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Q&A 2020-04-14

Tom Sachs. (office-hours)

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Tom Sachs hosts a question and answer session on Instagram live from his basement workshop.



“I could never make something as perfect as an iPhone, but Apple could never make anything something as flawed as what I do, so the advantage of the artist is showing that he or she was there.”
“And one day of the year. And I'm not gonna tell you what day of the year if you ask me to do the welding job. I will take that job so that I can stay connected to my roots because I'm so forever grateful for the privilege to do what I love.”
“That's with Charles Darwin described mutations as things that happened in the genetic code by accident that helped the species reproduce. So sometimes something that was a mistake turns into the thing that that leads you to the success of the next thing.”


00:00:15 Tom Sachs: Hey Instagram live. So today we’ve got office hours. And I’m going to set you up and take you to a better spot so you can see so we can all see and we can talk and you can ask some questions.

00:00:39 Tom Sachs: So you got a good spot. Yeah, right? Hey so um. How do I view and then I want to? I want to turn off requests. How do I turn them all off Serena?

00:01:12 Serena: So go to where it says comment and hit those three dots.

00:01:16 Tom Sachs: Well, there four there are lots of ‘em coming up there many.

00:01:19 Serena: Oh good, so go on your screen where it says. Comment. You see at the bottom?

00:01:26 Tom Sachs: Yup.

00:01:28 Serena: Click the three dots that’s next to comment.

00:01:31 Tom Sachs: Turn off requests to go live. OK, yeah, hey, so thanks for all your questions an I’m just going to start right now and keep asking and will I will do it. What is I.S.R.U.? Insitu.

00:01:51 Tom Sachs: Yeah, and that is from. Cami. From Cami.

00:02:04 Tom Sachs: Thank you, great question. You’re not the only one to ask in situation resource utilization. Where in this situation what are the resources that we have to utilize and how do we do it? That’s the discipline. And that’s what we’re talking about here. So also check it out on Wikipedia. Next question.

00:02:33 Tom Sachs: OK, this is my favorite question and this is from Becca.

00:02:42 Erum: At Becker, Kipnis.

00:02:44 Tom Sachs: At Becca Kipnis, what is the day of the year where I can ask you to weld something? How did that start?

00:02:52 Tom Sachs: So 30 years ago I was a welder doing nonunion, fire, escape, repair, an elevator repair, and about spend about 95% of my time doing that about five times. 5% of the time doing welding doing my art. So 95% welding, 5% art. Over the years I kind of flipped it around. Now I’m like 90, 95% art and 5% welding jobs. And one day of the year. And I’m not gonna tell you what day of the year if you ask me to do the welding job. I will take that job so that I can stay connected to my roots because I’m so forever grateful for the privilege to do what I love. Not that I didn’t love the welding jobs, but it was always a means to the end for doing the art. And I loved welding and I love the art and I think it’s important to stay connected to your roots. Always. Whoever you are, whatever you do, that’s how you build authenticity.

00:03:45 Tom Sachs: Um, maybe yeah, get ready for the next question or OK, great question. How can I work intern for you? Lot of people wanting to know how do you join the team? It’s not me, it’s us. There are dozen of us, so we’re coven the best way you can join us is right now. By joining the team immediately. Do the research. Read the books. If you want to read the required readings of the books, look through the Instagram feed and you will see a couple of years ago I posted the five books that we all read in the studio. The One I’d recommend this week is endurance by Alfred Lansing. It’s a very appropriate for this time. Required reading. There are four others.

00:04:35 Tom Sachs: Also, you know, email us at info -at- tomsachs dot com. But maybe you’re gonna ask why, how? How am I going to get picked from all the people? Well, here are the things that we’re always looking for. We’re looking for people who are conscientious number one. Don’t make your job our problem, so for the first year or more you’re just going to be sweeping and be the best at sweeping. Be the Bruce Lee of sweeping. I was an excellent janitor when I was a janitor. One of the prerequisites in the studio is that you worked at a commercial kitchen or in a restaurant. Not that you really have to have worked in a kitchen, but like a lot of people have worked in kitchens. It’s a common job. It’s not so rare, and you all know what I’m talking about, whether it’s a dishwasher or a busboy. Or a line chef or waiter or waitress or host manager. These are all. Demanding jobs. So. Yeah, be be conscientious so that you can first manage yourself and then you can manage others.

00:05:52 Tom Sachs: Skill sets tape measure is good. That’s the most important tool in the shop. Tape measure number one and then pen and paper in your pocket.

00:06:03 Tom Sachs: Go to brand of spray paint. You know it’s a funny thing. It used to be that you spray paint with something that you only stole, but now their graffiti is a sanctioned art form you can get by this great Montana paints that comes in all these great colors. I’m really frustrated with with Krylon now I try not to use him ‘cause he can’t replace the tips. I’m not a big graffiti guy but I think that. That you can get this incredible professional finish out of a spray cans a wonderful privilege, and Krylon seems more concerned with the anti-graffiti movement than with producing great quality products. And there’s nothing wrong with spray paint but I will say this about spray paint. Um? The secret to success with it is read the instructions in the back of a can. And follow them like gospel and you will be a much better painter. Basically, make sure that the ground that you’re painting on is is is stable, not wet, not loose, but read the instructions, beautifully written.

00:07:10 Erum: Our next question Tom? at Mr Bell.

00:07:14 Tom Sachs: Next.

00:07:19 Erum: At Luca

00:07:20 Tom Sachs: No. Next. Here I’ll the reason no, not at the museum with the best curation of contemporary art for you. I don’t really know how to answer that because I love art, but I love everything else. People always ask me. What are you into art collection? You collect art and I say, yeah. My. My music is my collection. My Spotify playlist is my art collection. It’s very disorganized right now, another topic.

00:07:50 Tom Sachs: But, uh, I would highly recommend the Donald Judd show at the Museum of Modern art. Curated by Ann Temkin. It’s the most vibrant exhibition of Donald Judd that I’ve ever seen. That last room. You just see the future, so I hope that that stays open a little bit longer after the apocalypse so we can all go in there and see it. Maybe we can have a session if this continues. About why Donald Judd’s important. Um but. It’s a beautiful example of simplicity and elegance.

00:08:26 Tom Sachs: Did the next question from Eric AF, Eric_AF do you and Adam Savage really exchange shop keys? Uh, yes I have a key to his man cave in the Mission. He is a key to my studio and so ho and yeah, we’re going steady.

00:08:47 Tom Sachs: Next question.

00:08:51 Tom Sachs: Is it advised to maintain a schedule or routine during isolated creation?

00:09:00 Tom Sachs: Yeah, it’s a tough one. Sure, routine and schedule’s great. It keeps you on track. One of the things in endurance they talk about is quitting time. You can go as hard as you can every day, but life’s a marathon and you gotta sort of schedule and some fun. I think it’s important to schedule an intimate time and and not just do it all the time. Schedule in, recreation, observe weekends. I don’t believe in alarm clocks, but I live and die by the calendar. So that means going to sleep early and getting up early with the sun and especially on day like today with the hurricane, we’ve got a 70 mile an hour winds right outside on. I dunno if you can hear it, but it’s loud as fuck and scary. Being awake during daylight hours is, it’s like, could be a matter of life and death.

00:09:53 Tom Sachs: Next

00:09:56 Tom Sachs: Next question.

00:10:05 Erum: I think there were a lot of questions about how to deal with failure Tom, so maybe you want to address that. Because failure is something we celebrate at the studio.

00:10:13 Tom Sachs: So yeah, I think how did, how to deal with your failures? That’s that’s that’s a really tough as I dropped the tripod stand. I think. You gotta kinda. Accept. I think the great Serena Smith said it really well when she said, you know, I’m a perfectionist, so learning to forgive yourself is something that I find in my drawings, like owning those mistakes. The best thing about failures is that. Sometimes the kernel of the idea. Comes from the worst part. Or the best part of a bad idea sometimes as the. I’m going to screw this up, she’s editing. Tom Sachs Sometimes the the best idea comes from a forgotten part of a sculpture. In other words, something didn’t workout, but there was some little thing that you did by accident that leads to the next thing. And that’s also how. That’s with Charles Darwin described mutations as things that happened in the genetic code by accident that helped the species reproduce. So sometimes something that was a mistake turns into the thing that that leads you to the success of the next thing. So don’t worry about things and also by the way, this is really important because you know there there.

00:11:41 Tom Sachs: You make art because no one’s ever done it before, right? Otherwise you’re just laggard doing something that something’s not been done before. But the problem with that is, it’s really hard to communicate that to people, right? If it’s if the idea is too complex or advanced, no one will understand it. Like Vincent van Gogh. And you cut your ear off and send it to someone that you love. in the mail, and that’s like. That’s that’s a disaster. Like you’ll say there’s no success like failure, but failure is no success at all. Bob Dylan, but definitely. Do not cut your ear off and send it to someone. But at the same time, you can’t do something that’s already been done before because no one cares. You don’t even care. It’s been done before. Why do something? Why reinvent the wheel? So finding that middle ground is is is the balance and just keep trying and See and see see what works.

00:12:35 Tom Sachs: Yeah, they. The Avant garde has a, um, only an incremental tolerance for innovative activity, so you must innovate incrementally. That’s also why we say creativity is the enemy. Innovative incremental steps only because you you must, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Do it ‘cause you gotta.

00:13:03 Tom Sachs: Why is my life so boring?

00:13:06 Tom Sachs: You know, I remember I was when I was thinking about going to Graduate School. I didt. I remember going to a class of Pasadena Art Center and there was like a dickhead professor who I remember addressing that question too and he said I’m not bored. I’m never bored. I love standing around in airports for hours looking at the walls and the architecture.

00:13:29 Tom Sachs: The guy was kind of a dick about it, but I think what he was really trying to say is there’s interesting stuff everywhere. If you let yourself be open to it. Now when you’re bored, that’s boredom. And that’s real. I don’t know really how to describe that. However, there are tricks and tricks or what artists or everyone used to get them through the day so they get out of bed and stay motivated and inspired and that is. You know? Do something for someone that you love because giving is the most powerful generative act you can. Be a criminal about it and steal that gift and use it in your art and make them that gift later on. Or you can just simply give it to him, but we all know the power of that. And that’s magic and that happens everywhere. Start a conversation with a stranger. You know, buy someone a Cup of coffee. Clean up someone’s mess for them. Help people.

00:14:26 Tom Sachs: Engage, you’ll find that if you’re bored and we do all sometimes reach the bottom of what we think is our ability to generate. Reach out there. We’re all here to help each other. There’s more on that, and so if that doesn’t answer your question, throw it back at me and we’ll rebound it again. And that was from Kevster.

00:14:50 Erum: So that was from Phi Phi Phi.

00:14:53 Tom Sachs: That is from at ccoostaa and you don’t have to reply, but someone else will ‘cause I know that’s a big one, I’ve struggled with that. We all do.

00:15:02 Tom Sachs: Next question.

00:15:05 Tom Sachs: Who are your biggest influences?

00:15:08 Tom Sachs: You gotta thank uh, God everyday for allowing me to work, and that’s what James Brown said, who had a long successful career despite many difficulties. Besides being thrust into a world with unbearable disadvantage for a normal human being, this guy really had had had the world stacked against him and managed to have a huge life so. He remains an inspiration. I think the Prophet. Of the only the only sort of certified Prophet of the 20th century, Bob Marley. There’s there’s so many others I know you want to hear Chris Burden, Alexander Calder and Constantin Brâncuși. But I’m going to give ya James Brown and Bob Marley and Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer.

00:16:15 Tom Sachs: Next question.

00:16:18 Tom Sachs: How do you manage shop inventory?

00:16:22 Tom Sachs: Well, that’s a huge job. I think the secret is reorder when you run low. Not when you run out. Make a list of the things that really matter. And don’t run out of those like have a lot of pencils. Have a ream of paper, have clear packing tape. Um, those are all cheap things. I think it’s worth it to have backup bandsaw blades. Thanks Steve Menendez for hooking us up.

00:17:04 Tom Sachs: How do you avoid delamination when drilling into plywood end grain?

00:17:09 Tom Sachs: Well don’t drill into plywood end grain is the answer. But. If you must, and sometimes you must, here’s the answer. All right, let’s get a screw. Right? So this is how this is a screw, right? Let’s see, how close can we get? Right so when you drill into plywood end grain or any material really regular plywood is so forgiving. That’s why I like to use it. You want to pilot the hole and you want to make the whole the exact diameter of the shaft of the screw without the thread so you see the little threads sticking out of the screw. You want to pre-drill a hole so only the little sharp spikes dig into the into the wood so. Well, I’m not saying these are the right size, but one way to do it is to line and line ‘em up. Alright, that’s pretty good. See how you can see above and below the drill bit. The same time. That means this is the right size, but if it’s you want to block it all right. But if you go too small, right? I can still see the body of the of the. Of the of the. Of the of the screw, that means it will split the wood also if you go too big. Like where you can’t see the screws on both sides, it will strip out. Right, that will strip out. So you got to find just the right size and if it matters, do a test. Next question.

00:18:48 Erum: So that was the end of questions that were prepped. A question I saw coming in was a few people said they’re still having to confront the fear of like even getting involved in I.S.R.U? So could you speak to that? For people who want to get involved but just have it?

00:19:07 Tom Sachs: So yeah, um. Fear of being involved. Well, I don’t know exactly what you’re afraid of, but maybe we could get some specifics. If you have some questions thrown up right now as a question, what exactly you’re afraid of? Um, I know that we talked in pencil to paper about ways of finding. Um? Inspiration. Um?

00:19:38 Erum: And the studio motto be afraid and do it anyway.

00:19:41 Tom Sachs: Right, yeah? So be afraid and do it anyway is a great great thank you Erum.

00:19:47 Tom Sachs: Do. Um? Show up everyday and draw and don’t feel like you have to share it. Do it for you. Um? I’ve got one person I’m working with who’s building a doghouse for her dog, and she’s collaging the inside the doghouse with pictures just for the dog. Because her dogs her best friend. So she’s communicating with her dog through through photos. Sort of like that bag. That game you play when you were a kid or in school where you have a bag you talked about. Who are the things only outside, what’s in the. What’s in the inside? What’s the front? What’s the back? Find a way of just showing up and working and don’t share it at first and then find a way. Erum I’m not sure that’s really answers the question.

00:20:39 Erum: I think it did. I feel like I. Do it for yourself and don’t be afraid.

00:20:45 Tom Sachs: ‘K bring up the other, bring up all the questions and just make ‘em large and I’ll scroll through and pick some some some of ‘em ‘cause there are so many questions thank you.

00:20:56 Tom Sachs: One question is I’m just getting why do you paint plywood before you sand it? And the answer to that is so that you can see the cut. I could never make something as perfect as an iPhone, but Apple could never make anything something as flawed as what I do, so the advantage of the artist is showing that he or she was there.

00:21:19 Tom Sachs: So questions.

00:21:22 Erum: You want to answer what’s your favorite most used thing? You’ve ever built.

00:21:28 Tom Sachs: I don’t see that question. Can you just bring up all the questions?

00:21:33 Erum: Right. Can you see on my screen right here?

00:21:36 Tom Sachs: I just see the same did how to avoid? Delamination again one.

00:21:45 Tom Sachs: So reading through. Mark Watney, Yeah, I love. Love the The the Martian, the book, whoa.

00:21:59 Erum: So Tom, we have time for one and one question. Um, we’ve got questions about what’s your favorite tool, or what’s your favorite most used thing you’ve ever built?

00:22:22 Tom Sachs: Yeah.

00:22:25 Tom Sachs: So many questions, um, I’m seeing a lot of questions about like how do you get started? What do you do? The secret is do what you love. So if you’re an architect and you want to start your own practice, you work for someone else. Steal the time to prioritize what you love an even if that’s playing video games, play ‘em, but play ‘em actively. Take notes you know be the best, and find a way. Make stuff, spend time with your hands out, putting first thing in the morning before you look at your emails. Draw, write, sing, dance, touch clay output before you input. Write the book. Take notes, even if it’s just yelling at a piece of paper you know. Find that, and then when you’ve got your job out there in the world. Washing dishes, you know, be the best of the dishwasher. Be the be the very, very very best that you can be. Parlay that because when you’re working, even if you’re working in a kitchen, washing dishes. And and you think that time isn’t yours? It is because you can either look at it like it’s drudgery or you can look at it like a martial art and that you love every minute of it. Sometimes when I’m in the studio and I’ve got the best possible job ever, it fucking sucks and I’ve got nothing to complain about. Nothing but it’s just sometimes hard, but you gotta fight through it and sometimes you just gotta eat a shit sandwich and keep going. Sometimes you just gotta give her my friend AVE says, you just gotta. You just gotta do it. You just gotta sweat. Not all the time, but sometimes you just have to.

00:24:06 Tom Sachs: So. Show up, do that I.S.R.U. project. Just throw down. Do that drawing. Don’t be afraid if you got questions about how to get started and what’s the problem. Just send em to me. I think. Can we send questions still? Is that widget still up?

00:24:28 Erum: Oh wait, we will be holding office hours every Monday at 2:05PM.

00:24:35 Tom Sachs: So this is the end of the ISRU office hour in situation resource utilization. We’ll be doing it again at at 2:05 next Tuesday. Send those sorry next Monday. Sorry, we a week from today. Send those questions back in and um, will will answer em. So. Ahh. Stay frosty.

00:25:05 Serena: So Tom.

00:25:06 Tom Sachs: Yeah?

00:25:07 Serena: Before you do anything else. Save that video you just ended.