Sandbox: Interview with Stefan Dzisiewski-Smith from Bare Conductive
We’re big fans of Bare Conductive and are super excited to share our interview with their Head of Technology, Stefan Dzisiewski-Smith. Read on to find out what inspires his work and how his first rocket called “Blue Flash” taught him a valuable lesson.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and what you do…
My name is Stefan Dzisiewski-Smith and I am an engineer and designer. I currently work at Bare Conductive as Head of Technology (making exciting projects with conductive paint) and have previously worked as Head of Hardware at BuffaloGrid (helping people with no electricity charge their mobile phones). I love electronics, but when I am not working I love hanging out at the beach and cycling!
What or who first inspired you to make?
My mum taught full time and so as a kid, her friend Joan looked after me and my sister after we had finished school before she could pick us up. Joan’s husband Jack had the most amazing shed with a pillar drill and lathe – it smelled of oil and wood. I loved that shed. Any time my sister or I broke something it would go off to Jack’s shed and come back better than new. This was magic to me as a kid and from then on I have always wanted to make and fix things.
Growing up what was the first thing you made that you were proud of? And what did it feel like once you made it?
At school one of our teachers used to run a club making model rockets. I remember making a blue and silver rocket that would separate at its peak and then come back to earth in two halves with separate parachutes. I put all my effort into that rocket and was as patient as I could be with every stage so that the rocket was perfect. I even applied transfer letters down the rocket to give it a name – “Blue Flash” When it was done I was so happy with what I had made – I couldn’t wait to launch it. I went down to a local recreation field to launch it – the rocket soared into the sky and I squinted against the sun to see it peak and separate, just as I planned. There was just one problem. The bottom half came down nicely and landed close by. The top half caught the breeze and drifted off across the road and into a forest. I searched for hours but never found the top half – all I was left with was half a rocket that had “ash” written on the side! I was so sad to have lost all that effort – but in time I came to see that the risk of losing something was often part of trying something new.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt along the way?
Ask lots of questions – people generally love it when you are interested in their work and asking a question is so much better than staying quiet and pretending you already know. I still learn lots about things I do every day by asking questions of other people.
Who inspires you today?
I’ve been a fan of Jeri Ellsworth’s for a long time – she’s pushed out some really original work and continued in the face of discouragement over a lengthy career. I aspire to her level of tenacity and vision!
I love Naomi Wu’s articles on doing business in China – she always seems to write about something I hadn’t thought about before and her knowledge of Chinese manufacturing culture is invaluable. She also has her own unique style and isn’t afraid to speak her mind – great attributes if you want to do genuinely new things.
Mike Harrison’s videos are incredible – he takes apart things you would never normally get to see (black box recorders, blood analysers – even an airport x-ray machine) and takes you through how they are made and how they work. I genuinely think his videos add to the world in a very positive way.
What one thing do you think the next generation of makers need to know?
The main difference between you and established experts is that they have probably had more failures than you have made attempts. Try not to lose heart when things go wrong – failure really does teach us more than success and anyone who appears to have never failed is either not telling the truth or hasn’t really made anything worth making.
Top 3 maker projects:
1- Rachel Rayns’ IoT Van project is compelling because it’s always evolving and she documents her process beautifully. She shares her successes and failures honestly and because her project is on wheels lots of people will get to experience it. She is going to be living out of it for the next year while she studies at Dundee University which will no doubt give her a great experience and inspire improvements along the way.
2- Scotty Allen’s incredible hack to add a headphone socket to an iPhone 7 is a real testament to never giving up in the face of failure. He spent 4 months trying to get it to work and gets so close to throwing in the towel – but the results are worth it (to him anyway!). Also he’s a great example of doing projects that interest you, but might not have value to others. Not everyone wants or needs a headphone socket on an iPhone 7, but Scotty did and he made it work. That’s the beauty and freedom of the maker movement.
3- Star Simpson’s Circuit Classics are a set of cunningly elegant circuits presented in a way that makes people want to engage with electronics – and I think that’s incredibly powerful. So many people this they can’t do electronics or that it’s not for them – and Star’s work (based on Forrest M. Mims’ original designs) helps to break down those barriers. Star also manages to turn this into a bit of a business for her, helping to fund further work which is something else I love about the maker movement – the ability to make something you love, share it with others and offer something for sale if you want to.
If you’re feeling inspired check out our gaming and making system called Pip. It’s available on Kickstarter now!