What’s Your Latest with CW&T: Che-Wei Wang and Taylor Levy (Episode 111)

CW&T is Che-Wei Wang and Taylor Levy. They combine art, technology, design, and manufacture into everyday objects that have nothing everyday about them, as well as unique expressions of industrial design that can’t be compared with anything else. In this episode, we talk about one of their latest endeavors, Time Since Launch, a single-use launch clock that counts indefinitely into the future.

I first spoke to Che-Wei and Taylor in 2013 about the Pen Type-A, their first highly funded project and one that had a lot of complexity. They appeared with me on stage at the Nearly Impossible conference with other makers later that year to talk more broadly about creating. (You can now purchase both Pen Type-A and Pen Type-B.)

Six years later, the couple has completed dozens of projects of different scales and natures, moved from New York to Massachusetts and back again, and 3D printed two humans.

Make sure and follow them on Instagram to see their latest experiments, process photos, and new projects.

Thanks to you and help support the show: 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!

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

Living a Life in Letterpress: Live at Ada’s (Episode 108)

My love of letterpress printing is no secret, and in this episode, I speak to two designers who devote parts of their working lives to modern letterpress. This episode was taped live at Ada’s Technical Books and Café in Seattle on January 23.

Printing didn’t change much from about 1450 to 1950. It became faster, motorized, and blew up to industrial scale, but it was only when the “relief” (or letterpress) method of printing—putting ink on a surface and then pressing paper onto it—was replaced with offset lithography, which relies on flat printing plates and thin films of ink, that everything changed for good. Letterpress printing has remained as a craft, though, and it has thrived in the last 20 years as it’s been rediscovered and taught fresh to new generations.

Two Seattle practitioners have deep ties to this great resurgence of letterpress. We talk about how they got sucked into an old-school printing method and how the medium affects their design and vice-versa.

  • Sarah Kulfan is a visual designer, illustrator, and letterpress printer. She is the proprietrix of Gallo Pinto Press and Beans n’ Rice where she respectively prints limited edition prints and runs her freelance graphic design business.

  • Demian Johnston is the Designer and Pressman at Annie’s Art & Press, a letterpress shop in Ballard. At SVC, he teaches both introductory and advanced classes in the letterpress program. His design and illustration work has appeared in The StrangerSeattle WeeklyCity Arts, and Beer Advocate.

Event photo courtesy of Jeff Carlson.


Thanks to the patrons in the crowdfunding campaign who brought the New Disruptors back, and these Disruptor-level backers in particular: Elliott Payne, my friends at Lumi, Kirk McElhearn, Kuang-Yu Liu, and Marc Schwieterman. (Marc, and another Disruptor backer, Kim Ahlberg, attended the taping!) You can become a patron of the show and get a special pin and be thanked on the air, too.

Show notes:

We talk about a lot of concepts and old tech in this show, so the notes are a little more extensive to help you understand some of the things we mentioned just in passing:

  • SVC is the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, where Jenny Wilkson runs the letterpress program. It’s a for-profit analog and digital design school, teaching letterpress, UI/UX, graphic design, copywriting and more. It’s where I had my 2017 design residency, too!

  • Demian has a 10x15 Chandler and Price (C&P), which is a workhorse press, manufactured from 1884 to 1964.

  • Stern & Faye: Jules Remedios Faye and Chris Stern ran this press together for decades. Jules continues to print and bind, and handbound my book, Not To Put Too Fine a Point on It (copies still available). The C.C. Stern Type Foundry, a working museum in Portland, Oregon, is named for Chris and features a lot of Jules and Chris’s casting equipment.

  • “dissed type”: Type distribution is an incredibly tedious part of hand setting type. Each character you pull out of a type case has to be “distributed” back into its original compartment in the case when you’re done with a printing job.

  • Ruling pens: These pens were used for making lines, or “rules,” and hold ink in a reservoir between two jaws. The gap of the jaws can be adjusted to create lines of different thickness.

  • Plates: Printing plates are solid sheets of metal or plastic made from source material and intended to be printed as a full sheet, sometimes including dozens of pages. Starting in the 1800s, printers would cast metal plates (called “stereotypes”); in more recent decades, printers rely on a rubbery plastic called photopolymer that’s light sensitive. Digital files can be output to high-contrast film and exposed to the plastic plastic, and make a letterpress-printable plate.

  • Carl Montford: a local renowned wood block engraver, who has taught thousands of people how to carve linoleum blocks and hundreds how to carve in wood.

  • Linoleum blocks: These are really just pieces of linoleum glued to a wood base. A designer carves the linoleum to leave high areas to receive ink.

  • Type high: The exact height needed for type and other material on the “bed” of a press to be inked by rollers and press exactly at the right distance into paper. It’s 0.918 inches in America and England.

  • Touche plate: This may have been a regionalism, but a “touche” (French, pronounced toosh) is a touch-up plate used to fix an error in offset printing.

  • Reduction cut: On a block, you engrave a starting image that prints in the lightest color, carve away details, print the next-lightest color, and so forth. The block is creatively destroyed in the process.

  • “kiss” impression

  • Vandercook cylinder presses are the hot thing in letterpress today, originally designed largely as a “proof press”: to pull a copy of a section of text for proofreading, layout, and evenness, before it went on a real press.

  • Printing the Oxford English Dictionary (YouTube)

  • “Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu”: The last day of hot-metal Linotype typesetting at the New York Times

  • The quote I was trying to recall was from A Short History of the Printed Word, written by Warren Chappell and, in a second edition, updated and extended by Robert Bringhurst. Bringhurst wrote the following devastating sentence about the entire era following relief printing:

In the 1970s and 1980s, the practitioners of photocomposition and offset printing were, like Gutenberg, engaged in a simultaneously innovative and imitative act. But they were not imitating writing; they were imitating printing—and were doing so in a world where reading had become, for most, a passive, cerebral act, unconnected with any physical sense of the making of letters, and unconnected with any sense of the intellectual urgency of publishing.

Hugs and Kisses Goodbye: Live from XOXO 2014 (Episode 93)

Jen Bekman, Zoë Salditch, and Mike Merrill were our guests live on stage at the XOXO 2014 festival in Portland, Oregon, as part of the Story evening that also featured Hrishikesh Hirway's Song Exploder, featuring a song by The Thermals; John Roderick (The Long Winters) interviewing Chelsea Cain; and Harmontown with Dino Stamatopoulos.

Jen Bekman founded 20x200 in 2007 to provide art at accessible prices. She spoke about her in work in 2012 at XOXO. Then she had a terrible, no good, very bad year. For a lot of reasons, she can't discuss the particulars of what happened, but she had to reboot 20x200: its site, its technology, its art, and its trust with existing customers.

If you have beautiful digital art, you need a place to display it. That's the idea behind Electronic Objects, a massively funded Kickstarter project from a month ago. But Zoë Salditch's interest is less in the technology than the uses to which people will put it. In the midst of producing their EO1 model, they have artists in residence working on concpetual ideas and are considering one future for their hardware as a platform for art — maybe 20x200 and EO have a lot in common?

With most people, saying "I can buy and sell you" is a boast about one's own ostensible net worth. With Mike Merrill, it's the literal truth. Mike is a publicly traded company, and shareholders can vote on the course his life takes, including how he pursues romantic interests. Shares in KMIKEYM have traded as high as $25 and typically change hands in a band of $5 to $10. Volume is low.

This is our last regularly scheduled episode as we go on hiatus and consider a path forward. Keep watching this site and @newdisruptors for news about future projects.

Sponsors and patrons

This podcast has been made possible through the support of sponsors and patrons.

gifpop, the makers of physical renditions of your animated GIFs through the scientific magic of lenticular printing! Take a GIF with up to 10 frames and receive a version that you can tilt for animation, or buy a design from featured artists who receive 80% of the purchase price — or even submit your own work for consideration for sale. Listeners get 10% off a gifpop order by using coupon code DISRUPT during checkout.

99designs: Have dozens of designers from the over 310,000 that are part of 99designs's network submit ideas for your logo, Web site, T-shirt, car wrap, or other design project, then pick the best and have a finished, professional result in a week or less for a flat price. Our listeners can visit this special destination page to get a $99 Power Pack of services for free!

Thanks to our Patreon backers for all their support! Bryan J. Clark, Pasha Alpeyev, Andy Baio, Matthew Blai, Alex Bond, Henry Brown, Anirvan Chatterjee, Ready Chi, Jordan Cooper, Craig, Tarun Gangwani, GravityFish , Accounting Guy, Gregory Hayes, Brian J. Geiger, Jonathan Mann, Mike Mansor, Kris Markel, Roman Mars, Andrei Matetic, Gordon McDowell, Andy McMillan, Rönne Ogland, George OToole, Elliott Payne, Garry Pugh, "r," Neil Richler, James Robilliard, Kay Schumann, Jonathan Stark, Kyle Studstill, Ted Timmons, CJ Tully, and Ben Werdmuller.

(Photo by Brad Dowdy.)

Bakfiets to the Future with Phillip Ross (Episode 86)

Phillip Ross is one of the fellows behind Metrofiets, a company that makes cargo bikes — a kind of transportation vehicle developed in the Netherlands, and known as bakfietsen there. He and his partner James Nichols build their bikes in Portland, Oregon. Phil helped bring Critical Mass to Portland and is the co-creator and producer of the Pedal Powered Talk Show and literally the engine that makes it go.

Sponsors and patrons

This podcast is made possible through the support of sponsors and patrons.

99designs: Have dozens of designers from the over 310,000 that are part of 99designs's network submit ideas for your logo, Web site, T-shirt, car wrap, or other design project, then pick the best and have a finished, professional result in a week or less for a flat price. Our listeners can visit this special destination page to get $99 Power Pack of services for free!

Thanks to Cards Against Humanity, which is helping underwrite our indie ads. CAH just launched a site where you can buy directly from them, including their Bigger Blacker Box and their 2012 and 2013 holiday packs, the profits from which are donated to charity.

Our indie advertisers this week are:

  • App Accomplished, a book that guides you step by step through turning your idea for an app from a set of requirements through hiring a developer and into a released piece of software.

  • FoxyCart, the most flexible way to add ecommerce to your Web site.

Thanks also to patrons Ben Werdmuller, Alex Bond, and Andy McMillan for supporting us directly through Patreon! You can back this podcast for as little as $1 per month. At higher levels, we'll thank you on the air and send you mugs and T-shirts!

Show notes

Crowded House with Joshua Lifton (Episode 66)

Joshua Lifton is one of the founders of Crowd Supply, a company that crowdfunds around products. They take a very different approach to preparation, funding, and follow-up than Kickstarter. Kickstarter just announced that it had crossed $1bn in pledges in its five-year lifetime. Of that, it's disbursed nearly $850m. It's on track to facilitate perhaps half a billion in 2014 alone.

Kickstarter may be used interchangeably with the term crowdfunding and it is the 800 lb. gorilla in the space. (Watch out for the shipping charges on that gorilla, especially internationally.) But in its wake, hundreds of millions of dollars are being raised from all sorts of other sites which fill in important aspects of ecosystem, and Crowd Supply is one of them.

Sponsors & Patrons

This podcast is made possible through the support of sponsors and patrons.

Mailchimp helps more than five million people and businesses around the world use MailChimp to send email newsletters. They sent 70 billion messages on their behalf in 2013! They also have hats for cats and small dogs.

What do the Nikola Tesla Museum, the film that won this year's Sundance Film Festival, and a baby have in common? They've all been crowdfunded on Indiegogo! Listeners visit tnd.indiegogo.com to receive a 25% discount on fees.


Media Temple: Web hosting for artists, designers, and Web developers since 1998. World-class support available 24x7 through phone and chat—and even Twitter. Sign up with coupon code "tnd" to get 25% off your first month of hosting.


Thanks to new patrons Andy McMillan and Andy Baio for supporting us directly through Patreon! You can back this podcast for as little as $1 per month. At higher levels, we'll thank you on the air and send you mugs and T-shirts.

Show Notes

Dan Shapiro and I spoke about his Robot Turtles game and its fulfillment issues in Episode 59.

Andrew "bunnie" Hwang and Jie Qi used Crowd Supply to fund Circuit Stickers. I spoke with bunnie in Episode 33 about how he creates projects and the production of products in China, especially electronics. He'll be launching his open-laptop project, Novena, as a campaign on Crowd Supply.

Helium is a funded supercapacitor-powered portable speaker that's also hackable — a category that Crowd Supply tags so that potential backers can more easily find user-modifiable and -buildable products.

Doubling Down with Amelia Greenhall (Episode 56)

Amelia Greenhall.

Amelia Greenhall.

Double Union is a new community workshop in San Francisco designed for women, and intended to provide a comfortable, welcoming environment to make things. In this podcast, I visit the pre-renovation space with Amelia Greenhall, one of the people who helped create the non-profit organization. She explains why Double Union is necessary, and the path that led to it and others like it.

Sponsors & Patrons

This podcast is made possible through the support of sponsors and patrons.

This episode is sponsored by Media Temple, where a Grid plan gives you 100 Web sites, 100 GB of storage, and a terabyte of data transfer each month. Sign up with coupon code "tnd" to get 25% off your first month of hosting.

Media Temple: Special discount for The New Disruptors listeners: use promo code "tnd" for 25% off your first month of web hosting.


And thanks to our patrons, supporting us by pledging an amount via Patreon for each episode we produce. Thanks this time to Bryan Clark and GravityFish! You help make it all happen.

Show notes

While Double Union accepts only women as members, the group notes that, "We are intersectional feminists, women-centered, and queer and trans-inclusive." Members may invite guests who may visit with a member, and may be any gender or age. The group will also have open houses open to any any gender or age.

Amelia Greenhall has a vast array of interests currently centered around Quantified Self and wearable technology, but her site shows the full range of what she's working on. (Quantified Self aims to use technology to measure our physiological state and inputs, and turn that information into useful data for self-modification or health monitoring.)

Amelia mentions three zine makers and their projects: Mermaid Tits produced by Hannah Schulman; Camel Toe, produced by Abigal Young; and Elly Blue's array of work. Elly is a Portland bike activist and publisher who has used Kickstarter many, many times to underwrite the expenses of her publishing and other endeavors. (She was a guest during our Portland pre-XOXO festival shindig, contributed an article on cargo bikes to The Magazine, and will be a future interviewee here.)

Before we get to Double Union, Amelia explains the concept of an unconference, and the intent of the Ada Initiative. Double Union arose in part from discussions with Leigh Honeywell and Frances Hocutt, who fostered the Seattle Attic makerspace, which is feminist, women-centered, and inclusive, but open to all genders as members. There's also Flux in Portland, Oregon, and three others of a similar intent outside the U.S.

Impostor syndrome is a pervasive problem among creators who go it on their own, because we constantly compare ourselves to those around us, and believe that we can't possibly be competent enough to be in their league. We worry about being discovered. Birds of a feather (BoF) sessions are ad hoc, participant-driven breakout sessions in conferences.

At The Magazine, we dealt with a paucity of women pitching articles partly by me talking to female contributors and writing "Gender Binder." This article seemed to mark a turning point, after which we received article submissions from a far more even ratio of men and women. Bylines average close to parity since.

The Ada Initiative created a standardized anti-harassment policy that has been adopted by over a hundred conferences. I mention an article in The Magazine by Rosie J. Spinks called "Hacked Off," in which she looks at harassment of women in the hacker-activism community. Some readers found this article problematic because they hadn't seen harassment themselves.

Amelia points to the timeline of sexist incidents at the Geek Feminism wiki as an indication of how pervasive harassment is, and how much more thoroughly it's being documented. Kelly Kend described harassment directed at her at XOXO 2013, and how well it was handled by the organizers. Amelia countered with what happened at Pycon 2013, in which a woman called out two men via Twitter for remarks, and then one of the men and she were both fired.

We are so over mansplaining, aren't we? Not yet.

Jean MacDonald was a guest on The New Disruptors last month ("Girls Just Want to Code Apps") to talk about App Camp for Girls, in which the instructors and attendees are all women. Jean and I talked at some length about fiscal sponsorship, in which an existing non-profit handles the administration and fund collection for a nascent one.

Liz Henry, a veteran software/Internet/reality cool-things maker, was part of the Double Union planning. Double Union created an Indiegogo campaign to raise capital for buildout and equipment purchases, intending memberships to pay rent and other ongoing costs. Asking for $5,000, the group raised over $15,000.

Once you find out about paper joggers, and you regularly deal with paper, you might not rest until you have one. Sergers create overlock stitches that seal the edges of cut fabric with stitches, and can trim at the same time! With a serger, you can dramatically reduce the time to make clothing that looks professionally produced. Sergers are cool.

I spoke to the folks behind Makerhaus about what was then an about-to-open facility for education, training, creation, and co-working back in February 2013 in "Iterative Imperative."

Ashe Dryden has a lot to say about diversity, inclusivity, and harassment.

Actually, Quite Likely! Recorded Live in Brooklyn (Episode 49)

We recorded a special live episode of The New Disruptors in Brooklyn's fantastic DUMBO district in the Galapagos Art Space as part of the Nearly Impossible conference in which we talked about the joys, challenges, and surprises in prototyping, funding, producing, and distributing products. On stage, we had Che-Wei Wang and Taylor Levy of CW&T, Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost of Studio Neat, and Jessica Heltzel of Kern and Burn.


Sponsors & Patrons

This podcast is made possible through the support of sponsors and patrons. Thanks to Shopify for sponsoring my trip to New York and this episode!

Shopify: Use Shopify to create your online store. Everything you need to start selling online – today



And thanks to our patrons, supporting us by pledging an amount via Patreon for each episode we produce. Thanks this time to GravityFish! You help make it all happen. 

Show notes

CW&T is best known for Pen Type-A. I spoke originally to Taylor and Che-Wei Feburary 27, 2013 in "Où est la plume de ma Kickstarter?" Studio Neat burst onto the scene with the glif, and has since made the Cosmonaut, among other products, and wrote the book It Will Be Exhilirating. I spoke with Tom and Dan in "Living in the Back It Bracket." (Dan now lives in Austin.) Jessica Heltzel and Tim Hoover collaborated to conduct many dozens of interviews they posted on a blog, and then to crowdfund and produce a book called Kern and Burn.

Galapagos Art Space is a fascinating and wonderful performance space that literally has water underneath sections of the main floor seating. It's lovely and cool, and I thank them for hosting us.

Tom and Dan's Neat Ice Kit just raised over $150,000 towards a $50,000 Kickstarter goal. The Dr. Demento movie Kickstarter had a zillion add-on options, but that's because those were collectible and unique items, and helped push them over the top. (I spoke to the director of that upcoming movie in "They're Coming to Make Him a Film Ha Ha!" a few weeks ago.)

Kickstarter isn't keen on stretch goals, but doesn't ban them. The 99% Invisible Season 4 Kickstarter is going gangbusters, even bigger than its Season 3 crowdfunding campaign, and they keep setting more and interesting stretch goals — and meeting them. (I interviewed show host Roman Mars just before he launched this Kickstarter a few weeks ago in "99% Indivisible.")

Che-Wei made the TV Barrow to make it easy to move an HDTV from room to room. Enough interest sparked them to plan to sell it as a product. Tom, Che-Wei, and Taylor all went to the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, as did Tom's wife, roboticist Kacie Kinzer. Che-Wei and Taylor are now studying at the MIT Media Lab. Autodidacts teach themselves the meaning of the word.

My grandfather was a great negotiator, and he told me a lot of stories about running a furniture store. Scott Thrift updated his backers every full moon for The Present. Crowd Supply is one of the firms pursuing a crowdfunding model in which money is released to creators as mileposts are reached in protection, which is intended to provide more confidence to backers.

Thanks to Anthony Saggese for providing our on-site recording services!