Previously in my Maker's Notes I talked a bit about community and why it is the fuel of what we are doing. The best way to grow your community is to participate and participating means meet-ups. For Ben, the idea of interacting with a group of people is not in his sweet spot. He describes his position as having low social needs and has a take it or leave it attitude with going to functions. He'd much rather be in his wood shop than out on the town for a night. When you see him at a networking event or even a family function, he is usually the quiet guy at the table just taking things in. If you can get him going though, he is as charming as the next guy and has the most contagious hearty laugh - but that's only if you can get him to engage. Now, that is in a normal social setting - I've recently come to find out that Ben immediately comes out of his shell when there are a group of makers around and it is delightful. Funnily enough, I've also seen this with a few other of my introverted maker friends.
Earlier this year we decided to drive up to Cleveland after finding out that there was going to be a Lincoln hosted maker meet-up event in the heart of town. Cleveland is about a 3 hour drive for us. So, we got a sitter and made our plans. My initial concern was that it was going to be at a loud bar and we didn't really know anyone on a personal level. Two things that usually shut Ben down. It was only our second maker centric meet-up and I wasn't really sure what to expect. The first was in NYC that I wrote about last week. That was great, but it was a bit chaotic. This one seemed like it was more organized and there were at least a few people that we knew for sure would be there.
We were fortunate enough to visit with Tim Cunningham of The Urban Forge on our way to town. He showed us his set up in his garage and talked to us about how he teaches at another local facility called 'Soul Craft'. He talked to us a little bit about how to set up our own home forge and even offered to come help us if we needed it! It was inspiring to learn how he was incorporating his passion for metal work into his life. He is an amazing teacher and is offering classes to his community on all different types of forging. It's just one way to keep a hobby paid for - learn so you can teach so you can learn.
When we got to downtown Cleveland, we valet parked near the restaurant (Rockstar Parking!) I hadn't been to Cleveland other than to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in high school and that was quite a while ago. I really didn't know how close the lake was to downtown. What a cool city. We were a bit early so Ben decided to take me around his old work place. He lit up talking about the antics he would get into with the other security guards at one of the tallest buildings in Cleveland. He showed me some artwork around the building and we toured a few tourist hotspots as well. It was a good start to a pretty decent day out. It also helped to do that and release some nervous energy before we went to the meet-up. When it was close to time we walked back to the location. As soon as we approached the restaurant I saw a familiar face and fellow Pittsburgher, Gib Clark. We were going to be OK. Gib is known as a friendly and relaxed guy who is always up to introduce new folks to the inner circle. Let me tell you - he was the best tour guide we could have asked for that night. We hadn't met him face to face before, just commented on each other's work online. Funny, since we only live like 20 minutes apart. I think he even made several jokes about having to drive 3 hours to meet each other. Anyway, he introduced us to some really great folks who were initially in the front part of the bar waiting for the Lincoln festivities to start. Bob Lee was one of the first folks Gib introduced us to. He is a local Ohio maker with his own woodshop channel on youtube, Bob Lee's Woodshop. Bob does some amazing scroll work and is superbly kind and sweet. Before the gang got there we headed down to the private area in the lower level. This is the first time Ben and I got separated from each other, I'm not sure where he went to so I just stuck with 'Gibby' (as I now know he is lovingly called) and chatted up with a few other folks.
Ben came back to me with a wicked grin on his face. "Heidi, someone just recognized me and introduced themselves. They knew my work and wanted to talk to me about it. I can't believe someone knew who I was!" That person was Trevor Higgins from Dusty Squeak. A really talented guy that we follow on his instagram feed. Trevor doesn't post a lot of photos of himself, so, it's no surprise Ben didn't recognize him immediately. When we were talking with Trevor the Lincoln crew rolled in. Laura Kampf, Brett McAffee, Jimmy Diresta, April Wilkerson, John Malecki, Brad Rodriguez, Izzy Swan, Zach Herberholz and several others were all in town to be trained by Lincoln Electric on welding techniques. The entire event was orchestrated by Lincoln. When they got there, I lost track of Ben again. He was so excited to talk to some of these folks it was something I'd never seen happen before. Ben was being a social butterfly. He was so giddy and engaged with everyone there. I really couldn't believe it. As impressed as I was to see him go, he was even more impressed that one of his creative heroes, Jimmy Diresta was so approachable. Honestly, I had a hard time focusing because I'd never seen Ben like this - EVER - even when we were amongst groups of friends we've known for years.
While Ben took it all in, I started digging into my satchel. I had packed with me some mugs to hand out. The first was for Gib. He snagged the Chewbacca mug. He was so delighted to receive one and immediately started drinking out of it. The reason I wanted to give one to him was because he was just so sincerely encouraging with my pottery any time I would post anything. When you are an artist and are your worst critic, putting wares online for people to view can be absolutely overwhelming and scary. With Gibby, he wants everyone to be successful and is part of the glue of the community. He links people together and shares their passions. It's the people like Gib who buzz around and make sure everyone feel welcomed that make it feel so friendly. In any village you need that type of person. They care for the community in such a unique way. By monitoring the landscape they make sure no one is left out. They touch base with people that have fell silent for a while and try and bring them back to the fold. Not everyone has the compassion or mindset for that type of role, but our boy Gibby is that person. If someone gets sick or needs anything, you bet it's gonna be him leading the charge to make sure that person gets what they need from the community.
The next mug I gave to Brett McAffee. I had just been introduced to his channel through a podcast he is on with one of my favorite people Al from Al's Hack Shack. Their podcast is called Fools with Tools and it is really fun and inspiring. Steve House is the third host in the trifecta. Al and Steve are UK based, while Brett is referred to as Jimmy's little sister. Brett works with Jimmy in New York helping him out with busy work and shop maintenance. Brett has a great take on being a maker and offers some really entertaining build videos on YouTube. His themed approach to his channel is really awesome and it really seems that he has found his creative voice. As for the show, FWT is one of those podcasts that has really relatable hosts who aren't afraid to share their experiences with each other and their listeners. Having watched his channel and listened to the cast, I knew Brett loved video games and was someone I really wanted to work with in the future. So, I brought him a Majora's Mask mug. I chose that mug because he built a full size Link Bow from the game Zelda. The other fools, Al and Steve were a bit jealous - they'll get theirs eventually though, I promise boys. Brett and the boys give voice to the challenges, fun, tom-foolery, and education that we all love about this world.
While I was chatting with Brett, Gib brought up my next favorite maker in the whole world, Izzy Swan. I was so delighted and received the BIGGEST bear hug. It was amazing. He was one of the first major YouTubers to provide feedback to us and opened the door to us realizing that there was a wonderful community available to us. This guy has such an inventors brain and we have loved watching the stuff he has built over the last year. It is inspiring to watch him create a makers space in Michigan and invite other makers to help build it out with him. From the things he builds for his kids to his crazy drill powered ride on contraptions, I'm just blown away by his talent. It was absolutely my turn to be awestruck. IZZY FRIGGIN SWAN GAVE ME A HUG. I gave him a mug. He has been drinking out of it in a few of his insta videos. He even asked for a bigger one, which I'm in the process of engineering. Izzy is the type to open his shop doors to share his knowledge and bring others with him on his journey.
The last mug I gave to Laura Kampf. I've been following her since Ben introduced me to YouTube maker channels last year. She has grown so much as a star in the community. Traveling the globe giving talks about living a maker life. Her story is one that makes me wish I would have been adventurous enough to do in college and right after. She truly went after her dreams with such determination. Her builds are really interesting but the way she films them are so cinematically beautiful, she reeled me in. The way she balances shots and music is amazing and I learn something new ever time I watch one of her videos - aside from just how to make whatever she is making. Even with her growing popularity, she is so down to earth and kind. She doesn't have much time but when you get to meet her, it's like she could just be an old friend from college that you are reconnecting with. She is very genuine and encouraging. It's people like Laura who rise in the community but aren't afraid to bring others with her that make her a pillar.
It was getting late but we were so jazzed up about how fun the evening was going we regrouped around 11 PM thinking of an exit strategy. That would get us home around 1 AM. Did we talk to every one we wanted? We didn't get a whole lot of photos but that's not why we were there. Did we hand out stickers? Did Heidi get enough to drink? Yes, we were set. So, we made the journey back to the burgh. For days it felt like we were glowing. So happy to have spent time with such an amazing crew. So excited for what the future looks like and really looking forward to the next meet-up. By taking a step out of our comfort zone we were once again able to connect with an amazing group of people and grow our network a bit wider. We met so many additional people who are such a daily encouragement when we post anything on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. People like Figments Made, Maker in Training, Prusa Wood Works, Tim Webster, Marielle Brinkman and Lisa Cravens-Brown. We got to share our enthusiasm and thank those folks in our community that are such a blessing to us all. It was well worth the travel time. So, if you or your maker friend are feeling a bit lonely - or you are nervous about going to a posted meet-up - maybe our experience will help you get over those butterflies and go.
Heidi Jacobs is the Co-Founder of Slap Stuff Together, a maker's studio. She is also a Project Manager by day and part time professional photographer. If you would like to learn more about SST's adventures as a new start up you can follow them on Instagram or on Facebook. If you would like to learn more about their startup you can drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Small Business owner and Artist, committed to growing as a maker as well as sharing her and her husband's experience with owning a small maker studio.
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