HackSpace magazine

HackSpace magazine meets... Geeky Faye Art

By Alex J'rassic . Posted

Active members of the online maker community may already be familiar with Geeky Faye Art, the London-based, US-born maker with a passion for illustration, animation, and 3D printing. For everyone else, Alex Bate took the time to (virtually) sit down with Faye to learn more about what she does and why she can’t get enough of 3D printing, accessibility, and expanding her creative skill set.

Faye has always been artistic, having studied Media Arts and Animation at university before pursuing a career in digital art for various well-known brands. But how does one go from making animations for utility companies to filming 3D-printing video tutorials on YouTube, and releasing their first product, a fully customisable, 3D-printable picture frame?

“I started drawing when I was a kid,” Faye explains when talking of her career. “I picked up a pencil and a piece of paper and pretty much never put it down.” So, it was no surprise that, when it came to making university choices, she decided she wanted to study art and picked the course she felt would have good job prospects on the other side. 

“Digital was the future, and I was able to see how broadly 3D art could be applied as it is used in so many industries. It’s a weird thing to do professionally because you’re not necessarily tied to a specific industry – you have a position that is potentially hireable in a range of industries, and I have worked in many of them.”

Jumping on an opportunity to move to London from the US ten years ago, something she’d wanted to do since her childhood, Faye began working for a variety of organisations, both in full-time positions and freelance. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

You can purchase design files to print your own picture frame

“I’ve had some bad luck. I’ve had jobs pulled out from underneath me, and have worked for companies that either went under or were bought out – it’s the same outcome either way. I’ve had some really bad luck.” And the bad luck began to wear on her. “I was doing this for a long time. I was good at it. And I hated it. I wasn’t very happy.” And all this bad luck and unhappiness eventually brought Faye to the point of complaining to a friend that she wanted to change her career.

“I spent some time trying other stuff and not being happy. It was a friend of mine who asked, ‘What do you want to do? Really, if you could do anything, and money didn’t matter, what would you do?’ and I said I’d make stuff. This is what I love to do. But not just one thing, everything. I’m a bit of a generalist. I’ve never been able to specialise in one thing. 

BACK TO MAKING

“And, because I’d spent a lot of years ignoring my traditional skills in favour of digital, I was hungry to do something with my hands again. I wanted to make stuff, and do more cosplay, because I’ve always loved cosplay as it’s basically making, and theatre, and being a nerd all pushed into one. 

“I’d make what I want to make. I wouldn’t make for the purpose of selling a product or making a company money. I would do the ideas that I wanted to do, and I would do them for me. That’s what I would do, I told her.” And when her friend replied, ‘OK, do that,’ Faye failed to find an excuse not to. “I’ve always been good with money, and I’d managed to squirrel some away when I was working freelance, so I could take a little risk, and take a bit of a chance.”

With resin printers, you can get a lot of detail in a small space

Such a career move may seem impossible to many, but with the introduction of membership platforms like Patreon, and the ability to gain revenue via Google AdSense and sponsorship, this dream is closer to becoming a reality than it ever has been before. It’s something a lot of older makers new to the scene are also finding more accessible, as Faye agrees.

“I sometimes feel a little behind because I haven’t been making in an intense way my whole life…but I have been making. I have been doing it in some way, shape, or form in my spare time. The problem is that I never focused on a single thing; I never put it out there. It was always just a bit of fun when I could, and now I feel like I’m doing a bit of catch-up, catching up on lost time. But it is turning out to be an incredible thing. I’m very grateful to my friend.”

So, Faye built a brand and began to turn her passion into her profession, producing YouTube videos, content for Instagram, and dedicating time to socialising with the online maker community, and her Patreons, as Geeky Faye Art.

“I came up with the idea of creating a brand that I could have fun with and enjoy being, that was me, but also still an online persona,” she explains, “And at this point, I had already discovered 3D printing, and I’m very grateful for that because it’s the coolest thing in the world.”

3D printing is what the community will know Faye best for, as she continues to produce more online content for her various social accounts. From printing and building beloved cartoon characters such as SpongeBob’s pet snail, Gary, to designing and printing her own ideas, Faye’s YouTube channel has the feel of an artist with a passion for 3D printing and design.

DESIGNS DRAWN FROM EXPERIENCE

“There are certain things I know, and take for granted, that not all makers know. Because a lot of makers come from different backgrounds, from engineering and science, for example. I come from an art background. I’m a colour nerd; I get excited about colour. I realise I know things about colour and composition and perspective – a lot of the fundamentals of art that some makers don’t know but I do, and I take it for granted. It was part of my education; it’s part of my background.”

Another use of her artistic background came in the form of a commission to design 3D-printable board game pieces for Bristol-based Riverward Games. “The pieces are 1920s-styled, so they were fashioned after The Great Gatsby,” she explains. “They’re resin, and quite tiny, but I put so much detail into them that I had to do some big prints too.” The models were designed using ZBrush, a piece of software that has changed considerably since Faye last used it. “I hadn’t used it in about three upgrades, so I was a bit like, ‘what, what’s all this new stuff?’ But, if I’m not mistaken, Blender can do something   very much like this.” Which is good for the rest of us as, unlike ZBrush, Blender is free to download. 

You can find Geeky Faye Art on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram

But that isn’t the only original piece Faye has put out into the world for public consumption. In December last year, she released her most challenging product to date, the Geeky Faye Art Ultimate Picture Frame, a 3D-printable framing system that would allow users to print picture frames in any size they needed.

“I made it to save money,” she begins. “I had a bunch of things to frame. Some in inches, some were metric, some were A-sized, some were B-sized. That was too many expensive custom frames to buy. And that was the idea behind the system. I wanted to be cheap. I wanted to make one design, and yeah, I wanted to be lazy. Laziness is the mother of invention.”

So, Faye began the task of creating the system that would print frames in centimetres, inches, A-size, and B-size, allowing for as simple a user experience as possible. And it works. Between the clear labelling of her files, to the custom-built sizing system on her website, the frames are unlike anything else currently available to makers – (geekyfaye.art/digital-shop).

“When people have seen it, their minds have been blown,” she beams. “And the number of people who I respect personally who have seen it and have been shocked, that really does say something to me. Because, when I was working it, making it and printing it, and putting it together, I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is working, this is really cool.’ I felt like I was onto something.” Faye’s excitement for the product is obvious. She’s unable to hold back the smiles as she explains further.

“I have never designed a product for mass production before. It’s not something I have experience in. But I have experience in all these other things, so I thought, ‘Why not? Just give it a go’. That should be my motto. I’d figured out all the bits that I did know, and I could figure the rest out as I go.”

The frames have been well received, and have already started to make  appearances in videos by online creators Faye respects.

IN THE WILD

“It’s been a slow burn, but I love seeing people using it, sharing their prints. Seeing people like Becky Stern using it and making it her own, I was excited (hsmag.cc/BeckyStern). That’s what I want. I want people to take it, customise it, make it into their own, use it in an unexpected way. I wanted to make a design that can be used for almost anything, that you can make it any size, any use case. Try me, see what you can find that doesn’t work.”

And if it doesn’t work?

“I’ve been working on some add-ons. I’ve had someone get in touch who had a Star Wars banner they wanted to frame that was 94 inches by 12 inches, and he commissioned me to design supports to add stability.” This freedom to add new pieces to the pre-existing model, and to amend it as users see fit, it’s what makes the system all the more interesting. And the ever-dropping prices of affordable 3D printers make the Ultimate Picture Frame a viable replacement for off-the-shelf frames, especially if your prints are odd sizes. Another tick in the pro box for at-home 3D printing since, as Faye states in the video for her system, “3D printing is awesome because it turns a designer like myself into a full production facility, able to pluck ideas out of my brain and make them into real physical reproducible things in a matter of hours or days.” Well, maybe not days in this instance, but the time spent testing and retesting her designs only added to the success of the final product.

Some of Faye's designs are on Thingiverse

“It was a lot of maths and a lot of testing, that’s what took so much time as I only had one printer,” she laughs, but this hindrance was a blessing, as most of the people using the frame system would be in a similar situation. “So I was like, ‘OK, how can people print this regardless of the tolerances of their printer?’ ” So, she made versions of the frame for different tolerances, with printable test-pieces to save makers time (and filament) choosing the best option. “I learned a lot about user experience. Yes, it was 3D design and 3D printing, but it was also user experience.”

DESIGNING FOR OTHER PEOPLE

“Accessibility is often something I harp on about and is something that is often missing in the 3D printing community. I can’t tell you the number of files I’ve downloaded where the design is cool but the designer has put no effort into the user experience. I downloaded a cookbook stand. It was a beautiful design, it was multiple parts, and it all came in as a single STL file. I spent two hours breaking it down into pieces. There were no instructions, no BOM (bill of materials), nothing. To me, that’s important.”

This ideology isn’t just for online files. Faye spent hours working, with help, to create an easy-to-use interface for picking the right pieces to print. Simply insert your image size into the generator and it’ll tell you which pieces to print and how many of them, providing the smoothest of customer experiences.

But it’s not all 3D printing and picture frames. Faye also co-hosts a segment on fellow 3D printing maker Billie Ruben’s YouTube channel. When time zones aren’t in their way, the two get together online to interview other members of the maker industry, such as the wrangler of robot sidekicks, Jorvon Moss, the ever-inspiring Hannah Makes, and Lenore Edman, co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories (hsmag.cc/BillieRuben).

“Billie is the nicest person. She’s a great friend. And we were trying to think of how we can do cool things together. How can we work together when we’re on the other side of the planet to each other? And when the ‘Meet a Maker’ idea was suggested to her by one of her Patreons, her first thought was, ‘This would be so fun to do with Faye.’ So she brought the idea to me, and we were both super-excited to do it, and then the next day, we realised how hard it would be. Sometimes it’s impossible to coordinate so many time zones, so I’m not always there. I make an effort to be there as much as I can, and Billie always makes the effort to include me.”

As more and more people start to involve video calls in their content collaborations, the two have definitely had their fair share of teething issues.

“We always joke when we’re getting set up that we’re cursed because something will always go wrong. But, as we’re working through the kinks and finding our sea legs with it, it’s turning out to be a really fun little show. As it’s on her channel, she does most of the work, so I get to show up and talk to interesting people, mostly with my jaw on the floor because everyone is so incredible and so inspiring. I’m surprised no one has made a set of GIFs of my facial reactions. Billie made it happen, and I’m just so incredibly happy and fortunate to call her a friend. People call her the nicest maker on the internet, and it’s true.” 

“I’m aware I’m a little older than some of these kids getting into making,” Faye summarises. “And I’m very happy to be able to put out there that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.” And, for our readers, we hope this inspires more of you to share your makes and explore your interests.

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