at home! Coffee? Keys? Sunglasses? It’s all right there. I will have more ready for sale this summer.

I would be remiss if I did not throw a complicated word at everyone. I often find that the Germans are great at providing complicated words. The above post has been brought to you by the word: Gesamtkunstwerk, German for “all-encompassing art.” It is often beneficial to expand your current interest of the moment to art, writing, lifestyle, music, household, et. al. as you will get the ability to fully dive into subjects and uncover various exciting things that you would not if you stopped at the finish line after one race.

Regarding Getting Shit Done, I finished a good book this week titled The Subtle art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson. I honestly did not know what to expect but had some great takeaways that provided more time in my life as the book makes a clear distinction on my problem/not my problem and how we decide to spend our energy as we go through life.

It is also my wish to challenge people to create things. Yes, that is one of my funs. Write down 12 things that you think are good ideas that can be done in an hour. Fold them up and throw them in a jar, box, ammo can, whatever. Next week, randomly select one and do it. Feel free to PM me photo of whatever it was you did. I will be happy to see!



Set to Launch

March 10, 2021
Launch shelf that our family uses every morning.

Thanks to my friend, Brandon Barker, I have regained access to my blog following a migration, smoked Macbook, and a couple of routers. I am back on track trying to find some of the myths of our modern world. Those thoughts that have become so normalized that you unwittingly take as the truth. I have a big one currently. It deals with the how to get shit done as a creative when you have a day job, family, pandemic, whatever. It is my deepest dive into research on the “act” of making. That may be as a hobby, as a job, or as a consortium of many sorts. I remember being terrorized by David Bayles and Ted Orland’s “Art and Fear” in Graduate school. I still love that book and visit it every so often.

I often thought that one had to stand at the crossroads in search of a university job, or find that perfect gallery that was in love with your work. One day, as an adjunct professor, I was doing all of the training and paperwork to start my semester when I found out that both of my classes had been dropped due to low enrollment. Then, I knew- this is not why I got in to the arts. I got in to entertain myself by working through my thoughts and ideas, making things, and possibly getting people to look at those things and step outside of what they previously thought was gospel. I decided to spend my creative energy elsewhere. (Despite not having any classes to teach, the College was still asking me to register for pre-semester H.R. requirements!)

Every few years, I reassess my current situation and adjust course. One of the first questions that I write either in a journal or on a piece of graph paper in front of me is: “What makes me happy.” I know- super easy right? But we have to constantly ask ourselves this or we drift off-course. In Graduate school we had a visiting artist (I have dug deep but cannot remember her name) that said “for inspiration, always refer to your childhood.” This has been some of the greatest advice ever. I began to write down what motivated me through the years. My opening for my TEDx talk in Decatur referred to these things: rockets, racecars, trains, electronics, militaria, trucks, industry… In my twenties there was a resurgance of these themes when I watched Mythbusters on Discovery Channel. I received a total creative infusion when I stumbled upon Adam Savage’s Tested channel on YouTube. I have also learned to revalue my inspiration vs. actions through Austin Kleon‘s books Steal Like an Artist, Show your work, and Keep Going. I hope to absorb and reflect some of the great energy that these two provide for me.

To channel all of this new energy, (here it is: the big one) I have decided to assemble some of the greatest inspirations for my work into a collected volume of knowledge. Yes, I am going to write a book. I do not care if I have to self publish and print 10 copies. It is a goal that I have, and I am committed to keeping it. Bubble thought drawings have been filling my sketchbooks for months now and have coalesced into about twelve general areas (chapters). I will begin researching each one until I feel that I have something worthwhile to provide for creative types like myself. I hope to keep my blogposts short and informed with links to further reading so that the reader does not feel obligated to review a doctoral thesis each time I post.

Also, I will include photographs. Many photographs. Having five paragraphs without a pretty picture is not of my nature. I ask you to follow along and share with those that need a push. I will provide artwork, sign work, and exhibits on Instagram links try Sandcruiser13. Thank you for reading this far! Oh! the working title of my book is “Launch Pad– the creative’s guide to getting shit done.”