Darcy Whyte, or as some know him, inventorArtist, is a well known Ottawa maker and entrepreneur. He’s turned a few of his maker projects into awesome, revenue generating businesses and is always out in the community teaching and learning with others.
You often hear people say “turn your passion into a career”. Well Darcy seems to have created a great system for doing that by turning his passion for making into a series of small businesses. As he creates products, he puts them up for sale and funds even more making. It’s part of what makes him so interesting and why I had to interview him for The Makers Nation Spotlight.
Tell us about yourself. Have you always considered yourself a maker? What’s the life journey been like?
I was raised in Saskatchewan, 50 miles from Saskatoon.
I’ve always had a technical slant since my dad used to bring home wires, magnets and small electronic components for me to play with. My friends and I used to get more parts at the dump where we’d grab anything from bicycles to TV sets. By the time I was 17, I had a job repairing pinball machines, walkmans and television sets. I was always up to my eyeballs with projects.
Eventually, I settled in Ottawa and became very busy with my software career. I did some model planes for a few years but didn’t really get back to making stuff until just a few years ago.
My first project was the Squirrel which is a rubber band plane. The project was a success and I figured I’d need some sort of robotics or laser cutting to fabricate the kits. I found some of the local groups of enthusiasts in robotics and art where I made a lot of new friends and learned a lot. I eventually had all the modern tools for making things so why stop there?
My latest related project is the Zen glider which is a walkalong glider you push with your hands.
I’ve always been a bit creative but the maker movement has made this life phase very exciting since it’s more than making. It’s the cross pollination of numerous disciplines. It’s very much a sharing movement.
How do you balance work versus making? Do you find sometimes your maker projects can sustain your cost of living or is it always a contract here, a maker project there?
For the most part I’m making stuff full time. I’m down to about one day per month of contract work. I enjoy both so will take which ever comes my way.
What’s your process like for coming up with new projects? What do you find gives you the most inspiration?
There are a lot of ways new projects come forward. I think about problems to solve and enjoy exploring unusual ways of approaching them.
I’m also very interested in art so I attend the National Gallery once or twice per week and always dream about art projects.
I also attend and host meetups such as the Hack613 group (Arduino meetup group) that is at Maker Space North. Meetups aren’t just a great way to support others’ projects and be supported but tons of ideas flow through there.
So between problem solving, art, social and the technical meetups, that keeps the pipe fairly full. Oh, one more thing, people often approach me to help solve a problem. If it’s a contract opportunity or if it’s a problem I’m very interested in, then that can also work.
I do enjoy team work and solitary work. In team work, I find a lot of ideas come from the other parties. With all of these ways to get creative input, I can’t decide which is the most inspiring! It’s all very organic and it’s a lot of fun.
Tell me about some of your favourite past projects. Why are they your favourite and what inspired you to make them?
I enjoy every day and every project so it’s hard to decide. Given the question, here are a couple of projects that come to mind:
Firefly: A joint project with Mark Stephenson and Michael Grant. This project is a wearable pendant containing light, sensors and a processor (Arduino). It’s an art installation that shows light to reflect social activity.
Drawing Robots: I built a series of these and have another run in the pipe right now.
Things that fly: Squirrel rubber band plane, Zen Infinity Glider and other experiments.
Check out Darcy’s website to see a full list of all the different projects he’s worked on. Also, be sure to check out some of his more popular products such as the Rubber Band Airplane and the ZEN Infinite Glider.
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