Profiling the Professor: Maker Daniel Valdez Created by ProfHoppingood on 5/19/2013 2:39:50 PM
Steampunk Chronicle profiles Daniel Valdez, creator of the Steampunk Professor X wheelchair.
Makers add to our community by making the imaginings of creative artistic minds into tangible treasures for everyone to admire. Sometimes, their creations are more widely known than the makers themselves. And while you may not recognize the name, Daniel Valdez, you have certainly seen his creations. In fact, you probably know him best as "Steampunk Professor X", although his range of creative products spans fandom. He (and his famous chair) have been seen at most of the major Steampunk events, drawing crowds of admirers where ever they appear. His creations have also been featured in 1000 Steampunk Creations (2011, Barrow Books) and was displayed as part of a special exhibit, Steampunk: The Art of Form and Function, at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation in Boston.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been crafting in the Steampunk style? What drew you to Steampunk?
Individually I started prop making when I was in my late teens, only recently have I become really into costume and prop design, I pride myself to be that guy that says “ wouldn't it be cool if...” and “lets do it!” in the same breath. I’m moving on to define who we are as a group (my wife and our family) with a studio name, you will see Smeeon Labs coming up in the community hopefully soon and in the future. Because without my family and friends the cool things I do wouldn’t see daylight.
We as a group started in 2009, It was specifically to be a re-creation of the x-men in the steampunk aesthetic and as we delved deeper into the subject it stole our hearts.
What is favorite medium and why? What’s your favorite technique?
Wood, real honest to god wood is amazing to work with, and on top of that working with real antique wood is also a pleasure to restore and breathe new life into. I wouldn't call it a specific technique but fixing large missing sections of antique wood with modern epoxies and resins is fun, like making a replacement jigsaw piece.
Where do you draw your influences? What other works by other artists do you like?
Hollywood I think, really I’m pretty shallow in that respect, I love the look of old scifi flicks and the crazy technology in the backgrounds of laboratories So the other artists.. well those would be the guys who filled out those famous scenes and built props like the infamous time machine. While I can’t recall their names, I know who they are by their work on the silver screen.
What distinguishes your work from others?
I really try to take it straight out of my mind and into reality, this can be an impossible task sometimes but when you can make the impossible possible, that’s the kind of stuff Walt Disney would have told me to strive for. So to put a point on it, making things look like they have a real purpose and approaching designs with an engineer’s eye helps define my style a lot despite not really having an engineering degree! I’m the obsessive kind of guy that looks at movie props and picks them to pieces and discredits anything that looks like it wouldn't really work.
What is your creative process when starting a project? Do you sketch it out? Do you just go for the gusto and start creating?
Haha I’m definitely one of those “Lets do it!” kinda guys, sometimes there are rough sketches and more often recently I've done a few computer renderings but I really enjoy it to be an organic experience watching a project grow and take over it’s own design.
What’s your least favorite aspect or technique? What do you wish you could do better?
I really hate upholstery, while it’s a necessary evil when creating furniture based props it’s an awful process and very frustrating. I’d really like to take some classes on it someday.
What tips would you give beginners?
Just do it (tm), no really it’s an amazing feeling to just start putting stuff together, if it doesn't work out well hey! At least you got a little experience!
How do you keep growing as a maker?
I try new techniques often and learn as much as I can absorb. I try not to rely on just one bag of tricks.
Form or function first? GO!
Function, because you can’t have form without function, some people think this is a chicken or the egg argument but really why do we make ANYTHING in the first place if it isn’t for function. Form is just an elegant way of wrapping up a useful item in a shiny package to either look fashionable or artistic.
Do you prefer to work in found objects or start with raw materials?
A little of both, I like to use a found object as a starting piece and then flesh out the rest with raw materials. Something that really draws me to the genre is learning techniques used over 100 years ago and using them again on fresh raw material. Working with raw brass is a joy and bringing out the depth of wood with stains never gets old.
Please share with us two of your favorite pieces. Why are these your favorite pieces?
Ironically my favorite is the wolverine claws
Making them was an organic experience and you probably wont believe it but they came together in under 24 hours. The version you see here has machined metal claws, the original had plastic claws but other than that they are about the same as when they first came together. My other piece is my chair.
Ironically it’s a project which will never be finished exactly as I originally envisioned it. But I've had to push away from the table and just say “enough”.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Keep an eye out for a new power wheelchair from our studio soon !
If you know of a maker that you think should be featured by us, please send us a recommendation to email@example.com