Meet Your Maker Monday: Amanda Medsger of Oudvark

Welcome to the inaugural post of our weekly series, Meet Your Maker Mondays (I know it's Wednesday - I'm still learning how to use this website software!). In this series, we will interview Houston-based makers in their workshops and find out what gives them the passion to create! This week, we caught up with Amanda Medsger of Oudvark!

HMS: The basics: what is your name, company, URL, and social media links?

AM: Amanda Josephine Medsger


Instagram and Twitter: @oudvark

HMS: What do you make?

AM: I design and make lighting inspired by nature.

HMS: What does a typical day look like for you?

AM: My typical workday, well, doesn't exist.  Every day is completely different.  This is the main reason I love what I do.   Working for myself allows the flexibility to design my day in a way that is most productive for me.  And, I've never really wanted a 9-5. Although, I will say, my day has been looking more and more like this! 

Unless there is a crazy deadline, almost all days begin as slooowly as possible.  I am not a morning person.  I am a grump. And a coffee/breakfast addict.  So, pretty much, I don't like to speak or be spoken to until this first to-do has been checked off.  I don't believe you have to rise at 5 AM to be a successful individual. Though I definitely have to do it from time-to-time.  

After coffee, it's yoga and a shower.  Then, the real work day begins (usually around 10am).  Did I mention that I'm not a morning person? 

Many days are office days that consist of planning, emailing and/or accounting (which I quite luckily enjoy somehow). Other days, I have orders to fill and I'm getting sweaty in the workshop, using bandsaws, waxing, wiring, you name it.  If I'm not typing or sawing away, I might be on what I've come to call a "collection day" where I'm out hiking, shopping or traveling, looking for the perfect piece of wood or just buying electric parts at whichever hardware store.  I never in my life thought I'd be so familiar with hardware stores and power tools.  But, I am. And I am very okay with it.

HMS What is your favorite food?

AM: Probably ice cream.  Or cake. Or cake and ice cream. Preferably, coconuts are somewhere in that mix.  I also really love scones. And, okay, real human food? My mom's cannelloni.  I really just love food. A lot. 

HMS: What do you do in your spare time/what hobbies do you have?

AM: I am really into nature/the outdoors and, in my spare time, I'm most likely in a yoga class or on a run at Memorial Park.  Exercise keeps me stress-free (well, as stress-free as possible).  I also love baking and was a pastry chef in a another life. So, I could be doing that.  Actually, I did so today!  Also trying to teach myself French, so, that's my new hobby.  I'm pretty terrible but the podcast professor makes me laugh. 

My dream answer to this question, though, is that I travel.  I haven't had much time or expendable cash for that lately.  But that time is coming soon.  Next up on the list is Mexico City, Peru and/or Asheville, NC!

HMS: Is making your full time job? If not, how do you pay the bills?

AM: This is definitely not my full time job! Not yet, anyway.  I try to look at is as a hobby, more than anything. I've found it keeps me motivated and enjoying it, rather than looking at it as something I have to do. I tend to get turned off by most anything if I start feeling it's a requirement.

As for paying the bills, I am very fortunate to have an amazing father who has let me live with him for the last 10 months or so.  I quit my last full-time job (working for small business owners) in September of 2012 to pursue all of my own projects full-time.  It was a very tough decision as you definitely give up a certain amount of freedom and privacy when you decide to live with your parents at this age.  However, I feel like its really important for people to know this is how I've been able to get my business off it's feet. 

I always found myself wondering the true story of how makers were makin' it out there.  Everyone comes from different backgrounds and rather than hide that, we should embrace it and use it to encourage others to feel like they, too, can make the leap to do what they want to do, regardless of their background. 

It's tough, financially, owning your own businesses and supporting yourself.  Living with my Dad has allowed me the freedom to focus on the long-term and stay committed to what I know will make me most happy in the future.  As for any other bills (hey, there's still gas, student loans, and all the other living expenses aside from rent), I do interior and display design. This consists of residential, retail and other commercial spaces.  Lots of window displays, ya'll!  That's how I got my start.  Lately, I've been working closely with another interior designer and friend, Alicia Redman.  We have been sharing projects and collaborating with one another when possible.  This has really opened even more doors as well as made every day a bit more different and enjoyable. 

HMS: What are your long term maker goals? Are you opening a shop, launching other brands, etc?

AM: To move out of my Dad's! Ha. Really, it is. To get to the point where I am entirely self-supporting through making and freelance design work is my ultimate dream.  

Aside from that, however, my goal is to continuously challenge myself by learning new processes for designing and making.  Specifically, I'd like to master one of more existing technologies that are making designing and prototyping more efficient such as AutoCAD, Rhino, Google Sketchup, 3D printing, etc. The list goes on. I am definitely a newb when it comes to all this.  However, I'm slowly teaching myself and making progress. It will be exciting to be around others who are either in the same boat or have maybe already graduated (see below).  

I also want to challenge myself to work with new materials in the future.  I don't plan to focus on wood-working always and forever.  But, as one grows and learns new skills, designs naturally evolve as well. This unknown is something that gets me super-excited! 

And, most importantly, my long-term goal is to just be happy, proud of my work and humble.  

As for brick-and-mortar and/or launching other brands...I'd say it's not in my plans, but who really knows. I'm just going with it.

HMS: Personal project plug: what about Houston Makerspace makes you the most excited? 

AM: The idea of a learning hub.  The wealth of knowledge that will be in one space at any given time.  The sharing of information.  This is what excites me.  Conversations.  And being around people who know so much more than me about one specific thing, and maybe being able to help that same person in another realm, or, at least, just pay it forward.  

HMS: What advice do you have for aspiring makers?

AM: If you really want it, make the sacrifice to allow it to happen.  And stay focused.  My sacrifice was my own space.  Maybe yours is something different.  However, whatever it is, just do it.  And don't forget why you did it.  Just put yourself out there and keep working hard.  I truly believe you will get back what you put into the world.  So, make sure it is something positive. And keep the momentum going.  I have to remind myself of this constantly.  Even when it's moving at a slower pace, just keep it moving forward. 

And, lastly, keep people in your life that help you to do this. This has been huge.  I have the most amazingly encouraging friends and family.  I am constantly surprised in the best of ways.  

HMS: I feel like there are a million other questions I could ask. If you we're reading an article about a maker, what would you be interested in knowing?

AM: I don't know, maybe favorite quotes or personal mantras?  

Mine was borrowed from a friend and fellow maker from Stash Co.  But, I read it once via one of their social media sites and it just sort of stuck with me.  

"You are not here to merely make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.  You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand." - Woodrow Wilson

Also, "Fake it 'til you make it."  - Various Sources but most specifically Mary Louis Butters of Mary Louise Butters Brownies, Austin, TX circa 2009



Copyright Houston Makerspace, LLC 2013.  Background images by Marisa Brodie and Alex Barber.