Painting with Lasers: Dan Shapiro, Shell Meggersee, and Nick Taylor (Episode 109)

This episode is recorded live at Glowforge, makers of a 2D laser cutter—but it’s not a sponsored episode and we don’t talk about the hardware much at all. Instead, it’s conversation about what people are trying to make and how to get started as a creator.

I talk with Glowforge founder (and my friend) Dan Shapiro, and the company’s two content designers, Shell Meggersee and Nick Taylor, who spend a lot of their time talking to new and experienced makers as they work with their laser equipment. They offer some great insight and a lot of encouragement.

A few lovely quotes that struck me on listening to the recording afterwards:

  • Nick: “I wonder if we’re teaching them how to fail gracefully, rather than how to be successful?”

  • Shell: “There’s some subtle psychology in the fact that, ‘Oh, the machine messed up! Oops! It wasn’t me!’”

  • Dan: “Tools that help you become an amateur are so wonderful…it gets you to that point where you have some small degree of self-sufficiency and creativity.”

(Glowforge did sponsor an episode earlier in the current season; this episode was entirely my idea and no money changed hands. However, if you’re thinking about buying a Glowforge, you can use this referral link and get $100 to $500 off purchase price depending on the model. I receive the same amount as a referral fee, which helps support the podcast.)


This episode is also brought to you in part by Disruptor-level patrons Bob Owen, Garrett Allen, Michael Warner, Nick Hurley, and Nicholas Santos. You can become a patron of the show on a one-time or recurring basis, and get rewards like an exclusive enamel pin and being thanked in this fashion!

Guest biographies

Dan Shapiro sold his last company to Google. His last side project was Robot Turtles, the best-selling board game in Kickstarter history. He builds drones, authored Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook, and his seven-year-old twins regularly beat him at the game Werewolf. You can listen to the New Disruptors episode on Robot Turtles (episode 59, January 2014).

Shell Meggersee has worked in film, TV and video games, bringing everything from giant 3D monsters to well-known cartoon characters to life. At night, you might find her designing anything from vinyl toys to couture bedding fabric to intricate wedding invitations.

Nick Taylor has spent the last 12 years completing hundreds of projects including custom headphones, bespoke bicycles, desktop furniture, and lighting. Before joining Glowforge, Nick spent 5 years at Apple and ran his own company making artisanal leather goods.

Show notes

What’s Your Latest? Drive by Dave Kellett (Episode 104)

Dave Kellett is the guest on my latest installment of the podcast-within-the-podcast, “What’s Your Latest?” I talk to experienced creators about their latest project. For Dave, that’s the second volume (“Act Two”) of his Drive webcomics series that will ultimately span 1,000 pages and four or five print volumes.

Dave is a cartoonist, podcaster, and co-director of the comics documentary Stripped. His strip Drive is almost a decade old, and Sheldon is at its 20th birthday. He also runs multiple Patreons, co-hosts ComicLab (a podcast on making comics and the business of comics), and has run lots of crowdfunding campaigns and produced piles of physical goods.

The New Disruptors is back on the air due to patrons and sponsors! You can become a patron of the show on a one-time or recurring basis, and get rewards like an exclusive enamel pin and being thanked in this fashion!

Show notes

What’s Your Latest? Studio Neat’s Mark One Pen (Episode 102)

Welcome to a mini episode of The New Disruptors, “What’s Your Latest,” in which I ask creators just about the most recent thing they made. Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt are Studio Neat, independent industrial designers and app developers for nearly a decade, and an early Kickstarter success.

Their latest product is the Mark One, an all-metal retractable pen with a simple exterior that masks the complexity of how pens click. They went to Kickstarter as they almost always do to launch the product, and raised over $230,000 towards a $30,000 goal. We talk about the challenges of design and manufacture, and how this pen was designed and how it’s being made even as we spoke.

Listen to more of Dan and Tom’s conversations about independent product development on Thoroughly Considered, a podcast on the Relay network, in which they talk at intervals with host and Relay co-founder Myke Hurley.

Two colors of the Mark One

Shipping Is Violence with Jesse Genet and Stephan Ango (Episode 101)

Jesse Genet and Stephan Ango co-founded Lumi almost a decade ago. It first made wallets and prints and dyed material, then developed and distributed a light-sensitive fabric ink. Now it's a company that manages the production and ordering of packaging supplies. This might sound unrelated, but it's a natural transition resulting from interrogating one's interests, figuring out what your real business is, and learning new things. We talk about Shark Tank, fulfilling one's dreams, and why 10,000 shipments a month is small potatoes in the packaging world.

Sponsor: Community Theatre

This episode brought to you by: The Concept of Local Community Theatre! Our Sponsor-level crowdfunding backer for this episode has donated his sponsorship message to encourage you to see comedy and drama and musicals staged in your area by community theatres! Check out the listings online and in your local papers today!

Support the podcast!

The crowdfunding campaign brought back The New Disruptors, but I could produce more episodes and keep the show running after July 2019 with your help! You can contribute monthly via Patreon or become a yearly subscriber directly on this site—and get nifty bonuses and rewards. Read more about supporting the podcast.

Show notes

Draw Outside the Lines with C. Spike Trotman (Episode 100)

C. Spike Trotman (photo by Matt Sheridan)

C. Spike Trotman (photo by Matt Sheridan)

In this inaugural episode #100, the return of the podcast to regular production, I’m pleased as punch to have C. Spike Trotman as my guest. Spike founded Iron Circus Comics in 2007, and it’s risen through her hard work and excellent curatorship to become the Chicago area’s leading comics publisher.

A cartoonist and writer herself with a long-running series, Spike has raised over a million dollars through Kickstarter across more than a dozen projects, and created a sustainable and repeatable funding method. (You can read her book on Kickstarting comics for advice!) For her success, she was named one of Kickstarter’s Thought Leaders.

Support the podcast! The crowdfunding campaign brought back The New Disruptors, but I could produce more episodes and keep the show running after July 2019 with your help! You can contribute monthly via Patreon or become a yearly subscriber directly on this site—and get nifty bonuses and rewards. Read more about supporting the podcast.

Show notes

99a: Embrace Your Inner (Cute) Critic

We're still raising funds to restart The New Disruptors! At this writing, we're over 55% of the way there with a couple weeks to go! Visit our Kickstarter and back at any level.

In this special bonus pre-reboot Episode 99a of The New Disruptors, I'm in conversation with Lucy Bellwood, Adventure Cartoonist!, at Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond, Washington, in front of a live audience. She and I talked about creativity and independence, and about our latest books: hers, 100 Demon Dialogs; mine, London Kerning.

Lucy is an adventure cartoonist who I first interviewed in episode 82, almost four years ago. Since then, Lucy has had two more successful Kickstarter campaigns to fund books, taught cartooning in Denmark, sailed tall ships, had an artist's residency on the R/V Falkor oceanographic research vessel, and became a finalist in the New York Times 52 Places correspondent search.

Thanks for listening and thanks for your support!

A few links from the talk:

Re-New Disruptors (Episode 99)


Welcome to the New Disruptors, the podcast that says the best ideas come when you're not looking straight at them

You haven’t heard from The New Disruptors for a while, but I think the time is ripe to bring back the podcast—with your help. I stopped producing it reluctantly, a combination of available time, a drop in sponsorship, and a need to focus on different parts of my working life. 

The tl;dr? I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new season.

Update: Just one week in, the campaign is 50% funded! Three weeks to go, and we’ll get there with your help!

The details:

I've wanted to bring the show back for a long time, especially when I run into people or get messages telling me how much hearing creators talk about the paths they took had meant to them getting started on their projects and changing their careers.

With social networks dominating attention, and even more tools and avenues for artists and makers to explore, I want to dig into how people find an audience and make a space for themselves to create in 2018. 

I'm one of them. In the last 18 months, I produced two books, one by letterpress, acquired a 2D laser cutter, which I've been experimenting with, and worked with six different commerce, charging, and crowdfunding systems to handle different aspects of work I'm funding and selling.

The Kickstarter campaign is simple. My baseline goal is to raise enough funds to cover the hard costs and my commitment of time to produce 12 episodes. If I raise more money, I can produce more episodes. I want to have more live shows and interview more people face-to-face, and these funds let me cover hosting, production, equipment, and venue rental, and can help underwrite travel to conferences and festivals. 

Thanks for listening in the past, reading this request, and, I hope, for your support now and in the future.