In college I was a business major and a studio art minor (metalsmithing).  To this day I wonder which part of my college education better prepared me for my career.  In my business courses I learned about Porter’s Five Forces and SWAOT analysis, but my art courses taught me how to improvise, solve problems, and get things done.

Allow me to explain.

One of my favorite things to do is to create something beautiful from spare parts.  My goal this weekend was to create a tiny candle powered windmill from my bag of work scraps.  I haven’t done much work recently, so my work scraps barely fill up a sandwich bag.  All in all, a nice meaty problem.

I started by crafting the rotors.  I only have three temperatures of solder and the rotors required 6 different solder points, so I had to be very strategic in the way I fabricated it.  First I assembled the base ring with high temperature solder.  Then attached the four rotors, and the base connection to the wire-top-cap connection all at once using medium temperature solder (full disclosure – it took me three tries to get this one right).




Finally, I put the heat on once more and attached the top cap – being very careful not to break any of my previous solder points.



Then I went to work on the base.  I got very lucky that I had a scrap brass dowel that could act as the main support for the rotors.  I also found a great pointed silver scrap to serve as the “friction point.”


The end result:


Now let’s try the candles:

Doesn’t quite generate enough heat to spin on it’s own yet – but I’m confident it’ll get there as the candles wear down.

Overall, a successful art day.

The Importance of Art Time
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  • Well, I suppose the message I’m getting from this is that an art project is small, easy to conceive, and provides a satisfying example of bounded problem solving. That skill is both valuable and transferable – to a very limited extent – to other domains.

    Some people who lack that or a similar experience may find it difficult to conceive of a problem requiring a structured project as a solution, and thus be more accepting of the staus quo, less capable of self-directing, etc.

    I confess to, maybe, reafing into this a little much, because the post it titled “The Importance of Art Time,” but you haven’t actually said why its important per se. Only that it may have prepared you better for your career than SWOT analyses (ps, you have a typo. It ain’t SWAT analysis). Oh, and your art involves problem solving (seems closer to engineering, really).

    (P.S. I suspect there are some interaction effects between your art classes and business classes – you might benefit from comparing how business classes provided a theoretical perspective but few practical, applied problems – whereas studio art consisted of a series of small problems to solve, with different boundary conditions (time, material, cost, objective, whatever) and developing the applied skill was both useful in itself and provided new insight for you into how to employ your tgeoretical tools from business to create, and solve, problems).

  • Extremely well said. Re: the typo – that’s what I get when i try to pump out my blog post at midnight after my editor has already gone to sleep.

    Regarding the problem solving element – definitely agree about interaction effects. It’s also quite satisfying to sit down and solve a relatively defined problem. I suppose it’s the same sort of feeling people get when they complete a crossword puzzle. Certainly a nice escape from extremely complex and vaguely tangible advertising technology problems.