My grandfather, a first generation American, lived with my family when I was a kid and he loved nothing more than to tinker in the workshop, fixing things and repeating his favorite jokes and bits of advice. He would scan the vast stores of itemized ‘junk’ that he had accumulated in his shop, and then hold up some oddity he had been searching for and utter one of his primal mantras. “You see that,” he would say to me while sagely waggling the item, "it was junk when I found it—but it is gold when you need it!" So it was from my grandfather that I learned the enjoyment of workshop repairing, and I still hesitate before throwing something away, knowing that whatever it is, it might someday be just what I need ("Gold when you need it").
Los Angeles—where I live and work in the aerospace industry and make my robots—is my artistic collaborator and provides an extremely fertile terrain from which to mine raw robot materials. Flea markets, swap meets, and garage sales abound; semiconductor, telecom, and biotech laboratories regularly get set up and later torn down; and we have a subculture of Hollywood set-decorators and artists who rapidly outfit—and then generously dispose of—the latest Buck Rogers landscapes. These sources complement nicely the local avionics and electronics surplus outlets that peddle all manner of retro equipment. On a good day I can find anything from bakelite knobs to rocket nose-cones.
It has been great fun to put together and present my family of little guys. People typically see each robot first as the character it is meant to be. As they look closer, they can also enjoy the history and variety of the constituent elements that take new shape together.