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Every year, Weber Shandwick’s signature No Boundaries program provides a select group of Weber Shandwick Seattle employees with $1,000 and 5 days off to pursue a personally and professionally enriching passion. This series will detail the experiences of this past year’s three winners. First up, senior designer Tanya Stockland.   

This whole thing started when Megan McMullen sent out an email back in late 2013 or early 2014, telling us about an open house at a place in Fremont called Makerhaus. They were giving a tour and inviting people to see their workshop. It was open to everyone: architects and industrial designers, graphic designers, illustrators and tinkerers alike. It was basically a designer’s playground where one could go wild and create whatever they wanted in the shop using a laser cutter and a 3D printer.

It was amazing and everything I wanted to learn about and more.

I’ve always been fascinated with technologies that allow people to create and design anything that’s ever floated around in their heads. And when I see what’s out there at craft shows or on Etsy & Pinterest, I think to myself, “That’s cool, but I could do that too! And maybe even better with a more unique twist to it!” This little shop in Fremont was the place to make it happen. 

When the No Boundaries opportunity came about, I decided at the last minute to throw in my idea: To learn how to laser cut. I wanted to design and illustrate something personal and actually have a tangible, physical piece of artwork that I could call mine. Everyone is online on their mobile, laptop, tablet, and everything is in digital. We are losing the experience of art that one can touch, feel the texture, and experience firsthand; rather than digitally, or second hand.

When the announcement was made that I was one of the three winners, I was ecstatic. At first. Then panic quickly ensued, as a thought kept reverberating through my head: “Shoot, now I have to make something really cool.” 

Making Something Really Cool

As the months passed, I started corresponding with Makerhaus and trying to nail down the best time to come to their classes, figure out membership and take care of all of the necessary logistics. But before we could figure everything out, I received a rude surprise: Makerhaus announced it would be closing its doors. Sadly, due to lack of members and the cost to run the place, they just couldn’t sustain the shop. I was surprised and saddened. This also meant I had to figure out where I would be able to continue my education. 

In my research, I discovered ADX, a similar shop in Portland. Seemed promising, and I always enjoyed visiting the Rose City. After further research and correspondence with the people at ADX, I found out that not only could I take a laser cutting certification class, they also offered a MIG (metal inert gas) welding table making class. 

So in December, 2014, I made a one-day trip down to Portland to check out ADX and see what I was in for.

I was in love. It was awesome. ADX had a metal shop, wood shop, laser cutting section and an upholstery shop, and it was so cool seeing all of the random projects people were working on. I immediately booked my Airbnb and signed up at ADX for both classes, set for mid-April 2015. 

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And so it began…

I had some time to plan (and stress out) about how to really make the most of this opportunity, and come back with a solid, amazing laser cut design and really cool table. But what was I to expect from a 2 hour certification and a 5 hour table class? Acquiring these skills can take years. So as the date approached, I narrowed down what I really wanted to create: illustrated pieces I had worked on in the past, personal designs that incorporated my daughters’ names, and a clock. (Our house lacks clocks for some reason.) 

Thursday, April 16

I had my first class at 7 p.m. Thursday night to become certified in laser cutting. This included learning the basics of setting up files correctly, what is cut versus what is etched, safety hazards, adjusting the height of the inner table to the laser, adjusting the settings on the computer for output and more. After 2 hours and a quick test, I’m officially certified to laser cut.

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Friday, April 17

I spent several hours during the day adjusting my illustrations and files from what I learned the night before. Friday night was spent cutting and getting used to trial and error techniques on different materials, speed, depth, etc. It took 3 hours to cut and etch about 15 pieces of art.

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Saturday, April 18

Saturday was my 5 hour MIG welding and table making class, where I learned how to weld, cut metal, drill it, line it up, and weld some more. After 5 hours of this, I had a new appreciation for things being hand forged. It takes some serious getting used to the loud zapping of the MIG welder, helmet screen going dark and not being able to see, oversized leather gloves, sparks flying everywhere, argon gas flowing, high voltage and liquid metal coming out of a tube all at once. It’s kind of scary, but extremely cool at the same time.

Despite only having five hours, I was able to make a custom base for my table. And a month after I finished my base, I was able to complete the top at a friend’s house who had all the equipment I needed. The finished product was made of walnut wood with concrete center.

Table-Closup

I loved everything about my No Boundaries experience and can’t thank Weber Shandwick Seattle enough for making it all happen. I hope to locate a laser cutter in the Seattle area where I can craft more designs, and eventually, buy a MIG welder to make more tables.

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