TBI Q&A: Jess Weichler

Jess Weichler
Jess Weichler Teaching Sound
First Robot
Jess Weichler tells us about teaching media arts and technology, and the first Maker Party Wellington.

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Jess Weichler director of outreach at the Wellington Makerspace Trust tells us about teaching media arts and technology, and the first Maker Party Wellington.

Jess Weichler director of outreach at the Wellington Makerspace Trust tells us about teaching media arts and technology, and the first Maker Party Wellington.

"I plan on making Wellington a City of Learning focusing on uniting teachers, youth workers, and organisations dedicated to working with children towards the common goal of getting kids excited about learning through interactive and hands-on learning experiences."

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During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

It's less about the time of the day and more about the weather. If it's a day that I deem to be beautiful, then I am more inspired to be creative and get stuff done.

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?

Eclectic. In both fashion and my creative life.

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?

I love seeing the finished product; it makes me feel so accomplished. I also love teaching my skills to others, because seeing them accomplish something new and seeing their excitement is absolutely amazing.

How does your environment affect your work?

Because I am so eclectic and work in many different mediums I like to have a lot of materials at my disposal. I have many unfinished projects because I was in the zone until I realised I needed to go to the store to purchase another component. For this reason I thrive in fairly messy, well-stocked spaces. I'm also a big proponent of sitting on the floor or laying across a table to work.

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?

I would say I'm a detail oriented person, focusing on the big picture can be overwhelming!

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?

Be open to new experiences. You never truly know where you are going to end up. I know someone who went to film school, dropped out, took up computers as a hobby and is now working professionally in the film world because of his computer skills. At the time it didn't seem like a logical career path, but in the end it got him where he wanted to be.

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?

Not really my own personal artistic project, but in the States I worked extensively with teens in disadvantaged neighbourhoods teaching them how to create documentaries for social change, giving them a voice. I loved that project and through the kids who kept in touch with me I have seen how it has influenced their lives and sometimes even their future career choices.

Who or what has inspired you recently?

A young lady told me that she couldn't take “real” photographs, only photos on her phone and it really got me thinking about what makes good art: the process and skill of the artist or the tools that are used? The correct answer, by the way, is the artist.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I have a degree in Film and Video Production and immediately after University I began teaching at an arts non-profit in the United States. Over the course of five years I worked my way up from lowly teaching assistant to Lead Instructor. During that time I taught everything from stop-motion animation, to robotics, to video game programming.

Here in New Zealand I work at Wellington Makerspace Charitable Trust teaching similar classes and workshops to children. My primary focus is providing access to kids and teens in economically disadvantaged communities so they have the same opportunities as their peers.

Much of my creative work comes from new ideas I stumble upon as I am preparing for classes. I love working with electronics and recently created an interactive painting that plays music when you touch it. In my spare time I dabble in web design for small businesses and artists.

Tell us a bit about your recent and upcoming projects.

Coming up on 13 September I am hosting a free Maker Party Wellington at the Miramar Community Centre alongside some pretty great organisations such as Mohawk Media, Fabriko, and the Fedora Project. Maker Party is a part of a greater global initiative by Mozilla to teach the web and celebrate making.

Once that is over, I plan on making Wellington a City of Learning. Focusing on uniting teachers, youth workers, and organisations dedicated to working with children towards the common goal of getting kids excited about learning through interactive and hands-on learning experiences.

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?

I have always wanted to run away and join the circus. I've been practicing my hula hooping and adagio skills as of late so I'm still not ruling it out as a future career path.

What place is always with you, wherever you go?

My hometown of Pittsburgh, PA (USA). There was such a great educational and creative community there and I think back on it fondly. I guess you could say much of my work here in New Zealand comes from a bit of homesickness.

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?

Ooh this is a toughie, I really like listening to music on the radio because you never know what you are going to get. It keeps things from becoming mundane. At the same time, vinyl records are amazing. I'll take a Burl Ives record over the radio any day.

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

First, I would fold the fabric in half so it resembled a long rectangle and sew both sides together. Then I would fasten the string to both the fabric and the stick, creating kinetic art that you can spin to create a design. Does that make sense? Do I need to draw a diagram?

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?

Prioritise, know who and what to ignore, and just keep working at it. Even if something goes terribly wrong, you can learn from it and sometimes that's even better than when everything is perfect.

What’s great about today?

Well it's spring now so that's pretty awesome, but more than that it seems like great things are just around the corner, not just for me, but I think for Wellington as a whole.

What’s your big idea for 2015?

Community. Uniting people and creating a passion for education through immersive, hands-on experiences. Working together towards the same goal I think we can empower our youth to be future leaders, creators, and innovators resulting in a better, stronger Aotearoa.

http://cyanidecupcake.com

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

10 Sep 2014

The Big Idea Editor

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