"There's no such thing as standing still. If you're not moving forward, you're moving backward." It's hard to point to an original source for that quote because it's been said so many times by so many people, but at its heart lies a key truth, particularly as it pertains to us makers: evolution is key.
Almost one year ago, a friend of mine blew my mind by asking me to make her something. She wanted a Led Zeppelin keychain. I was excited because it was my first "design and make" job. She showed an incredible amount of faith in me, and I had a vision for what I wanted to make, but no experience making it.
I did have some ideas, though, so I set out to work.
I had no means for changing filaments mid print on my old printer, so the only option was to print it and paint it, but before I even got to that, I had to actually design the piece. I found the Led Zeppelin symbols and went into Tinkercad (no way, at that point, I could have done it with Fusion360, which I completely prefer now) and got to work and came up with something I was really happy with.
Then came printing, which I did in white, and then priming, painting, and finishing. The final result is the image on the left side on the top of this post. I was happy, for sure. I had stretched my capabilities as far as they went at that point, and had come up with something I hoped she would be happy with, and of course she was. It was awesome to see her reaction when I gave it to her.
A lot happens in a year.
Since I did this design, I've learned a ton. I'm very good with Fusion360 now (with plenty of room to grow) and my printers have gotten much better. My most recent purchase, a Prusa i3 Mk3, comes with an awesome bit of software called ColorPrint, which allows you to split your file so that a filament change can happen. Without going crazy explaining it all, it allows you to have different colors on raised features. The idea hit me: I should remake the Led Zeppelin keychain and hand it off to my friend as a thank you for believing in me when, for the most part, she had no actual body of work to go by.
So that's what I did. On Sunday, I put the keychain into the software and set up the file for printing, but since my printers were occupied making Pew Pews for a client, I had to wait until Monday morning to start the print. The printer churned away and just before it was time for me to head to work, the beep happened to change the filament. I swapped out the black for the silver and let it finish and the final result is the one on the right. Much cleaner, much nicer, much more professional. I'm super happy with the end result.
This morning I messaged her and told her I had a present for her and when I showed her the picture she loved it. She was also happy that I thought of her, which I found so sweet.
I've learned a lot in a year. When I see some of the things I made last year, I'm amazed at the ways I did the things I did and even more amazed at the results I managed to get with the little bit of knowledge I had, but I guess that's part of the point, right? Just make stuff. You'll get better the more you make!
Evolving as a maker is crucial. Sure you can get into a comfortable niche and stay there, but the fulfillment in being a maker doesn't come from doing the same things you've done a million times, but in doing new things that stretch your talents, your limits, and your abilities, and while sometimes I like to fall into just making fun things from Thingiverse or a scrap-wood project of little consequence, every once in awhile that project comes along that's a paradigm shift for who you are and what you do. Take those projects on and run with them because those are the ones that make you better.