10 questions with Chris Wire, owner of Real Art & Proto BuildBar.
By Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
Chris Wire is a busy man. It would be enough to embrace his role as owner of creative agency Real Art, with locations in Dayton, Chicago and New York. But now he’s started Proto BuildBar, a combination 3D printing lab, electronic maker space and bar/café. We talked with him about Proto, Real Art and the resurgence of the maker.
Why is this the right time for the success of Real Art and the birth of Proto BuildBar?
We’re seeing the resurgence of the maker market, in which people are generating new ideas and constructing them themselves. The Dayton area really has very much a maker vibe, in which people are willing to build and construct their own visions. We take advantage of that when we find new employees for Real Art and for Proto.
What do you look for when you hire someone?
When we hire someone at Real Art, we always ask, “What else can you do?” Can you weld, knit or paint? One of my favorite things to ask in an interview is, “What do you do in your spare time?” We always need these talents to get jobs done, and that spilled over into Proto.
The combination of 3D printing and a bar/café space is unique. How did that come together?
Proto takes advantage of the perfect storm of 3D printing and the maker market. Right now, people know about 3D printers, but they don’t have their own yet. It’s like the time before people had their own color printers; they’d go to places like Kinko’s to get their printing done. We’d like to see them come to Proto in the same way.
Why would someone go to Proto rather than a dedicated 3D printing or build space?
There are a lot of maker spaces in the area, but they can be a little bit cliquey and intimidating. At Proto, our staff is in tune with asking what people are into and then helping them get started. Our goal is to get people over the threshold to being a creator.
What has the reaction to Proto been?
Proto has met with a fantastic reception. On Valentine’s Day, we even had one couple get engaged in our space. I sort of wanted to see them 3D print an engagement ring.
So what’s your secret to success?
The secret to our continual innovation, both at Proto and Real Art, is we’re always looking at what’s new. It’s part of our DNA as designers; it’s hard-wired into who we are. We’re always asking if we’re good enough.
Real Art has always been known for innovation. How do you keep the ideas flowing?
We’re so good at innovation because we get bored quickly. We’re always ready to move on to the next thing.
How do you keep your employees enthused about innovating?
We’ve never had a siloed work environment. Maybe that’s a function of our size; maybe it’s a Midwestern vibe of doing it yourself. But no one is penalized here for trying something new, even if it doesn’t totally work.
What’s next for you?
I hope that Proto can expand to other cities across the U.S.
Anything else you’d like us to know?
The crew here is everything; they’re the reason for our success. I’m just a component of the whole.