Fashioning the Future With: Laura Kampf
She's a mainstay in the maker community, a totally talented YouTuber, and an absolutely awesome artisan. She's Laura Kampf! We were thrilled to ask Laura all about her creative process regarding both her amazing inventions as well as her impressive video output.
Just how impressive are we talking here? Well, Laura releases a new video each week on her massively popular YouTube channel. Her videos feature everything from new projects, her wildly wonderful workshop, vlogs, livestreams, and more! To say she's prolific is an understatement; Laura IS productivity goals. She makes rad creations and creates rad videos, and it's no wonder that she's been featured by sites like Make:, Leatherman, Instructables, and more! Here at SEW, we are inspired by Laura.
Wanna be inspired, too? Then, skydiving streusel, this is the Q&A for you. Read our interview with Laura to find out about how inspiration works for her, what hypothetical invention she'd make if there were no constraints whatsoever, and how her adorable dog Smudo helps her work-life balance. Meet marvelous maker Laura Kampf.
When did you know you were an artist?
I always had the urge to create, but it took me a while to find the right outlet. Before I got into building things, I had a bunch of different hobbies like photography, paying the drums, DJing, and drawing. At one point I even wrote very embarrassing songs for our band :) I was all over the place but never felt 100 percent happy with what I was creating.
What was the first project you ever built?
The first proper project was a tattoo machine that I build from scratch. It was for a class in design school. They wanted us to make something out of everyday objects…and, somehow, I decided to make a tattoo machine. That was when I realized I wanted to get better at building and making. I think I found my artistic voice with that project.
How do you get ideas for projects?
Inspiration is lot less mythical than most people think. For me it's like jogging: the more you do it the easier it gets. I have a pretty high output with weekly videos for YouTube and all the other stuff I do, so coming up with new ideas became very easy for me because I do it so much. I also understand that sometimes I am out of ideas and the more I force myself to be creative, the less it will work. If I get burnt out and stuck, I always step back and take a break. That is the only way back into being inspired again.
Do you have a personal philosophy as a maker and creative person in general?
"Every defect gets respect!"
What is your favorite part about being part of the maker community?
People understand me here! If I get excited about a new tool or a technique I came up with, other makers will understand and share that excitement.
Making is a very personal thing; showing your ideas to the world is scary! But the community understands that and appreciates everybody who is willing to share their ideas, knowledge, and time.
Have you faced any challenges as a female maker?
It's a tough question for me to answer because I only know my perspective of things. I don't know the challenges of a male maker, but I would think they are not very different from mine. I think very little of my career, my creativity, and my personal growth has to do with my gender.
If there was anything I would complain about, it would be to categorize makers into male and female to begin with. I don't think there is a need to differentiate—just as much as I wouldn't categorize old and young makers or American and European makers. That is the beauty of it. We are all makers.
Who are some of your favorite fellow makers and/or YouTubers?
Of course, there are the big names in our community like Jimmy Diresta, Adam Savage, and Simone Giertz.
These people got me started, encourage me to keep going, and inspire me a lot! But I also like to watch smaller channels like "Make with Miles." He is a young dude with a big heart and a lot of enthusiasm to learn new things. It is incredible how many talented creators we can watch and get to know on the Internet and in real life.
When did you discover that you could make a living as a maker?
I was a couple of videos in and at about 20,000 subscribers when my first sponsor reached out. When I started YouTube, I gave myself 12 months to make it work and somehow it all fell into place. I am incredibly lucky to live in a time when a career like this is possible.
Has being a famous YouTuber changed your life?
No, not really. The only thing that changed is that I am more confident about my work and that I travel a lot. Because of YouTube I can make a living with what I love to do most—which is fantastic. So, I would say YouTube changed my life big time, but I don't consider myself a famous YouTuber :)
What have been some of your favorite projects that you've built so far?
My tiny house is one of my favorite projects for sure. I have been living in it for exactly a year now, and I still have a big smile on my face when I go to bed and think about all the work that went into it. I am very proud of my little house!
What are some of your favorite maker events to attend and why?
The Maker Faire Bay Area. It is a huge event and I usually get to hang out with other makers all weekend. I love it because you see all sorts of crazy things there. It's the biggest Maker Faire and it's outdoors. I love it there.
Your dog Smudo is adorable and you've made him such cool doggie stuff. What do you like most about including Smudo in your content?
Smudo is my partner in crime! I rescued him 3.5 years ago from a [high kill shelter] in Spain. It's hard to describe how happy he makes me. He is also very good for my work-life balance. I take him for long walks every day and it's good to get away from work for a while. It is actually hard to keep him out of the videos because he is with me all day long.
Your workshop is amazing. What is the first thing you do when you enter it each day?
Well, actually I never really leave it because I parked my tiny house in the shop. But when I get up each morning, I make coffee and plan my day. I try to get a couple hours of work done before Smudo wakes up and then we go for a walk. Having little routines like that helps with my creative process.
If there were no barriers (financial, logistical, etc.) what would your dream invention be?
I would love to build an amphibious tiny house…maybe a mix between an airstream trailer, a houseboat, and a mobile workshop. That would be a dream!
What advice do you have to young people who want to get into making?
Do it! Take the first step and see where it takes you. You can build some pretty amazing things with a drill, an angle grinder, and a jigsaw. Don't try to be perfect — just have fun with it.
What are some of your hobbies you enjoy in your free time?
I DJ, and I love camping and riding my motorcycle. There is nothing like starting the day early with a ride to the lake— then go for a swim and get to work. I try to sneak in as much of these "mini vacations" as I can! Sometimes it only takes 20 minutes of listening to music or being outside to relax me like a 2-week vacation :)
Do you have any favorite fictional STEM/maker/builder characters in books/movies/other art forms?
E.T.! The way he built a phone from a saw blade, an umbrella, and some plastic toys was really impressive.