On our first date, Derek famously said to me, “I’m really into fun.” And it’s true — he really is. When we first moved in together, Derek didn’t see the old, unused freezer in the basement of my house as junk, he saw it as opportunity, and soon set off to outfit the freezer with a thermostat and other accessories that would transform it into a DIY kegerator. (Perhaps I’ll have him share that how-to with you in a future post.) Some friends’ wives gave me a little flack for “letting” him do that, but I’m actually a big fan. It reduces household waste (think of all that glass and aluminum!) and makes cookouts and craft days in our garage more, well, fun.
I’m convinced that Derek can teach himself anything. A graphic designer and printer by trade, he’s made the transition to digital seamlessly by teaching himself web design, digital photography, video editing and 3-D modeling. Persistence is the key. Whereas many people (this writer included) tend to throw in the proverbial towel after hitting one or two proverbial roadblocks, Derek keeps at something until he’s mastered it. He has a strong-willed tenacity that I’ve seen in no other human and it comes in handy for DIY-ing.
Case in Point: Screenprinting
Derek decided a few years ago that he would teach himself to screenprint. After just a couple months of practice and many hours watching videos and asking questions on the Gigposters forum (where, I’m told, there’s a lot of semi-good-natured ribbing of the new guy, which Derek endured happily), he designed and printed the save the date cards for our wedding and then our wedding invitations. He can now print, in our tiny garage studio, type of a point size so miniscule that anyone would be baffled to learn that it was done by hand.
I tell people that Derek is a Zenmaster and people don’t believe me, but listen to this, his advice for anyone who wants to teach themself a new skill.
Derek: “You have to put in the hours to get proficient at any art and those hours will include a vast range of emotion. You will know frustration, you will embrace failure and you will chase success and victory. Challenging things in life sometimes hurt but solving problems through study, repetition and sheer force of will is the only way to feel the warm sunshine of success.
“My advice to any seeker of a fuller life is that you make the commitment, put in the time, read the instructions and refuse to accept that impossible exists. Know in your heart that you can bring your ideas to fruition simply by the repeated act of trying and you will begin to see the value of the happy accident. Be patient, be thorough, and immerse yourself in that thing that brings you joy.
“Do not accept the criticism of others and go be yourself.”
See? I told you. Not that it’s total DIY symbiosis over here; I guess we have a bit of a yin and yang situation. While he’s amazingly supportive of my pursuits (example: moving three tons of stone to help me build raised beds last year), Derek and I don’t always approach design the same way. Let’s put it like this: Whereas I’m alt country, he’s punk rock. Or metal. He would say he’s metal, just to make me cringe. But, truly, I love that we approach things differently, including design, and that he stays true to his own style even though we’re now a DIY couple. While as a professional designer, he knows when to bend to the will of the client, when designing for himself, Derek will always follow his own path — and you can bet he’ll have a heckuva lot of fun doing it.
P.S. Despite the title of this series, my husband isn’t keen on the word “maker,” and I wanted to give him an opportunity to explain why. You can tell us both what you think in the comments. Derek: “I don’t like the terms Maker or Crafter. Those sound like too flimsy of terms for our generation’s return to small-scale enterprise. I’m a designer and a printer. These are my skill sets. If you bake, you’re a baker. If you weld, you’re a welder. If you rock, well you just rock, you know what I’m saying?”