When people ask me what the maker movement is all about. I tell them that at the heart of it is empowerment. It’s about being able to take your own life into your hands and do what you want about. And that’s why I love Dave Rydbom’s story so much.
I happened to be in Medford, Oregon this last summer working on The Roadkill Saloon, a Westworld inspired installation for the Oregon eclipse festival by Tucker Teutsch and my buddy Tom Sepe, we actually call each other each others stunt doubles–primarily to get the other guy into trouble, or like last year when he showed up at my 40th birthday party and started collecting gifts from people! Tom’s an icon of the maker movement having created everything from steampunk motorcycles to the mobile projection Tesla featured in Racing Extinction. Here’s a video that I created for Tom and the project.
The Roadkill Saloon was a performance installation piece taking people on a journey of a dystopian present when robots in the past took over the western town of Crowder’s Bend. Don’t worry, I’m doing an episode of it so you can fully experience it. It has everything from a sweeper robot with a circuit board face to mechanical can can dancing legs to a robot that slaps you with a silicone arm to a Texas insult machine.
While I was up in Oregon I got a call from Bart, one of the founders of Mission Workshop, a San Francisco based apparel and bag company. I love their gear as it’s a mix of highly technologically advanced textiles and a timeless urban style. Which means I can rock their gear everywhere from on Safari to a NYC nightclub to sailing in San Francisco (see pictures below). I knew they were developing a knife and have been excited to see it when it comes out. As luck would have it Bart was 15 miles away from me in Ashland at the knife makers shop called Kingdom Armory by David Rydbom.
I arrive at the shop, which you can see in the In The Making episode above, and it’s basically just a converted garage off the side of his house. I was a bit surprised, to be honest. I’d seen images of his knives and imagined needing to have a massive shop with all sorts of forges and brutish metal working equipment. Instead, it’s a pretty accessible shop for someone to build and maintain. That right there was inspiring.
What took it to a whole other level was a private off-camera conversation I had with Dave after we were done filming. I don’t need to go into detail, but basically Dave, several years ago had hit hard times, both personally and financially. At a loss for what to do, he decided that he would just do what he loves. He’d always loved knives, was a big collector and had always dreamed of the knives that he would make. So in his darkest moment, he decided to sell his knife collection, and he took all the money and put it into buying the equipment he needed to make his own knives.
Fast forward to present day. He opens his books on January 1st and in a couple hours he’s booked for the entire year making one-of-a-kind knives for clients, from his home, and supporting a happy family.
This was a huge eye-opener for me. Living in San Francisco, I get caught up in the idea that I need to create something big to achieve the level of financial freedom Dave enjoys. Seeing Dave, I realized it’s enough to do something very focused, very limited scale and yet be lucrative enough to support a family, while doing something he loves. This is what I mean by empowerment through making. Dave, you’re an inspiration.