Spring 2018
TRY Studio Stories
Meet Mike

Name: Mike Warren
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Art/Craft/Discipline: Everything (Maker, Creator, Problem solver)

Mike is a Maker with a capital M.

Intro by Jennifer Arzt
Flamethrower Skateboard. 'Nuf said.
Meet Mike
San Francisco Bay Area

Have you ever thought about what the term maker really means? I thought I had. But until meeting Mike, I don’t think I had the framework to really understand it.

I had—and still have—nothing but positive feelings to towards making. I thought of it as the place where creativity and ingenuity hung out with tools and machines. I thought it was about making and creating things.

Then, I met Mike. A friend introduced us; she thought he might be interested in teaching with TRY. (Lucky for us, he is!) And from the minute I sat down with him, I knew I had to adjust my view on making, but for the better.

It is no surprise that a maker from Instructables is into teaching but what surprised me is what he hopes readers will learn from the online lessons. They aren’t just recipes to be followed (though you could!). They are a way to engage the reader with the tool and the problem solving that took place to create the lesson - I think he’d be more pleased if you told him that you saw step X and used that as your launchpad and made something completely unrelated.   

What seems to drive him is not just teaching you a tool, or a new piece of software, but teaching you how to see the world through your own maker’s lens.

It’s more than figuring out a solution to a problem; it’s about identifying problems so then you can solve them.

For example, having house guests meant he had to keep sharing his wifi password (and we all know how that goes). Not a problem, not really. Right? Well, Mike saw it as an opportunity to simplify access to his wifi. Enter the 3d printed, wood carved, QR coded drink coaster (image below).

See what I mean? He saw the process of accessing wifi as a problem that he could solve with making.

What I find so inspiring about this way of looking at the world, through each situation as an opportunity to find problems, is you just never know what will be made, created, or invented next.

Mike is a creative force, unafraid to fail, looking for the problem that needs to be solved—just like Steve Jobs, who removed the physical keyboard from cell phones or Henry Ford, who famously commented that, if asked before the car was invented, people would have said they wanted a faster horse.

And he's here to help you learn to do the same.

Oh, and he made a flamethrower skateboard.

Read on
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You do everything. Can you sum it up for the folks just tuning in?

I design and build functional prototypes out of whatever I can get my hands on, the results explore the intersection of functionality with whimsical absurdity. My aim is to inspire, educate, and entertain. The results can be messy, but are always fun! 

How did you get started as a maker?

Growing up, my bedroom was across the hall from the place where my Dad repaired our broken toys. I’d watch him work, carefully reviving my Transformers or He-Man action figures, eventually feeling comfortable tackling the repair jobs of my own. Everything I’ve learned has happened by taking things apart and staying curious.

Where do you find inspiration for your projects?

I get inspired by looking at how we, as humans, solve problems. I like taking solutions for one problem and applying it to something completely different, or by mashing two disparate ideas into one and see what happens. Half-baked ideas are a reference that I occasionally use as a springboard for future projects, so there really isn’t any failures, just learning opportunities.

  What’s a project you’ve done that you’re proud of? What made it stand out to you?

The projects I’m most proud of are ones that were technically difficult to execute, or ones that manifest an idea into reality.

A technically difficult project was melting metal in a microwave to make custom ingots. I read about the idea in a Popular Science article in 2003, though the article didn’t provide much in terms of setup details, so I decided to try it myself and document the process. The project had challenges that I had to solve as I went, and ultimately the microwave caught fire, but before that happened I successfully melted metal and could call the project a success.

A project that turned a crazy idea into reality is the incredibly dangerous flamethrower skateboard. I had seen a video of a snowboarder carving the slopes at night with LEDs on the board and wanted to do something similar. I wanted something fast, fun, crazy, with a sprinkling of danger - flamethrower skateboard.

The flamethrower skateboard that I published is actually the second iteration of the idea, as the first relied on a hand trigger tethered to the board, and couldn’t hold the fuel securely and kept catching fire. Redesigning I moved all the components to the board deck and used a powered pump to dispense the fuel trail.

You have such a huge number of maker skills. Do you actively work to develop them or do you learn what you need to in order to make something you’ve imagined, seen, etc?

I let my ideas drive what I make, and every skill I’ve learned has been because I’ve wanted to make something. I’m constantly rubbing up against problems in areas that I don’t know much about, so make it a priority to learn new skills in order to accomplish my vision.

I’m a lifelong learner, and see learning new skills like adding a new tool to your arsenal. You can never have too many, and you always want to be well equipped.

Any advice for new makers just getting started?

Make often, and make lots of mistakes. Nothing is ever perfect the first time, and mistakes are a valuable tool to know what not to do next time. Making and creating isn’t a race, just a personal journey in being creative. Express yourself loud and often, and take any criticism as a way to understand your audience better.

What excites you the most about the state of making now?

I love how fearless makers are: Learning from one another, being inspired by each other, and remixing ideas to create something new. This feedback loop is not unique to makers, but we exhibit it better than most other genres.

Favorite local spot?

Hotsy Totsy Club, and the taco truck outside. East Bay’s best kept secret :)

What music do you work to?

Music without lyrics. I find words distracting while I’m working.

Chilled Cow - Youtube playlist

Confused Bi-Product of a Misinformed Culture - Youtube playlist

What have you always wanted to try?

I’ve wanted to learn neon sign bending for ages. They offer a class at the Crucible, but it seems to fill up really fast. I’d love to have a custom sign hanging in my shop.

Favorite inspirational quote?

I lament that my own personal quote is “I do it right because I do it twice”, since I invariably end up doing it wrong the first time and end up remaking a project the way I had envisioned it. As frustrating as it can be, this quote sums up me as a maker, and a good takeaway for any other makers out there that making is an iterative endeavor.

Happy making :)

· What kind of projects can people try with you? ·
Mike's Workshop