piotr redlinski for the new york times

The most inspiring article in last weekend’s New York Times was about Chris Hackett and his workshop in Gowanus, the epicenter of Brooklyn’s burgeoning underground of artists, inventors, chefs, carpenters, urban gardeners, hackers, fabricators, scavengers, repurposers, live-free-or-die,and prepare-for-the-shit-to-hit-the-fan proponents.

On Chris Hackett’s personal periodic table,  the world’s most interesting, and abundant, substance is an element he calls obtainium. Things classified as obtainium might include the discarded teapot that he once turned into a propane burner, or the broken beer bottle he used to make a razor, or the 9-millimeter shell casings he acquired some time ago, melted in a backyard foundry (also made of obtainium) and cast into brass knuckles for a girlfriend.

Hacket has been described as a ” master improviser…It’s almost like he thinks with his hands”, and his workshop, an obtainium mine, rich with materials for making:

In one corner sat an upright piano transformed into a cabinet for fasteners. In another was a rack of reclaimed two-inch metal tubing. There were doctored band saws, jury-rigged drill presses, repurposed metal barrels. A shop cat, Shop Cat, napped in front of a plastic chest of drawers marked with labels reading, “ball bearings,” “flange bearings,” “regulators,” “pulleys,” “rivets,” “channel locks,” “drills” and “more drills.” The backyard was heaped with obtainium: half of a car’s rear axle, bolted I-beams, a yellow boat built from scrap.

Hackett is big into explosive creations, and seems especially to love fiery welding and metal working.  He says the artistic principle that guides him is awesomeness.

piotr redlinski for the new york times

Obtainium. We love it. It IS the essential stuff of invention, hacking, problem solving, possibility…life.

Building a Better Apocalypse is a must-read; we wish the slide show were better, though the images conjured in our minds are good enough.

Thanks David!!

Related posts: calder’s improvised life: iron garden chair barbeque grill
the world is change (and change is not apocalypse)
are you a ‘garage’ inventor?
tinkering schools for kids and adults

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