BY ADAM SAVAGE
Watch, Learn, Do
Observing my father make things when I was young
instilled confidence in my own abilities.
Growing up, I was given specific advantages as a maker. My father, the painter Lee Savage, was a living example of a committed maker:
painter, animator, illustrator, director. My primary
memory of him, growing up, is of him painting every
day for hours in his studio out back, and living in a
house populated with art made by close friends.
When, for my sixth or seventh birthday, I wanted
a race car for my teddy bear, Gus, he made one out
of fiberglass for me. He built a succession of decks
behind our house, built the addition on his studio,
and fixed the chairs he broke leaning back too far.
I watched it all.
His studio was a laboratory of excellent primary
building materials: mat board, Rapidograph pens,
acetate (which he used to paint cels for animated
spots he did for Sesame Street), armature wire, and
like to watch, and love to help, and already I can
masking tape. I was never turned away for want of
see the fruits of these efforts starting to bloom.
an art material.
I can see both boys learning to put something
By the age of 12, I had permission to use my
they want to make into their heads. I can see them
father’s charge account at the local hardware store.
trying, failing, succeeding, and trying again to get
At 18, when I moved into Manhattan, he let me
that thing made.
charge art materials on his account at the art store.
They’re both showing a facility for music. I’m
I was stoked. When I got ambitious, and asked for
encouraging the spit out of this. The ability to enjoy
things like 20 sheets of corrugated cardboard, the
doing a thing excellently, the ability to enjoy the
answer was always yes. I never abused this privi-
work involved — to know that trial and error and
Illustration by Adam Koford; photograph by Cody Pickens
lege. It honestly never occurred to me.
even failure may lie ahead, but that they aren’t
I don’t imagine that my father set out to create
enough to inhibit your forward progress — this is
an artist. But I’m pretty sure he figured that every-
what I hope to teach them.
one has a responsibility to learn how the world went
Part of gaining the courage to plug ahead with
together, and much of that learning is simply paying
anything is acquiring the confidence that you’re
going to be able to understand what’s going to go
My twin boys, Addison and Reilly, are now
on. The more things you build and make, the more
approaching 11. I don’t spoil them, but I do want
things you take apart and break, the more you
them to be makers. So I don’t end up building a
understand many of the critical workings of the
ton of stuff for them.
world. The more you pay attention, the more that
But: I’ve bought models for them, and shown
attention pays you back.
them how to put them together. I’m always using
one or the other as an assistant for my projects,
whether fixing something in the house or my car,
or putting together a piece of a costume. They’ve
spent the day at work with me many times. They
Adam Savage is an American industrial designer, special
effects designer/fabricator, actor, educator, and co-host of
the Discovery Channel television series MythBusters. He lives
in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Julie, and two sons.