Monday, March 1, 2021
Thursday, January 28, 2021
Have you ever wonder where that famous egg drop design project came from?
NASA is headed into space and planning to drop astronauts into the ocean on the return trip. In 1962 an Industrial Design professor at the University of Illinois by the name of Ed Zagorski has an idea to have his students design and build packaging that allows an egg to survive a catapult trip (catapult made from a Pontiac leaf spring built by a young shop tech named Craig Vetter... yes THAT Craig Vetter) into the pool in front of the Industrial Design building.
I just saw that Ed Zagorski passed away recently. I never knew him, but I do remember Craig Vetter speaking about him when Craig visited the University of Illinois when I was a student there. That was a very memorable experience for me and no doubt further influenced me to build a motorcycle for my MFA thesis exhibition.
Anyway, Ed sounds like a fascinating person and an extraordinary teacher. Do yourself a favor and go read about Craig's writing about Ed. This was a really interesting read and it was great to hear about the kind of teacher and influence he was. The world needs more teachers like this. Sounds like the students were special too.
Edward J. Zagorski
Industrial design educator who graduated with honors in 1949 from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a degree in industrial design, and received a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin. He taught at the University of Wisconsin from 1951-56.
In Spring of 1952, Zagorski introduced his freshmen to designing box kites, which startled the administration, but has since has become a common exercise in basic design education. He was head of the industrial design program at the University of Illinois from 1956-88, and upon retirement became professor emeritus. In 1963, he introduced the legendary "egg drop challenge," which was even featured in LIFE magazine. It's an excerise that is still practiced in schools and colleges.
Zagorski was president of Industrial Designers Education Association (IDEA) in 1963. A year later, Josef Albers recommended him to review a book by Johannes Itten and wrote, "I think you well represent the newer and broader development of 'basic design' in the U.S." In 1965, Zagorski became a Fulbright Scholar and Lecturer for one year in New Zealand, and is an Honorary Member of the Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ). In 1979, he was awarded Fellowship in the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).
In 1980, he received an award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the University of Illinois. He earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant to write a series of articles on basic design, and in 1985, he was featured in an article in Smithsonian magazine on creativity in the classroom. In 1986, the University of Alberta, Canada awarded Zagorski the Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Endowment Fund for the Future, "because of his contribution to the development of industrial design on this continent that has been far and wide since his appointment at the University of Illinois at Champaign." In 1989, he received the Education Award for Excellence in Teaching from IDSA.
He has written many articles for IDSA's INNOVATION magazine and conducted workshops and lectured in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Italy and the Netherlands. He authored a book on basic design problems: Get Ten Eagles
sidenote: go read about Craig Vetter's father if you have time. There's some interesting Rantoul, IL and Chanute history there. I worked in Rantoul right after graduating from the U of I.
The character of people that were a part of the WWII generation will never be seen again in this country...period! Their impact on the following generation was also felt, but I think that impact is all but faded away except for those who spent considerable time with people that lived during that time period. This fading away explains the lack of teaching practical skills in the schools. I'm glad Jill and I spent so much time with her English Grandmother and G.I. Grandfather as their stories of life during that time still resonate with me.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
I've been thinking about my past a lot lately. I heard my graduate professor from U of I is retiring and I'm starting to feel my age. It's caused me to reflect a lot on the happenings of the past. I was in contact with my old friend, Ian Bally to let him know. Ian and I have texted back and forth over the last few days. It's been really good to hear from him. I posted the video above as I've been listening to the group Granddaddy a lot in the studio lately. They have a new piano version of one of the albums that was released around the time that Ian and I were in school. Ian introduced me to them as well a lot of other awesome music. We would frequently stop at the record store on Green St. on our way back to the studio after having lunch. Along with my wife, I owe so much to Ian for making it possible for me to be where I am.
It's interesting to look at the past and notice things that you just missed at the time, yet the memory is really fresh after all these years. I met Ian for the first time in the Art & Design building in Champaign. We were both new to the Metals MFA program, but he had finished an Industrial Design undergraduate degree at the U of Illinois earlier, so he knew his way around and was comfortable with the place. There were many times that I felt out of place and out of my element and that first day meeting him was one of those days... until I met him. There was just something about that first encounter that made me feel comfortable and I knew I could trust him and that I would always be able to depend on him for anything.
I have always been introverted. This world did not evolve, or at least the professional world, did not evolve to allow people like myself to "succeed" easily. I've always wondered if there was something wrong with me due to not quite fitting into the norms of this world. It was readily apparent to me from about kindergarten/first grade and all the way up to graduate school. I never understood cruelty as a child and the world felt like an exponentially meaner place as I grew older and encountered people I didn't understand. I have a lot of odd habits (to say the least) and I always wondered why people responded to me the way they did. I felt like I had to work really hard to "fit in" and it was exhausting. I wasn't sure it was worth it. Honestly at the time I thought I'd rather be alone or live with others in silence than to talk; just to fill the silence. Over the years, I've only required a few people in my life at one time, and those people are my "rocks". I always knew that I'd rather have a couple good friends than 1,000 superficial friendships. The professional world doesn't work that way...
The three years of graduate school being in close proximity to others and being forced to interact and socialize with people and to be conditioned to what it means to be a "professional in a field of study" was traumatizing on many different levels. To say that I had trouble adapting would be an understatement. I wasn't sure a kid from a small farming community was meant to be in the position I was in. But somehow Ian being there, and going through the experience with together made it possible for me to cope. I leaned on him through those three years and we toughed it out together. It was like God placed him there as a support for me.
It's funny how I remember that first time meeting so clearly. It was a mundane meeting but it told my inner being that everything was going to be o.k. I'm grateful for the people in this world that have guided and influenced me in a positive manner. Be on the look-out everyday as you don't know who might shape your next path. Oh, and think of those that you owe gratitude to. Thanks, God, for putting the people we need most in our lives during the difficult times and for knowing exactly what we need at just the right time.
Saturday, January 23, 2021
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Anyway, tonight's conversation started as any other with a recap on what projects we've been working on, life happenings, etc. Toward the end though Eric mentioned that we need to find a way to be accountable to each other for some kind of creative productive outlet, outside of the typical job work etc. This might be individual creative projects or perhaps something collaborative. We left it rather open ended, but both decided that we need to find a way to carve out some dedicated time to the pursuit; whatever it might be. He mentioned that we could catch up next week with our individual thoughts on how to set aside some time that might lead to something beyond what we normally do.
Well, in my current thinking I have decided that I'll jot some ideas down here on the blog while things are fresh in my mind after getting off the phone. There is something about putting things here on the blog that seem to somehow solidify my intent so I might as well think out-loud in this space as I type. I'll try to build a case or analyze the past using precedents for working on things together in an attempt to find a way to document the things that I believe have proved successful in working together. In the future maybe I'll also try to outline why things may have not worked so well in the past in an attempt to ward off such failures...
One of the successful ventures where Eric and I worked well together was during creative pursuits in school. When we were both building thesis projects; the act of troubleshooting how to make something work was a critical reason that we would come together on projects. Process also would bring us together and usually involved how to make something work. I would also say that there was a healthy competitiveness in some ways or at least a feeling of "If he's going to build this...I'll build my version of something else but similar but different with my own take on the a similar or related idea". Collaboration would arise in the form of troubleshooting, gaining inspiration with how the other did something, using each other for expertise, or sometimes just needing raw labor from each other. ie. magnetic levitating ball, pizza cutters, pipes, flywheel, triumph chopper, frame jigs, titanium bicycles, and eventually VW hot rods and VW single cabs.
We have always discussed working on a singular project together, but usually recent work has just encompassed individual projects where the other needs help doing something or access to equipment or a collective motivation to complete a big project, but rarely did these smaller projects lead to a true collaboration that pushed the needle forward. ie. moving a Bridgeport mill out of a Northern Illinois basement up to Milwaukee studio, numerous projects on the CNC router(s), some CNC milling machine projects, welding single cab gates, anodizing things, machining things, etc.
As a creative person, I know that I need some level of creative freedom to make my own decisions and choose my own way, thus why the idea of business propositions together always seemed a little overwhelming. There were many factors that also played into that fear, such as friendship being clouded by being partners within a business and visa versa, the fear of loosing the passion in creating something when it became a job, having the ability to follow our own independent urges and spirit.
Some of my favorite moments in hindsight of working on the VW hot rods were that Eric spent money, made constant progress, and then I would see how I could NOT spend money (since I'm cheap and I had a newborn to support at the time on a limited budget), I would try to play catchup on the weeks I was able to work, and I would have the opportunity to respond on my own project to the methods he went about in creating something or making something work. This was awe inspiring and motivating at the same time. There was also freedom to divert and do something out of order just because the car required so many different aspects. ie. "I think I'm going to work on a gear shifter even though the car doesn't roll kind of thing..." The entire project was complex enough that it held almost constant attention through the mundane parts of my regular life.
As I reflect on these things I find myself drawn to a project where Eric and I are both working on a similar problem yet independently, but the motivation that I gain by watching his progress fuels my progress on my project and becomes a perpetual motion machine that sets things in motion. We get to come together on things though where we can collectively problem solve something that will benefit both of our projects from the work that is accomplished together but at the same time independently.
Some of the boxes that the project might or might not have to check:
Doing something that encompasses current collective knowledge; something that I(we) couldn't have tackled five years ago and something that draws up everything I have been able to soak up in the last twenty years.
The object has to lead to new knowledge of something unknown.
The object has to involve dreamy aspects of something I have always wanted to tackle as a project or might involve other kinds of projects as a part of this larger project.
The object has to be something that I might not actually tackle on my own if I knew I didn't have the technical knowhow and support of my friend who is busy working on a similar things across the country.
The object has to be something larger than myself (individually).
The object has to be a pursuit that has the potential to impact others through what is learned or created.
The object has to have a compelling story behind the reason this object exists or why the decision was made to pursue its creation.
The object has to push the needle forward (need to define what this means or all the ways in which this might apply).
The object has to require an up front investment that makes it impossible to back out of (does this make sense?) (this is always a difficult one for me due to budget and cheapness, but I wonder about buying a key component as "buy in" that in some manner locks us both in. ie Eric buying the front end kit for the VW hot rod was this way. Although I didn't buy the adapter, I bought the leaf springs, radius rods, etc. Once I had wheels and tires, and a rolling chassis it created a sense of "there's no going back now".
Some Questions (that I may add to this week):
Should we utilize streaming/twitch in the shop to document the build(s) or are progress photos enough ie. the documentation through images of the VW builds were invaluable to the motivation of working...
How can we utilize current circumstances that makes the build(s) timely? ie. this build has to be something that would not have been possible before this time.
Thursday, January 14, 2021
Tuesday, January 12, 2021