An Interview with Kyle Scheele
Kyle Scheele is an author, speaker and maker of things. His projects include both physical and digital works ranging from sculptures and illustrations to videos and events. Kyle's work has been featured in WIRED, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, the New York Observer and many other outlets. Kyle hails from Springfield, MO; where he lives with his wife and three children.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your family?
I'm a professional youth speaker by trade - I travel all around the country speaking to high schoolers and college students about making the world a better place. I'm married to my dream girl, Lindsay, and we have three kids (Wesley, Lucy, and Wendy). When I'm not on the road I'm usually causing trouble with them or building stuff out of cardboard.
2. In your opinion, what does it mean to be “creative?"
From a linguistic sense, being creative just means creating things (just as being destructive means destroying things). I think we do a disservice when we say that some careers are creative (artists, designers, etc.) and others are uncreative. The fact is, almost everyone creates SOMETHING in their job, and by learning more about the creative process, we can all get better at that, whether the thing we create is a painting or a Human Resources policy document.
3. When would you say you became a "maker of things?”
Oh, man. I have no idea. I've been making things as long as I can remember, really. But I think that goes back to my answer above - we're all creative. We're all makers of things. Show me a kid who doesn't like making things - I don't think they exist. Somewhere along the line most people kind of dissociate themselves from that creativity, but I just never did for whatever reason.
4. How did kylemakesthings.com come about?
Well, like I said, I'm a youth speaker by trade. That really has nothing to do with the creative stuff that I do online (videos, cardboard masks, etc.), so when I wanted a place to catalogue all of my projects, it didn't really make sense to put them on my speaking page, so I set up KyleMakesThings.com. Originally I was going to post a new creation every day, but I quickly realized I didn't like that, because it forced me to create things quickly, and a lot of the stuff I wanted to create was bigger and required more time (the centaur bicycle is a good example). So I kinda backed off the ambitious once-a-day thing and now I just share stuff as I make it.
5. How in the world did you figure out you could make art out of cardboard?!
It all started, as most good things do, when I was browsing documentaries on Netflix. I came across a movie that is no longer on Netflix (a fact which is a crime against humanity as far as I'm concerned) called Beauty is Embarrassing. If you haven't seen it, you've got to check it out (warning: the guy in the movie swears like a sailor). It's about this guy named Wayne White who is just this creative powerhouse. And in one of the scenes in the movie, he makes this big cardboard Lyndon Johnson mask.
Somewhere around the 10th time I watched the movie, I decided to try making stuff out of cardboard, and I made a few little masks. Later I actually got the chance to meet Wayne and work with him for a day on an installation piece he was doing, and he gave me a bunch of tips about how to make stuff with cardboard. I realized that it's a perfect medium for making stuff quickly and cheaply, so I just sort of stuck with it and got pretty good at it. Wayne told me I'm an "expert cardboarder", which was cool.
6. Can you tell us a little about your recent production of the Cereal Podcast? What gave you the idea? What made you decide to pursue it?
The cereal podcast came about in the same way many of my other projects came about: I had an idea, and I just couldn't leave it alone. I'm a huge fan of the actual Serial Podcast, and from day one I thought "Someone should make a cereal-based parody of this." And I kept listening and kept listening, and then over Thanksgiving they took a week off of the show, and people were freaking out that they wouldn't get their weekly fix. I realized that it would be a perfect time to make a parody and release it, so I threw something together one evening and put it online. I did all the voices myself (except for one which I had my wife help out on), and the whole thing was put together very quickly.
In fact, several people noted that it parallels the actual story of Serial really closely. That's probably because I just downloaded a transcript of the first episode and edited it to be about cereal. Some of the lines are literally verbatim from the real podcast.
After I posted it, it took off pretty quickly. BuzzFeed wrote an article about it, FastCompany wrote about it, Food & Wine magazine wrote about it, which I thought was especially hilarious. It's gotten almost 20,000 views, which is crazy since it's a 10-minute video on youtube that is really just an audio clip.
7. Are there any more Cereal Podcasts in the works?
Probably not. I did a followup episode that I actually thought was better, but it only got about 800 views or so. I think people sort got the joke after the first one. I really wanted to keep going with it, but the enthusiasm died down so I just kinda moved on to other things. It was definitely a fun project though.
8. Where do you go for inspiration? Who do you look towards, what sites, etc?
For starters, I watch Beauty is Embarrasing. I've probably watched that movie 20 or 30 times, easily. It's hard not to be inspired by it.
I also love Austin Kleon's books (Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work). He's just so honest about the creative process, and he doesn't give a lot of the fluffy advice that you get from other people. He really treats the whole thing like a job, and there's no sitting around and waiting for the muse. He's great when you need a creative kick in the pants.
Aside from that, I browse pinterest or other creative sites occasionally. I also read a TON of books in all sorts of genres. To be honest though, I don't spend a lot of time looking for inspiration. I think a lot of people use that as an excuse to kill more time when they should really just get started creating something.
9. On a scale of 1-10, how difficult is it to ride a Pennyfarthing while wearing a giant Abe Lincoln head?
Ha! Well, there are several different elements involved there. First of all, I would never recommend doing it unless you've ridden a pennyfarthing a bunch of times WITHOUT a mask before, which I had.
People have this romantic view of pennyfarthings as these really cool victorian bikes, and you'll hear people say things like "Man, I wish they still made bikes like that."
No you don't. Trust me. They're super unstable, really difficult to maneuver, and prone to throwing riders over the handlebars CONSTANTLY.
But I'd ridden them a bunch of times (that's a whole 'nother story), and I figured I could probably pull it off with a mask.
The biggest difficulty with the mask was that I didn't realize how tall it made me. The seat on the pennyfarthing was 5' off the ground or so, and then you've got the height of my torso and head, plus the mask.... My guess is that the top of the mask was probably 12 feet in the air or so. Which was fine, right up until I got clotheslined by a tree. I messed up the bike a little bit and jacked up my knee pretty good for about a week, but in the end I made the front page of the paper, so I guess it's one of those "No pain, no gain" things, right?
CREATE:gathering - January 27, 7:00pm
Kyle will be joining us for our next CREATE:initiative gathering; January 27, 2015. At one of our gatherings, local church creatives, freelancers, writers, storytellers and more join in one place to Connect, Learn and Grow.
We will have a time for networking, a wonderful dinner, and hear from Kyle as he talks about making things. And the best part, is this is completely free to attend! All you need to do is register by January 20. Please come and be a part of the CREATE:initiative.