DECEMBER 11, 2014
Visit Public Workshop’s brand-new Etsy store and you’ll see the work of numerous Building Heroes—including the Bell sisters, Tiarra and Tamira. The 16-year-old twins designed and fabricated the Building Hero Multi-Tool and the Diamond Lamp, both of which are now for sale. (See the Etsy description for the full story on how that second object came to be.)
Tiarra got involved with Public Workshop more than a year ago when Alex Gilliam visited Science Leadership Academy, a partnership high school between the School District of Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute. He offered a group of ninth-grade girls the chance to work on any project they could dream up to transform their school, and they settled on these rolling hangout pods. The Bell sisters have since become familiar faces at DM+D, as well as participants in the Building Heroes program.
“Each day I come to Public Workshop, I have a reason to smile,” Tiarra says. “It’s what I look forward to after a long hard day at school. It’s where I find my peace. It’s Zen. I come here knowing that I get to work on something really cool that will one day impact many people.”
Tiarra and Tamira answered five questions for us about their current projects, their design inspirations, and the makers who’ve influenced them most.
5 QUESTIONS FOR TIARRA AND TAMIRA BELL
1. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
Tiarra: At this very moment, I am working on Christmas ornaments. I’m prototyping different versions of the ornaments: they look like wooden blocks with vibrant stripes of paint on them. Also, I have snowflakes that I designed on Adobe Illustrator, which I should be lasercutting soon, but the blocks seem to have consumed most of my time. Hopefully by the end of this week they will be up on the Etsy shop!
Tamira: I am working on something that is dear to my heart: CHOPSTICKS! I absolutely love chopsticks, but the problem is that I only use disposable chopsticks, which can only be used once. I want to make a pair that will last a long time. Hopefully, I can come up with something great that can also be sold on the Etsy page. I am also working on the Maker Space at Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber. There, I am teaching and working with some of the students on how to better their school through building.
2. HOW DOES DM+D INSPIRE YOU?
Tiarra: DM+D has inspired me to handcraft my dreams. When I should be doing homework, I’m always surfing the interweb trying to find new ideas for things to create. Since all the tools are accessible to me, I’m able to make almost anything my heart desires. DM+D also inspired me to think outside the box. I get the opportunity to make something that no one on this planet has.
Tamira: DM+D inspires me to solve my problems through building. If I discover that I have a dilemma, such as I lose pencils a lot, then I solve that problem through building something. To solve my pencil problem, I made pencil clips to attach my pencil on my clothes.
3. WHAT’S ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS YOU REMEMBER MAKING ON YOUR OWN?
Tiarra: I can’t really remember the first thing I made on my own. Mostly everything I do as a Building Hero requires collaboration. We work as a team to make a product the best it can be. We work side by side, reflecting on and critiquing each others’ work. Nothing great in this world can ever happen on its own. It needs the help of other people to make it great.
Tamira: One of the things that I remember making on my own was a box/container that would go on the front of the Mobile Maker Cart. The box was made to store brochures, papers, and other knick-knacks. Even though it was a little sloppy, I was proud because it was the first thing that I built on my own.
4. WHICH MAKER HAS HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU?
Tiarra: Alex [Gilliam] has had the biggest impact on my life because he has dug up a passion inside of me that could possibly have stayed hidden forever. Before being involved with the Building Heroes, I was really questioning what I wanted to do with my life. I was exploring a lot of things, but everything I tried just didn’t feel right in my heart. Ever since I met Alex, my life has been dramatically transformed. He helped me realize what I want to do in my life. Through his critiques, I’m a more open-mind person. I actually want to hear people’s opinions and critiques, because that is what helps me become a better designer. I also have more confidence.
Tamira: I think that everyone has had a huge influence on me at DM+D, but if I were to narrow it down to one person, I would say Max Yousey. Max taught me a lot of the basics to woodworking. I really admire his patience with me because I was kind of horrible and didn’t understand a lot of things when it came building. But he took his time and explained everything very clearly. He was also very nice and pleasant to work with, thus leading an example of how I should treat others at DM+D. Thanks, Max!
5. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS?
Tiarra: My favorite part is using my hands to craft something awesome. I love working really hard and using all the tools to create something that I know I will be proud of. I also like working with the other Building Heroes to get their feedback on how to make the product the best it can be.
Tamira: My favorite part of the creative process is when we are done and we have the finished product. I just get that sense of accomplishment that I made something with my own two hands!