Tuesday, April 14, 2015

In Memoriam: Shannon Eckhart

by Drew Martin
It's nearly midnight and I am up 3D printing tuxedo studs (right black squares in top image) because I have a black tie event for work in two nights in New York. I am fudging a real tux with a black suit and tuxedo shirt. I have a bow tie and cuff links but I do not have studs so I modeled them earlier in Google SketchUp, made some adjustments, and now I am sending them to print on my home 3D printer.

I do not go to these kinds of events often. In fact, the last one I went to was two years ago in Washington, D.C., which was the last time I saw a former colleague and friend named Shannon Eckhart. A couple weeks ago, at the age of 37 she died from a blood clot that she developed while flying on a business trip.

At the D.C. event I had the same outfit but at that time I thought my shirt had white/clear backup buttons. It did not; only stud holes. I noticed this minutes before the event and panicked. I took an old, spare black sock, cut it into strips and knotted the ends (pictured left in top image) and then I worked them through the holes so that one strip would take care of two places. It was an ingenious and desperate solution. 

Once I got to the event someone immediately commented on my artsy DIY studs and I told this person they were made out of yak hair from Tibet. Then I bumped into Shannon, who I was not expecting to see because she was already working for another company. I explained to her my wardrobe malfunction and she cracked up and spent the rest of the evening retelling the story to people we bumped into.

Shannon was high energy, full of life, and always fascinated by the arts and especially artists. Sometimes I become reclusive and take a step back from everything for a while but I need to remember how she pulled the creativity out of people because of her thirst for it. So I want to take the remainder of this post to talk about a couple things in the recent past that I have not written about, which I know she would like to hear about. One event was a talk that a Polish friend and I gave at the Polish school where my wife teaches on Saturday mornings. We spoke in Polish to a couple classes of kids about our artwork. You can see me here (second from top) signing my cartoon books for the young attendees.

The other recent thing is that I went with my two older, teenage kids on a trip to California to visit friends and family. I had planned to make videos of my friend artists: Anne Hars, Bill Wheelock, Rebecca Scalf, Bob Stang, and Kirk Maxson but when I got out there I did not feel like bothering them and putting them on the spot; it would have felt forced. Instead, I enjoyed looking at their work, hearing them speak about it without needing to record it, and appreciating the beauty of the California landscape, the surfers, redwood forests, and this special time with my kids.

I did take one picture of the Chumash Indian cave paintings in Santa Barbara (second from bottom), as well as a couple pictures from Kirk Maxson's studio in San Francisco (bottom). My 3D prints are continuing to fail tonight because my printer does not handle tiny prints very well. I think I will go with the knotted sock strips again in memory of Shannon.