How long have you been making? What were your first efforts?
My husband Robert and I have been creating for over 30 years. He is a metal fabricator, and I’m the dreamer. Until 8 years ago, we had a collision repair shop. Our making efforts were solely focused on repairing cars and making customers happy with them again. Our first effort at making for fun was afterward when designing our back yard. We made a set of large metal leaves for the garden. Later, Robert came home from an estate auction with 7 antique car jacks. I asked him what he was going to do with them. He said that he figured that I’d know what to do with them. I quickly had a vision, and told him that they would make great lamps. That was the exact moment Eclectic Electric (Ridge Industries, Inc.) was born.
What inspired you to associate your efforts with steampunk? Were there other fandoms or genres that attracted you?
I have always been curious about steampunk. I dressed up steampunk for Halloween last year. During Oktoberfest in Campbell, I met Elizabeth from Fabrefaction. She makes stunning Victorian clothing. Anyway, we talked for a bit, and I told her we were makers too. I showed her a few photos of what we make, and quickly told me how steampunk our items look. I had never thought of our style as steampunk until then. But she is completely right!
Any advice for young makers or artists? Things you “wished you knew back when”?
My advice to young makers or artists is to find a media you’re interested in working with. Then, watch some videos online, find a class to take or seek out others that can teach you how to work with it. Most makers enjoy sharing and teaching their skills to others. Practice, and keep an open mind because that is what fosters new ideas and methods. Also, always make time to create, because designing and making is an amazing way to relax. Also, the results can be incredibly rewarding!
How long do your projects typically take from initial design, through concept testing, and finally production?
Our projects can take less than an hour, or dozens of hours, depending on what we are making. If it is the first time we have made a particular item, it often takes much more time to work through the challenges and pitfalls. It is always easier and less time consuming to make the next one.
What skills and knowledge would you consider among the top five necessary for someone looking to get established as a maker, either as a hobby or profession?
Five necessary skills for someone looking to become a maker – You need to have patience, determination, resourcefulness, the ability to think outside the box, and the most current marketing skills for today’s markets.
What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream, beverage, etc, when you’re working in the shop on a hot day?
When working in the shop on a hot day, it is often as hot inside as it is outside. I drink a lot of plain ‘ol water. It is important to stay hydrated, even on the days when it isn’t hot. It is common for me to realize that a whole day went by, and I was so caught up in my projects that didn’t eat or drink much of anything.
Cats, dogs, birds, or bats in the shop, and who has to handle the care and feeding?
We have a one-eared, two year old cattle dog mix named Wyatt. Wyatt is a rehabilitated bait dog from Tijuana, who is the most mellow, gentle soul I have ever had. Just over a year ago, we were lucky enough to be chosen to be his adoptive family. I’m mostly in charge of his care and feeding. On most days, you can find him keeping part of the shop floor warm or asking for carrots, and he is an amazing support dog when something goes wrong with one of our projects.
Thanks, Betsy and Robert! We can’t wait to see you Clockwork Alchemy this weekend!