NOVEMBER 10, 2014
Jenna Frye is a recent arrival at DM+D, here for the next month on an Unknown Territory Fellowship from The Hacktory. The fellowship is part of her sabbatical this year from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she coordinates the curriculum for the digital foundations course Electronic Media and Culture.
A few years ago, Jenna launched the Make Cool Stuff Lab at MICA—a student-served makerspace. Much like DM+D, the lab includes 3D printers, sewing machines and other fun tools of the makerverse. “The goal is that it’s a place for play,” she says. “You’d think that would be so prevalent in art school, but it’s not. Frankly, they need to learn how to play again.”
Those ideas about play led Jenna to her current research: studying play in adults and reimagining old toys for modern adult audiences. We spoke with her about that work, her maker-filled family, and her plans for the next month at DM+D.
5 QUESTIONS FOR JENNA FRYE
1. WHAT’S ONE OF THE FIRST THNGS YOU CAN REMEMBER MAKING ON YOUR OWN?
A jean jacket for a Barbie. I don’t exactly remember where I got the material—probably a pair of jeans I cut up. Then I just tried to figure out how to make the jacket and sewed it by hand. I was six or seven years old, and the jacket was terrible but great.
2. WHICH MAKERS HAVE HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU?
My dad. He’s a Renaissance man. He sewed my mom’s wedding dress, and it was beautiful. He taught me to sew and knit and cook. He made our toy boxes and toy furniture as kids. He would make all of our Halloween costumes and help with all of our science projects and dioramas. That’s where I get it from. My dad will learn how to make something just because he can and because he wants to. He’s the most influential maker in my life, for sure.
3. WHAT WILL YOU BE WORKING ON AT DM+D WITH THIS FELLOWSHIP?
I’ve been studying the relationship between kindergarten and adult learning, and between kindergarten and toys. I’ve been looking at the toys that Friedrich Fröbel made—he’s the inventor of kindergarten and of building blocks. Part of what I’m hoping to figure out with this fellowship is whether the toys resonate with an adult audience, and how I can modernize Fröbel’s toys for adults in our century. I’m starting out by 3D modeling the toys and printing them.
4. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS?
My favorite part is figuring it out, although that’s the hardest part to get to. It’s that moment where I go from struggle to solution. That’s a great moment for me. When I’m working on a problem in my head, I don’t exactly know how to do it, but then it comes together.
5. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE STUCK ON A PROJECT?
It’s like a grieving process. First I’ll do the sulking and pouting. That almost always happens, so I’ve learned to accept it at this point. Once I get over that, I just start doing anything. (It’s not always easy to get to this point because sometimes the sulking takes a really long time.) Just the process of doing anything makes something else come out. I just have to get something made to start the maker juice. Sometimes, it’s not even relevant. Recently I was trying to make these toys and couldn’t get anywhere in my research, so I just made bath bombs with my intern. It was a concrete thing, and it sparked something and got me going.