Anything that is worthwhile in life, will be hard. Words I lived by. For the uninitiated, one can look at a resin keycap and say to himself “hmm, that looks easy enough. sculpt. mold. cast.” Back then, I believed that, if I did enough research, I would be prepared. I was wrong. So wrong. Little did I know that this hubris would, one day, be my own downfall.
For the sake of simplicity, the keycap artisan world is made up of two types of artisans. Those who made it and those who didn’t. That’s not to say there aren’t artisans between the two spectrums. These outliers will likely end up in either of the two categories. As I delved further into this craft, I became more aware of this separation and what that defining moment would be.
To take credit for all my work would be presumptuous at best. I realized that, in order for me to learn the craft, I would be stepping on the shoulders of giants.
Clack paved the way for all of us. To the uninitiated, an outside observer can easily say that they look easy to make. Why the big deal or outrageous prices? Years back, I remember sitting in an art history class when a student chimed in “I don’t get it. Anyone could’ve done that” as we looked upon an Andy Warhol print. Our professor responded nonchalantly “but you didn’t”. That moment stuck with me. Clack did what we didn’t. While we looked for options, he stepped up and took it. Any artisan who thrives now does so because of him. And despite what their personal opinions are, there’s simply no denying the influence that Clack had on the community.
Then there’s Bro. A revered member of the community. His caps are sought after and for good reason. For anyone who has tried resin casting, there is a level of appreciation that one must have for his level of technique and execution. In terms of precision, he is unparalleled and any artisan who wants to make his mark on this community, must strive for this level of perfection.
For me, the artisans that truly influenced me were HipsterPunks(KWK/KBK) and Binge. Why? If anyone has ever asked themselves whether resin keycaps could be considered an art form, I implore them to look at the designs made by these guys. To me, these guys managed to bring together form and function in a manner that could only be considered art. You looked at Slow-Fi, Mummys and Vandal caps. These caps had personality. A life of their own. You knew that it was theirs. You envisioned them sitting in their labs carving and shaping away on a prototype no bigger than the nail on your thumb. And with every revision, a piece of them shows in their work. Imitated, but never duplicated.
I remember seeing an interview with Hipster. He grew up writing (graffiti) just as I did. As a child growing up in NYC, I remember taking the subway to Manhattan and watching the lettered rooftops whiz by. I was 14 when I started. Now, almost two decades later, my notebooks are still littered with throwies. To see an artisan translate graf into his work was inspiring to say the least.
Binge. Just as the other artisans wouldn’t exist without Clack, I wouldn’t exist without Binge. For the first few months, his guide on Geekhack would become my blueprint. And from that blueprint, I would adapt, adjust and hone these techniques to be my own.
I have to admit. I never reached out to any of these artisans. They were busy developing their own body of work and I simply did not want to be the fanboy who would pester them for answers. I wanted to make it on my own. And I hoped, through perseverance and dedication, that my work would show for itself. Maybe even get noticed by those who inspired me.