48 minutes | May 27th 2019

How to Make Nerd Nostalgia

Episode Details

Air date: May 28, 2019

Guest: Adam Volpe

Runtime: 48 minutes

Summary: In episode 6 of Season 2, Jen sits down in her home with a fellow resident of her town, Adam Volpe. Adam talks about how he came to create fantastical metal weapons and other pieces of welded artwork. 

Links of Interest: What I Made This Month

From the transcript: “And now I’d like to tell you about something I made this month. It was quite a long process because of how fine our chosen yarn was, but I was able to finish knitting the new baby’s blanket just about a week before my due date. The pattern and yarn match nicely with the two previous ones I’ve made for Emma and Joey. But this blanket is made with a lighter yarn since this is a true summer baby. I’m excited to use it for monthly baby pictures and as a daily sleep surface for my new little one as we lounge on the porch and in the yard. I hope that your summer is filled with lazy afternoons with cold beverages and happy memories.”

Episode Transcript Introduction

Hello, and welcome to “How to Make a Memory,” the show that explores the items we make for one another and how they impact our relationships. My name is Jen Tierney and my guest this episode is a fellow resident of my town in Massachusetts, Adam Volpe. A few years ago, Adam posted a picture on our community Facebook page about his side hustle of welding metal sculptures, artwork, and weapons. It took me some time to get up the courage to ask him to come be on the show, since he was a complete stranger before he walked in to record with me a few months ago. But my concerns about having a 6’2″ stranger who welds giant metal weapons over for a chat about making were quickly dispelled when I discovered that Adam is one of those people who you can talk to for 5 minutes and feel like you’ve known your whole life. 

A quick note before you hear our conversation. We make reference to a game called WoW on several occasions throughout the episode. Wow is short for World of Warcraft, which is a popular massively multiplayer online role playing game that we both played for several years in the 00s. There are other references to video games, televisions shows, and conventions that some of you may not be familiar with. All you need to know in order to enjoy this episode is that Adam and I share a love for some specific pieces of gaming pop culture from 10-20 years ago. The specifics aren’t super important.

Conversation

Jen
If you want to introduce yourself a bit because all I know about you is that you live in my town.

Adam
Okay.

Jen
And that you occasionally post pictures of these very impressive pieces of metal work that you do. And that’s it. That’s the extent of my knowledge of you.

Adam
Good. That’s a good start, right? Yeah. So, my name is Adam Volpe, this side thing that I have – metalworking, metal artwork, weapons smithing, whatever you want to call it – It’s like, basically just a little side hobby that just kind of kept growing. And people got interested in my stuff. I didn’t – I never even started it with the goal of having a business or making money even or anything like that. So it was just for fun, something to do. You know, at best, I hoped maybe one day I could just make my money back on the materials, you know, whatever. It just – I started posting this stuff online and it just kept growing, you know? It started with Facebook and Instagram, and then the YouTube videos. And it just keeps going. It keeps on going. I’ve got a shop on Etsy and everything.

Jen
Really? I didn’t know any of that stuff. So that’s cool!

Adam
Yeah, it’s probably been… It’s been almost four years now. What happened?

Jen
That’s great. Oh my gosh. Oh, wow. That’s awesome. Yeah.

Adam
I actually started doing – I don’t know if I would call it artwork, but it’s probably the closest thing. Like, I would make – I made a scale model of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones. It’s sculpture I guess you might call it? Something like that.

Jen
Yeah.

Adam
But once I made my first sword, everybody was like, “That’s awesome.”

Jen
Yeah.

Adam
And people were like, “How do I buy this? How much do I gotta pay you? I don’t really care.” You know? So. “Oh, okay, this could be interesting,” right?

Jen
Yeah.

Adam
Like I said, at the beginning, I just, “okay, let’s just make back the material and consumables cost and so forth.” And then it’s just kind of gradually rolled into a second job.

Jen
That’s great.

Adam
It’s my second job now.

Jen
Okay, that’s awesome. So, I see a lot of the sort of like, cosplay version of that kind of stuff. Every year my husband and I go to PAX.

Adam
Yep, I went this year as well.

Jen
There’s a ton – Yeah, it’s, we love – I don’t think we’ve missed a PAX East yet. We’ve been to every one. We may have missed one, but yeah.

Adam
Really? Okay, so you’re more hardcore than I am.

Jen
I mean, we really love it. But we’re not – we’ve only gotten dressed up once. So we just go to like, enjoy all the dress up. And we play a lot of Magic the Gathering. And we like to play test a lot of the indie games.

Adam
Really? Okay.

Jen
And we go to a lot of the panels and stuff like that. So we like the full PAX experience. But the one time we went and we got dressed up we… Are you familiar with The Lego Movie?

Adam
Yes. Everything is awesome.

Jen
Yes. So my husband went as Emmett, and I went as Wyldstyle. And Emma was like, three months old. And we dressed her up as the Piece of Resistance and put her on Joe’s back. It was very cute. So people really liked it. So yeah, so I’ve seen a lot of very intricate, beautifully made weapons in that context. But obviously, no one brings metal to that. Like, that’s a thing. You can’t walk into PAX with like something that could really be a weapon.

Adam
Yes. And honestly, that’s something that has kind of held me back in a way because I would love to go to one of those events. Comic Con or any kind of anime convention or whatever and have a booth or something. But, completely out. You know, they said, “Not even a chance of this happening.”

Jen
Yeah, yeah.

Adam
It makes sense. Large groups of people and giant dangerous weapons is probably not… you know…

Jen
I’ve made things in the past that I’ve been like, “I’d love to sell this at PAX.” But I certainly don’t make at a level where like, I don’t mass produce things. You know, I make like one or two things here and there. So I’ve thought on a number of occasions of making a business card with the kind of things that I make. Like, I make a lot of hand knit dice bags and things like that.

Adam
Okay, cool.

Jen
So I wonder if you could like go and just have a card with you and be like, “I make giant swords. I see you have a giant sword. If you’d ever like a real giant sword, let me know.”

Adam
Just have posters of them up. “Here ya go. This is what I sell.”

Jen
You could wear one of those big… you know, one of those boards you see outside sandwhich shops.

Adam
A sandwhich board!

Jen
Yeah, a sandwhich board, exactly!

Adam
I could.

Jen
You could. “I make giant swords!”

Adam
Interesting side note. For whatever reason – and I’ve never been able to understand this – But I try to spread my stuff online everywhere. I mean, obviously, I want more people to see everything. I post on you know, Reddit and every Facebook group. Everything. And I have found that 99% of cosplayers are not interested in my stuff. In fact, I would say that, that’s where I get most of my negative reactions. It’s like a totally, it seems like it should be such a related field. But it’s totally separate and the two sides don’t even like each other. I totally was expecting to get a lot of support. And that’s where I get like all my down votes and everything. The cosplay subreddits and everything. I guess, if you’re into cosplay, and this is the best I can, you know, assume. If you’re into cosplay, you’re into it for a specific reason. You know, you want to go to these conventions, and you want to dress up and you need something that you can carry around for eight hours. And you know, and you have no desire to be swinging these things and smashing free Craigslist furniture and so forth. That’s not… That’s not what these people are into, basically.

Jen
I totally get that part of it. The part of me that thinks that people would be into it is like the part of me that – I could do cosplay. I just don’t, it’s not where I put my energy. But I would totally do it. However, the part of me that loves video games and movies and all those incredibly intricate, cool worlds, when I see the things you make I go, “That’s so cool. It’s like from the thing I love. I could see that as a piece of art in my house, not as a thing I’m going to carry with me, but as a thing I want to own because it looks just like x.”

Adam
Right. And so this is actually where most of my customers come from. The stuff I make largely is technically functional. You know, if you can swing a seven foot long sword, you know what I mean? It’s technically functional. It will hold up. It’s sharp. It will cut through things. But I have actually not seen any examples where anybody that has bought my stuff has actually used it. Instead they’ve got it in a display stand in their kitchen. You know what I mean? And I make a lot of like magnetic display stands for that purpose. And end up just kind of being almost like a, like, they want it to be functional still. So it almost becomes like a bragging right thing. Like, “Check out this… I got the real Buster Sword in my living room. I can’t pick it up. But you know…”

Jen
Yeah, “The guy who made it had to carry it in here and put it up for me, but…”

Adam
The poor UPS guy, right? Yeah. That’s really what it is. They just want like almost a trophy or something like that. Something you just display and just say like, “this is the real deal.”

Jen
I have to imagine it’s sort of like people who collect really beautiful old muskets, or real swords from Japan from you know, 500 years ago or whatever. I have to imagine it’s more like that. You’re not using that. I guess people who do reenactments probably purchase old muskets, but they’re probably not using them. Because a lot of them aren’t really functional… safely.

Adam
And you wouldn’t even want to. Exactly.

Jen
What are you gonna do with it? Shoot a pheasant? Where?

Adam
Exactly. And the thing is, too, when you just said historical weapons and so forth. The people who are into real – we’ll call them real swords, or real weapons, historically accurate. They don’t like my stuff either. Because they just say “Why would you ever do this? It weighs 20 times as much as a real sword. Like why? Nobody could swing it.” You can’t see why you would want to do that.

Jen
Yeah, it’s not meant for that. It’s supposed to be like, I mean, anything from a video game, especially video games from that specific era – The late, late 80s all the way through the 90s and into the early 00s. Like everything was so silly. And that was kind of the point. That was why I was so fun. Anything from the Final Fantasy era, or…

Adam
The Berzerker anime is where I get a lot of stuff from.

Jen
Oh, yeah, of course. And I mean, the animes from that era, I watched a lot of Kenshin. I watched a lot of Kenshin when I was in high school. And I mean, everything was supposed to be… that’s kind of the point of it is to be a little silly and outrageous, and unwieldy and people with superhuman abilities.

Adam
Or magical, or whatever you want. Whatever method they used. Yeah, yeah. And it’s funny you mention that. That’s kind of where my sweet spot is. A lot of newer games – the Dark Souls games and Monster Hunter and whatever, I’m sure you’ve seen all these things. There has been zero interest in those kinds of things. It’s like the simpler 80s, 90s, 00s. It’s the people who grew up in that era, like us. Or like me. I don’t know how old you are, sorry.

Jen
We’re probably around the same age!

Adam
And now, you know, they’re a little older, it’s been 10-20 years, and they’ve got some money now. And it’s almost like a nostalgia thing. “I played Final Fantasy on PlayStation One when I was in high school and now I want to have it in my house.” So it’s actually a lot of older stuff and relatively older people.

Jen
I think nostalgia is a huge thing. And I think that what you’ll see over time, if you continue doing this, for you know, 20, 30, 40 years. As you get older, the things that people are going to want to buy are going to change because the people who have the money are going to change. And then you’ll start seeing stuff that’s popular now. And we’re getting close to when people are going to want a lot of WoW stuff. If you haven’t already started seeing it!

Adam
I haven’t seen it, but I’m surprised I haven’t, actually. Because WoW goes back to, I don’t know, like 2004 or something like that. 2003? I forget. Early.

Jen
Yeah. Because it was my first year of college and I started in 2003. So it was 2003 or 4. And yeah, my husband and I, we went to Merrimack College together. But the first two or three years we were together, I would say that a solid amount of the time we spent together was spent in WoW. It was… not real!

Adam
You’re laughing but I played WoW fairly competitively for probably five years with my wife. So I understand.

Jen
It was a wonderful thing to do as a couple. It was great.

Adam
Most of the time…

Jen
Yes, there were times when it caused some contention. That’s true.

Adam
“Can I get a heal over here?”

Jen
“Sorry! You’re too far away, dear.”

Adam
Yes, you’re out of range. I had these exact conversations.

Jen
That’s great. Yeah, we had some really good WoW memories.

Adam
I am dying for that to become my next thing. Because I played so much for so long. And some of those weapons are so iconic. The war glaves or Thunder Fury or, you know what I mean, the classics. But, interestingly enough, nobody’s really interested. And part of my theory on that is like, you go to Final Fantasy, right? The Buster Sword. It was THE weapon in the game, basically. Whereas WoW, it’s like, it’s one of 8 million. There’s no single, iconic, stand out thing that everybody wants. So it leaves people divided. And people aren’t that interested. I haven’t even had people suggest like, “Hey, you should make this.” Like people always suggest “Hey, you should make this next. You should make that next. Never a WoW weapon. Considering millions of people play WoW, have played it.

Jen
I wonder if it’s just had so many expansions to it, that it sort of has become such a different experience for so many people. And people come and go from it. Like we haven’t played since maybe like 2009.

Adam
Okay, yeah, 2011 is the last year I played.

Jen
Yeah, we’ve played since then. We’ll play for maybe like a day or two real hard and then… just to kind of get the nostalgia of it and then walk away again.

Adam
It’s one of those things where you just have to be immersed in it. And have a reason to be logging in every day, you know? You’re in a guild or you’ve got raids to do or PvP or whatever. You have to have an actual reason. So when you try to stop in and you’re like, “Let’s recapture this joy!” You’re like, “I did some quests. I did some achievements or whatever. Alright, time to take care of the kids.”

Jen
It’s tough. And we actually played a ton of Diablo 3 when our son was born. Maybe our daughter, I forget. But yeah, when that came out, we just… for first two weeks of that baby’s life it was just us on the couch in the basement in the dark playing Diablo. It was like, “Oooo, I hope this kid isn’t real screwed up.”

Adam
That’s perfect. Besides that part of it. It’s perfect, because you get the hack-and-slash, you know? It’s not too in depth. You know, you don’t have to get that involved with it. It’s a little more mindless – not mindless, but compared to something like WoW. “I’ve gotta go grind for three hours to get this one quest done.”

Jen
I like the Diablo games for that reason, because it does sort of allow you to be a little bit more social while you’re playing. Because you’re with another person. But there’s some games where like, if I’m playing Civ, and I’m doing Hot Seat, I’m not going to talk to you about anything because I’m just totally trying to figure out what to do next. So it’s just like five straight hours of “Oh, there’s another person next to me? Oh, I forgot about you.”

Adam
“I was supposed to eat food?”

Jen
Yeah, I’ve lost a lot of meals to mindless gaming.

Adam
Yep, it happens. “Why am I so hungry? Oh, it’s 11 o’clock at night!”

Jen
“Ooops! I ate 12 hours ago, it’s fine. I’ll be fine. Gaming is my diet. It’s totally cool.”

Adam
You know what? It can work! Right?

Jen
Your muscle mass just drains away. You become real pale.

Adam
And you’re wearing out chairs from sitting so long.

Jen
Okay, so we live in Wilmington.

Adam
Correct.

Jen
Have you lived here your whole life?

Adam
I was born and raised here. I lived in Billerica for 10 years. And then I moved back.

Jen
Nice. So you’re a real townie, you’re from right here!

Adam
And the only reason I even moved away for any length of time is I couldn’t afford a house in Wilmington. I bought a house in Billerica. So definitely a townie.

Jen
Yes. That’s great! So as somebody who did not grow up in Wilmington – I grew up in New Jersey. So I moved up to go to Merrimack. And then my husband and I were like – well, he grew up in Martha’s Vineyard. He is an island boy. And so the two of us were like, “Well, we want to stay in this area.” And so we lived in Andover for a little while. We had some people who rented to us for an obscenely low amount of money. Which was very nice of them. Because we could never have afforded to stay there. And then we just waited until we had enough money to buy a house in Wilmington. And Wilmington was like the sweet spot for our price range. It’s location wise, where we wanted to be. I have some issues with the town around like, there really isn’t a really great Main Street. I wish that there was a really great place I could walk around with my kids. And that’s kind of missing. But other than that. That comes from having spent so many years in Andover where there’s this beautiful Main Street.

Adam
Yeah, and we go to Andover for that.

Jen
Yeah, like Reading has it. Wakefield has it.

Adam
You know, I never really thought about it like that. Growing up in Wilmington, it used to be such a small town. It still kind of is in some ways and people are still trying to hold on to that. But, I mean, there were like, none of these lights! These lights that are everywhere now. None of them. It was just a small town and you didn’t need it. And there was no need for that Main Street kind of thing. It was almost like semi-rural in some ways.

Jen
Yeah, it sounds like it was. But people seem to get very bent out of shape when those conversations come up.

Adam
Yes.

Jen
Which kind of surprises me because I feel like if you have the influx of people, and the population sort of changing towards younger families and things like that, why wouldn’t you want to support family activities and things that can happen in the town and bring more businesses in? People are like “I want it to stay small here!” Why? You want to drive to some other town and give them your money?

Adam
I think humans are just resistant to change in general. That’s what it all comes down to. Because I’ve noticed exactly the same conversations. I’m sure we’re both members of the Community Board. It’s always the same thing. I can kind of understand, like I said, coming from seeing the transition over the years, but… I don’t know I think as a general rule, I think progress is great. You know what I mean? More people, the better services, better schools, you know. There are actually restaurants in town now.

Jen
I know, it’s great! I’m really excited for the new bakery. Have you seen that?

Adam
I have not!

Jen
So Tremezzo is opening up a bakery right next door called Josie’s.

Adam
Okay. Yes. I did hear about that.

Jen
Oh, I’m so excited! It’s opening in a couple weeks.

Adam
I should temper that statement. I’m excited for it. But, you know… you know!

Jen
I completely understand. I’m just like, “Oh, I don’t need a bakery.” But at the same time, my grandparents, my mom’s parents, owned and operated a bakery until… they closed it before I was born. But they were cooks, they were chefs, they were bakers. That whole family. And I grew up in an area of New Jersey where there’s a really big Italian population. So there was an Italian bakery every 10 feet. They were everywhere. And so here I am, in Wilmington, where there’s not an Italian bakery for miles. You’ve got to go into the city to get a good loaf of Italian bread. So now I’m like, “Every so often, if I want a pignole cookie, I can go get one.” I’ll be good.

Adam
Yes, it’s good to have options, right?

Jen
Yeah. And I really love Tremezzo. We go there all the time.

Adam
I’ve only been there a few times. I try to, not to go on a huge tangent, but I used to be extremely, extremely overweight. So I have to be very careful not to eat out as much as I can. That’s like my death knell. Yeah, I go over there and I get some raviolis and everything. I mean, I put on 20 pounds in one day basically.

Jen
It’s easy to overeat that stuff, too. Because it’s all so rich.

Adam
I’m just curious, too. You said New Jersey. How long did you live there?

Jen
I lived there until I was 17. And I haven’t lived there since.

Adam
You don’t have much of an accent. If any, honestly.

Jen
So, the New Jersey accent I think – I’m of the opinion – that it’s a myth. I think that when people think of the New Jersey accent, what they’re actually thinking of is the New York, Staten Island accent. Because a lot of the people who live in New Jersey are either the children of people who grew up in Staten Island or that area, or they lived in Staten Island and they moved out to New Jersey. And so you have this like real thick, “I’m from Joisey” you know, and that is not a New Jersey accent. That is a Staten Island accident. I mean, at least that’s been my experience. And we do have some dialect things where there are certain words that we’ll use to describe things that are different from up here. Like we say water fountain.

Adam
Ok, so not “the bubbler”.

Jen
Not “the bubbler”, yeah. Whereas like Boston has… If you’re from anywhere around the Boston area, you have a distinct accent.

Adam
Agreed. Agreed.

Jen
So even if it’s quiet, you could still hear it in there. You’re from around Boston.

Adam
I really try to downplay my Boston accent. Not downplay it, but I just try to enunciate better, because… Actually, a big part of it is I’ve worked with – I usually work in larger companies that have a large footprint. So, I’ll be on a conference call with people from all over the country or other countries or whatever. And Boston accidents can be really tough on people who are not used to it.

Jen
Interestingly, the Boston accent, I read at some point, that it’s one of the closest accents in America to British English. The way that we do our “Rs” and our “vowel-R” sounds. So yeah, it’s sort of like a very rough American British.

Adam
It makes sense, right?

Jen
Yeah, it’s where we all came from, right? Well, some of us.

Adam
Right, right. But yeah, your New Jersey accent hypothesis is impressive. You totally blew my mind. I never thought about it like that.

Jen
There’s the “New Jersey accent” but then they’re all of the Italians in New Jersey. And they have a very specific… there’s a wonderful article online that – talk about mind blowing – It goes through the different areas of Italy you are probably from historically, you’re generationally from. In my family, my mom and dad have always said “pruh-jzoot”, you know, that’s how they say it. And if you trace it back linguistically, it goes to exactly where they’re from in Italy. And there’s a reason for all of that. Whereas if you go to Italy, they say “prosciutto”, you know? They pronounced that final “O”, but we drop all the vowels off of our words as Italian Americans. Like a lot of people say “motzadel”, which is not even close to how it’s pronounced.

Adam
You’re bringing me right to “The Sopranos”!

Jen
Yes, Sopranos is New Jersey Italian exactly.

Adam
Yes, exactly.

Jen
Some stereotypes are dead on – “The Sopranos”. Let’s bring it back to the topic at hand! So you make a lot of things, but it’s probably safe to say that someone along the line in your life has made something for you or has taught you how to make something. What sticks out in your mind as something…

Adam
So, maybe a surprising answer. But, yes and no. My father, of course, like everybody has the same story, right? My father’s always been huge into everything from doing it yourself, fixing it yourself, to making things on your own to… everything that encompasses that whole thing. A lot of especially woodworking type things. But as far as teaching me, especially the metalworking and everything, or even things that I’ve received, I have no story there. I literally just decided one day, “I want to get into metalworking.” And I bought a welder without having any idea how to use it. And I YouTubed, of course, everything. And one baby step at a time, I just gradually got more and more tools and got into more and more trades and just kept going. And the thing is, people think I must have a house full of these weapons or artwork or whatever. I actually have nothing. I don’t keep any of my stuff. There’s one exception. I have kept one thing I’ve made – my favorite thing I ever made. I only like to make things. I’m not a collector. I’m not an enthusiast even. I like some animes, the big ones – the popular ones – and so forth. But I’m not super into it, you know? It’s kind of like a means to an end – to feed my need to make things.

Jen
That makes sense. Totally makes sense.

Adam
Really, I don’t buy anything. People don’t send me stuff. My house is plain as can be. When I was a little boy, I loved Legos. And I loved to make things out of Legos and I would make this awesome car and then I’d take it apart in five minutes. I wouldn’t play with the car. I wouldn’t put it on display. Just tried to make something new. It’s been literally that way my entire life. I think I was born that way. Real simple, right?

Jen
Well, I mean, my primary making craft is knitting. That’s primarily what I do. What I spend the most time and money on. And if you were to look around my house, you’d see maybe two or three handknit things. Everything else goes out the door. Most of the things I make our gifts for people. Every so often I do something on commission, but it’s rare. To me the enjoyment of knitting is the knitting itself. And then everything after that is sort of like, “Well, I can go buy a nice warm hat.”

Adam
Yes, and it costs $3.

Jen
Yeah, right. Like the the joy of the knitting for me is those like 10 to 15 hours I spend knitting the thing. I learned something new. I made something unique. And I’d rather give it to somebody else to enjoy than myself. I have a couple hats that I’ve kept that I liked that I made. The very first hat that I made I still have and I wear it almost every day. It’s very old and really needs to be replaced. But I’ve yet to make a hat that was as good as that one. And so every time I make a hat I’m like, “All right, somebody else is gunna get this as a gift.”

Adam
So your first was actually better than your future ones?

Jen
Yeah, I don’t know what it is. I know. Right? I think it was just more “me” than every other one I’ve made since then. The colors just really go with what I usually wear. The way it fits is just right for my head. Every other hat I make, I put it on and like, It’s too loose or It’s too tight. And I bet if I just wore it more often, it would eventually mold to my head and be perfect. But I just still have this real fondness for this hat I made… it’s probably coming up on 10 years now. And I wear it all the time. I almost never wash it when I probably should. Because it’s a knit hat. And I wear it in the wintertime.

Adam
That’s interesting. Yeah, to me the satisfaction – It’s a two-fold satisfaction, right? The satisfaction of making the thing – completing the thing. And then the satisfaction of somebody has received it and their impression or their reaction is like the second part basically. So yeah, that’s it for me. It’s the process and then the – not the gifting anymore. It’s all commission work. But, you know, same idea.

Jen
Which is nice! To get to that place.

Adam
You know, when I ship my thing off, and I’m just waiting every day for that U{S notification that they received it. And I’m waiting for the email from the guy. You know what I mean? I can’t wait, you know?

Jen
It’s extremely validating. And in some ways, I find that when I have done things on commission, it’s nice to get money for the work that I do. But with knitting, the materials cost so much and the amount of time you put into it is so much that by the time you want to sell it to a person, you’re maybe breaking even, but usually not. So to me, the money is sort of like “oh, this is nice.” But what’s really great is when somebody is like “This is perfect! This is exactly what I wanted!”

Adam
Right. It’s their new favorite hat.

Jen
Yes, exactly. So, I do a lot of blankets for people when they get married or they buy a new house or they have a baby or whatever. And giving someone a blanket… Every so often out of nowhere, I’ll get a text from a friend and it’ll just be a picture of their Friday night. And they have a cup of tea and a blanket. And they’re just like, “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this every day.” And I’m like, “Oh, man!” It’s so nice. And that’s like the the gift that keeps on giving about it for me is knowing that someone’s still continuing to enjoy it.

Adam
This is fascinating to me, because I know you’re interviewing me, so to speak. But I never really get to talk to anybody that makes things and have these conversations. So I kind of thought this was just me, you know what I mean? But from what you’re saying, it’s exactly the same thing I feel basically.

Jen
Yeah. I mean, if you go back and listen to some other episodes, the things that tend to come up over and over again, are “I love the feeling of making the thing” and “I love the feeling of giving someone the thing.” A lot of people like that when they make something physical, it’s a piece of themselves that they’ve put out into the world, and that will exist beyond them. In a way, it’s sort of like how some people feel about having children. Like, “I’m making something that’s going to outlive me.” It’s why I make the podcast. I’m making something that you know, if I’m gone… The whole initial point of this was, if for some horrible reason I die prematurely and my children want to know who I am, they will have this to listen to. So I think that’s another big reason for people.

Adam
I never really thought about it like that, you’re kind of talking almost like a legacy. That’s basically, what you’re saying.

Jen
I think some people consider their creations as legacy. As a version of legacy. There are a lot of different things that get created, a lot of times pieces of media, where it’s sort of like… Podcasts feel this way and books feel this way. It’s sort of like the person who made it is having a conversation with you. With a lot of different people, but you get to experience it in a way that feels very personal to you. And so I like to think about that with things that I put out and send to people. “Here. Here’s this thing.” And then they kind of have their own experience with it, that’s unique to them.

Adam
Sure. And it’s a piece of you at the same time. Even just a reminder of you. It could be something simple like that.

Jen
Yeah, which is nice. So, I mean, knock on wood I’m around for a really long time and it’s not an issue, but…

Adam
Life happens, right?

Jen
I know. It’s true. It’s very true. Okay, so you hinted at this, but didn’t actually say what it was. But you said you kept one thing in your house. What is your favorite thing you’ve ever made?

Adam
So, funnily enough, one of the first things I made was a giant, large, oversized sheet metal skull. I think you might have seen a picture of it. And it was like, 4 or 500 pieces of metal all welded together. It took me five times longer to make it than I thought it would. It was a huge pain. I mean, it was honestly, it was easily the worst thing I’ve ever made. The worst time. And It was early on. So I didn’t know what I was doing. Didn’t know what to expect. And once I started, I said, “Okay, I’m not backing out of this. I’m just gonna keep going for however dozens of hours it takes. It was like 120 hours I put into this stupid thing.

Jen
Yeah, I’ve done those projects.

Adam
Ridiculous. It had thousands of welds on the thing. Like it was just crazy. When I’m done with it, I said, “How can I ever sell this thing? It’s never going to be worth enough for me to actually get rid of it. Unless some incredibly rich person just throws a bunch of money at me.

Jen
Yes, “I love this! I’ll pay you $100,000 for it!”

Adam 
Yeah, “take it!” right? “I’ll pay off my mortgage, Thanks.” So I actually cut the top of it off and it’s ike a bowl. And it’s a chalkbowl in my gym now. So I get to see it every day. And I use it frequently. Every time I’m in the gym, I get to use it.

Jen
You have a gym in your house?

Adam
I do. In the basement. But every day I get to see it. And I say “that’s awesome.” And it really came out. I just worked on it until it was perfect. Well, nothing’s ever perfect, right? And especially in my mind. But yeah, that’s by far – I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it. I don’t know any extremely rich benefactors. So it probably won’t happen anytime soon. You know, it’s cool. I’ve had actual gym owners be interested in it. But then you know, “Oh, can you make me one of those?” “Sure!” “Is $150 fine?” (laughter)

Jen
I think you sort of already answered this. But this is the last question that I ask people, which is: why do you think that that making, either for you personally or for people in general, is such a vital part of being a human?

Adam
Good question. right? So we kind of talked about this. So, for me, like I said, it’s strictly a satisfying, rewarding experience, basically. It can be awful. I’m working, welding and using torches. I’m getting cut on a million different things. And you’re wearing full leathers in the middle of the summer. It can really be a pretty awful experience. But all that awfulness kind of leads to greater reward. Does that makes sense? The harder it was, the more time it took, the more frustration involved, the better I feel when whatever it is is done. I actually find myself gravitating towards greater and greater challenges. I make things now that I couldn’t even fathom a few years ago. You know what I mean? New skills, new tools, new whatever. Challenges, like I said, just kind of keep pushing me to achieve those greater rewards, basically. The rewards are all up here, in my mind, but that’s my motivation, I guess. It just keeps escalating.

Jen
I completely understand that.

Adam
Why is it important? I don’t know. I think everybody’s got their own reasons. You touched on the legacy thing. That’s something I’ve never really even considered that heavily.

Jen
I’ve heard some people say that making feels like it’s part of their DNA. Like they were just raised in a home with makers. So they were like, “Well, this is just what we do.”

Adam
And I kind of touched upon that with my Dad, who did teach me a lot from day one. So, maybe a little bit of natural tendency towards making things, nurtured extensively, and then it just kind of blossomed from there, I guess. That’s probably the best way I could say it. I mean, even when we talked about playing WoW. I liked to do crafting stuff in WoW. You know what I mean?

Jen
Yeah! All my things in WoW were always crafting. I was like, “Ok, I’ll do the leather-working and the cloth-making or what was that? Tailoring!

Adam
Tailoring. Exactly. And it was the same way. It was like, way back in the day, there were the rare recipes. And some of the materials were ridiculous to get. And those are the things I went for. Like, “Oh, I gotta do this raid, Black Wing Lair, for months to get the materials to make this thing? Cool!” That challenge was always the driving factor, basically, for me. Challenge equals reward. Real simple, right?

Jen
Yeah, that feels like a mantra in most of the best pursuits. The more challenging something is, the worse it feels, the better you feel at the end when you’ve achieved the goal that you were after.

Adam
I guess that could apply to anything. I mean, you can be a fighter and your training is insanely brutal. But it all pays off in the end for you. You know what I mean? Whatever your goal is. Beat people up – that’s your craft.

Jen
Like sports or exercise or anything like that. The harder you work at something, the better feels when you do it.

Adam
I just wish I had made that realization earlier in life. That came in my 30s. That nothing easy is worth it. The harder something is, the better it is in the end. If I had realized that earlier in my life, I think – it’s not like a regret or something like that. But I could have been doing this all this time.

Jen
Well, I think it’s a very mature thought. I think that we’re just… our brains aren’t really ready to think about that level of work when we’re in our teens, and 20s. Everything we want to be doing is easy. And our concept of legacy certainly is very different when we’re younger, because we don’t even have the… I mean, I don’t think it was not until I was like 26 or 27 that I was like, “Oh, one day I will die.” But it just never even occurred to me.

Adam
Yeah, we’re all immortal when were young. Right?

Jen
Yeah, exactly. So I think your brain just isn’t ready to have those thoughts about time and about commitment to things.

Adam
Committment. Yes. Yes. That’s interesting. I guess…. I’m sure you’re right.

Jen
Well, thank you!

Adam
No, really. Because life’s experiences in general kind of guide you along that path anyway. Figuring these things out. And not even to make it into like a rant, but everything’s instant gratification nowadays anyway. So that kind of pushes you in the wrong direction, unfortunately. And believe me, if my phone doesn’t respond within one second, I’m angry, you know? It’s just a combination of factors.

Jen
I think with things that provide this instant gratification, because you get technology and you get things and everything’s faster. And I think that my goal with my kids has been to try to help them see the value in those things, so that they may be have that realization earlier. And I sort of feel like you’re getting all this time back, not having to make your own bread, not having to send a letter in the old-fashioned way where you would write it out. That takes a lot longer than shooting off a quick email to somebody or a text message. And so we’ve regained all of this time, but somehow we have less of it. Because we’re doing so many more things than people used to in the allotted time we have. So I’m sort of trying to help them, and me as well, understand that with that time that you now have, that you wouldn’t have had before, are you spending that on worthwhile pursuits? Pursuits that are difficult and challenging and not just sitting, like they are right now, watching PJ Masks. My 20s were spent mostly binge watching shows like “Lost” and I could have been making some really beautiful, interesting things instead of just dithering my time away on very sedentary activities. It takes time to realize that your time is valuable.

Adam
It’s one of those things, right? Perfect example – “Lost” was awesome, by the way. But, how do you tell yourself that that was wasted time? Right? You loved the show. You maybe learned from it. You may be grew from it a little bit. On the surface, it seems like it’s a waste of time. And I could have been doing better things. But I always have that argument with myself. But then I come back to the sum of my life experiences. The time spent doing worthwhile things and the time spend doing useless, pointless things all adds up to right where I am right now. If I’m happy with where I am now, then I can’t regret. I can’t regret anything I’ve done in the past. Even if I spent 12 hours a day playing WoW on the weekend. And just ordered pizza from Domino’s, because I didn’t want to even stop to make food. It was still a learning experience. I still grew from it. It was still worthwhile. So that’s the attitude I try to have.

Jen
I’ve learned over time to try to have that mentality of thinking to myself, “Well, that time wasn’t completely wasted. I was incredibly entertained. It’s what I needed at that time. And that’s just where I was.” Do I wish now that I had learned how to do the knitting that I’m doing now during that time or before that, so that I could be better by now than I am? Yeah, a little bit. But at the same time, had I not been watching so much TV, I wouldn’t have eventually said to myself, “I need to find something to do with myself while I’m watching TV. So I’ll learn how to knit.” So it’s sort of like one begat the other.

Adam
And maybe crafting things in WoW made me want to make things in real life. So it’s like, whatever. It’s hard to have regrets when you think about things that way, I think.

Jen
Yeah, it’s a helpful way to wrap your mind around your past, even if it’s not how you would have done it if you had the thoughts that you have now. But the thoughts that you have now, you wouldn’t have gotten to.

Adam
Yeah.

Conclusion

It’s been some time since Adam and I had this conversation. I’ve taken an unexpected hiatus over the past few months due to my pregnancy. Keeping up with all of my commitments was much harder than I anticipated and podcast release schedule was directly impacted. I’m not sure what the schedule will look like moving forward, but I will likely release episodes as I am able to. I have no plans of ending the podcast, but the cadence will likely be unpredictable as my family adjusts to having 5 members. Either way, I’m so glad that this show gave me an excuse to meet Adam and I have some other great conversations recorded to share in the coming months. So keep an eye on your podcast app for a surprise episode now and again!

And now I’d like to tell you about something I made this month. It was quite a long process because of how fine our chosen yarn was, but I was able to finish knitting the new baby’s blanket just about a week before my due date. The pattern and yarn match nicely with the two previous ones I’ve made for Emma and Joey. But this blanket is made with a lighter yarn since this is a true summer baby. I’m excited to use it for monthly baby pictures and as a daily sleep surface for my new little one as we lounge on the porch and in the yard. I hope that your summer is filled with lazy afternoons with cold beverages and happy memories.

Well, that brings us to the end of this episode. You can find show notes, lots of fun links and other extras for all of the show’s episodes over at htmamcast.com. Find us on Instagram @howtomakeamemory. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please consider heading over to iTunes to rate and review so more folks like yourself can find the show. Our logo is by Becky Carpenter, our music is by Chuck Salamone, we get system admin support from Greg Thole. Now, go make something for someone you love.