Sunday, January 17, 2021

conversation with eric

So Eric called tonight... We've been having conversations every few weeks for about as long as we've both lived away from Champaign, where we both attended school. I still find it funny that a friend that we both have in common told me that Eric and I would be best friends before I had ever met Eric. I scoffed at the idea at the time. Little did I know...

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.

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