How to fabricate after we kick you out
You’ve graduated, and we took away your laser, your CNC, your shop, even your vinyl cutter. How are you expected to make anything now?
The following will be tips, tricks, and some advice on how to “make it” after ITP.
But first some questions.
Who are you?
- You’re someone who wants to fabricate for a living, probably going the freelance route at first
- You’re a prototyper, who wants to have a place to work
- You’re an artist who makes things
What do you want to be making?
- How big is it?
- What’s it made out of?
- Do you need to ship it?
- Do you need to deliver it?
- Do you have to store it or the materials to make it?
- What is/are your process(es)?
- Can you make it in your kitchen?
You’re going to need some tools and lasers are expensive. A standard set of hand tools is necessary and usually affordable.
Lasers are expensive. I recommend getting a cordless drill and then a drill press. You can do a lot with just those.
Outside of basic hand and power tools, you’ll probably need digital fabrication tools. Something a little specific and possibly pricey. Lasers are expensive.
If you’ve used something here that you like and are knowledgable in, get one of those. You most likely already have the files, bits, and extras that work with it.
Tip: A vinyl cutter is a very affordable option.
Lasers are Expensive
You probably won’t have access to a laser like you do now. You won’t have the ability to prototype and make changes on the fly while cutting. Your process will change and you will be paying by the minute.
Where do you get space?
Shared shop or go it alone?
If they provide tools, do they provide maintenance on those tools?
Are you noisy, are you messy? People hate that. Your choices will be limited. Most art studios want quiet and clean.
Tip: Keep your workspace close to home if possible. But the cheapest places are still in Brooklyn and Queens. Sorry Manhattanites.
How do you get fabrication jobs?
Are you a fabricator? Do your classmates think of you as a fabricator? That’s 200 plus potential recommendations. Think, who in this room would you hire to fabricate something and why? What do they have that you don’t?
Do you know the fabrication community? People who make stuff in New York is a small world. And it is a word of mouth business.
Do you have a website? Instagram? Is it filled with fabrication projects?
Do I know you? Do I know you’re a fabricator? Do I know your work? Do the rest of the faculty and staff know you? We get asked all of the time for the right people for jobs.
Pass jobs along. There will be some jobs you’re too busy to do or just plain can’t do. Pass them on to known good people. Have a list of people you can recommend to clients. This is good practice and it comes back around to you.
Tip: If you have a big job, or there is a part that isn’t your specialty, don’t be afraid to contract out.
The first gig
You will be in over your head. The timeline will be too tight. Or you won’t know how to do something. Or the client will make changes. Be clear and honest about everything.
The first conversation is important. Set proper expectations. Pad your timeline. Have an hourly rate or a day rate and quote accordingly. And then send an email stating everything you said and ask the client if everything is clear.
Make sure you know what parts of the project you own? The CAD drawings, the CAM, images, videos? If the client eventually owns it all, they should pay for it.
Tip: Never work for free. Exposure is not money.
Fabrication vs Design
Difference between fabricating something and designing/fabricating something. Know what you’re getting into.
Charge for design, for R&D, and be upfront about it from the beginning. Some clients will be happy to work with you.
Blog, tweet, Instagram your work. If it’s not on the internet, it didn’t happen.
Check with the client, do you get credited for your work?
Clear with clients what you can make public while working on it and what you can publish after the job is done. If they make you sign an NDA, READ IT.
Work on personal side projects that are similar to the jobs you want to get paid for. And document those projects.
You still have the summer
We don’t kick you out for a few more months. Take full advantage of this. Make your tools and jigs now. Get that first job now while you have access to the shop. Find workspace now so you can move right in, no storing necessary.
Front load your laser and CNC work this summer. Don’t be that alum who sneaks in to use the laser after hours next semester.
Last Bits of Advice
Stuff breaks and things go sideways. Have a backup plan. Have a backup plan for your backup plan.
Times by Pi. The amount of material, the cost, the time it will take you to do it. It will all be more than you think.
Do the hardest part first.
Double dip whenever possible. Sell the project and sell the process.