Interview with Jacob LaRocca as told to Michael Epstein
Can you give a brief overview of what you do?
I am an Electrical Engineer by trade but I like to call myself a Prop Engineer. I have always had a passion for making things, scifi,comics, and nerd culture. My specialty medium is Duct Tape, but I love to make things from wood, plastic, foam, metal, and more. In addition to making physical objects, I also like to tinker with LEDs, circuits, and musical instruments. I love to make prop replicas, including scifi weaponry such as lightsabers and laser pistols. I Recently started cosplaying as well, and this has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.
Are there some past projects you would like to mention in more detail?
My crowning achievement is a 23 pound model of the spaceship Serenity from the TV Series “Firefly”. It has moving parts, and interior details. I even constructed a backpack frame allowing me to carry it on my back at comic and scifi conventions. While in school, I designed and built a pair of (semi)wireless MIDI tap dancing shoes that allowed me to trigger digital sounds while I dance. Rebuilding that specific project is still on my list of things to do.
Is there anything new you’re working on, or an event that’s coming up?
I have several projects that I am currently working on, including an opensource lightsaber project for several commission sabers, several prop commissions for various cosplay and scifi projects, and a duct tape model of the Planet Express from Futurama. It will be about 3 feet long. I will be displaying some of my more recent projects at Somerville Open Studios at the Artisan’s Asylum.
Why do you do what you do? What’s something you get out of it?
Doing things with my hands allows me to give a physical, tactile quality to the ideas that float around in my head. I also love a challenge, and I love learning new things. Nearly all of my projects involve me learning a new skill or technique in order to complete them. If a project doesn’t challenge me, I am much less motivated to complete it. The intellectual engagement, as well as the physical aspects of building and creating something that I can be proud of is intoxicating.
What inspired you to pursue the arts? What got you involved in doing what you do? Is there someone or something that was important in getting you on your way? (A big break you got, or a mentor who helped you, etc.)
I have always loved to build things. My parents have both encouraged my tinkering my whole life. While I was in college for engineering, I was lucky enough to have professors who were willing to fund and support my crazy ideas beginning my freshman year. Finding the Artisan’s Asylum with its huge tool resources, and its even bigger pool of people with unique skills, abilities, and knowledge has allowed me to learn more things in 3 years than I’d ever hoped, as well as helped me to establish my name as an artist, maker, and engineer. I am not sure where I would be had I not found such a vibrant community.
A profession in the arts can be difficult. Can you talk about some of the challenges?
I am lucky enough to have found a day job that supports my art and hobbies, but in the future, I will definitely be venturing into the the intimidating zone that is a professional artist/craftsman. Right now, with an unrelated day job, balancing projects for myself and projects for other people is definitely the biggest challenge.
Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston area creative scene?
When I first moved to Boston, I was worried that I would hate the city, being a New Hampshire country boy at heart, but the arts, music, and community in Somerville and Boston is so vibrant that I don’t know if I’ll be able to leave any time soon. The vast resources of skills and talents that I could never dream to have is one of the reasons.
Where can people find your work online?
At the moment people can see my completed projects on my website www.jacobmakesstuff.com. In the near future, I will be launching Rocket Props LLC as a freelance “Prop Engineer”. I frequently post progress picture to twitter (@jacoblarockr) and instagram (@jacoblarockr).