David Picciuto, who in many ways is one of the people I look up to in the maker world, said something very interesting on his podcast last week. In talking about his early days as a woodworker (and an artist) he said he always called himself an artist, but never felt like he really was and that now he feels like he has the "proof" (in the form of a body of work) to finally call himself one.
That's an amazing statement coming from one of the most gifted people I know, and he's right. How do I know? I know because I've been there.
In April of last year I got my first 3D printer, and from that moment on I started seeing myself as a maker. I started calling myself one, even though I never felt like one. I was just a guy with a 3D printer who made cool stuff that amazed his friends who never saw a 3D printer. I didn't know how to design my own stuff, had no skills in Fusion360 or any other app, barely had any tools, and didn't even have a space to work on to put stuff together. I discovered various ways to make things to make a few bucks here and there, and over the course of a few months that printer paid for itself.
I was a maker.
Now, looking back at all the things I've made, it's easy to say "You've been a maker since then, for sure," but saying it then felt a bit like impostor syndrome, even though in reality most of the people around you are often infinitely impressed when stuff starts churning out of your shop and they can't believe you even have the skills to do it. Ironic that David Picciuto's characterization of himself as an artist has followed the same path.
It could be a cart before the horse argument or a chicken before the egg argument. Are you an artist when you say you are? Or does saying you are one make you think like one and thusly turns you into one? One thing's for sure; what you call yourself isn't as important as the body of work you produce. Whether I call myself a maker, an artist, a 3d printer, a designer, or just a guy tinkering in his shop, I'm making things, often for other people, and lots of times they're things that make them happy. Whatever title, name, or designation I give myself, in the end that's all that matters.