Rise’s Radical Renegade is a monthly series featuring interviews with trailblazing career mavens. Meet Rebekah Thornhill, founder of R+D – a company making 3D printing jewelry that is bold, colorful, and kitschy.
Why did you start your company and what motivates you every day?
I feel like I fell into 3D printing. My husband was gifted a printer after I had left a toxic job. I have a background with graphic design and started tinkering with 3D rendering to keep my skills sharp and even build new ones. The business parts fell quickly into place especially as I started doing markets and selling online (October 2017). I am motivated to do more because women are not widely represented in 3D printing, technology, and the maker movement. I also love being able to show people a more practical and usable way to use 3D printing (it’s not just figurines or geometric pieces). Some of my best moments have been when I get to talk to kids about it and hopefully inspire them towards creative STEM related fields.
What are some of the major lessons you’ve learned along the way?
That doubt is a waste of everyone’s time. Although I am confident in many other ways, I wasn’t initially confident about my ability as a self-directed designer and manufacturer. I sometimes felt like I didn’t deserve to have a voice as a beginner or someone who did things differently. Even though I did eventually get recognition and validation, I had already done so much for myself and surpassed my own measure of success.
Tell us about a setback you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
Anyone who has ever worked with 3D printers can confirm that they fail. A lot. Sometimes failure comes because of something you can identify (design, materials, calibration, settings), but other times it happens for reasons you simply cannot find or control. I couldn’t let failure define my process or my success. Also, in a previous job I had an office with a beautiful long view of the Hudson River and downtown Manhattan, but in this job I was trapped and told to just follow instructions and nothing more. Now, although I literally look out a window to a brick wall, I have the full freedom and agency to create a world I want to live in.
What advice do you have for women who feel stuck in their careers?
Quality of life is important and happiness should never be compromised for an extended period. Also, put yourself out there every day; somedays it will be a little task or something with minimal risk. Other days it will be a giant leap of faith that takes all the courage you can muster.
We all know how difficult work/life balance is. How do you draw the line to create separation in these two spheres?
I am not always good at this. But what I try to do is remember that balance happens in lots of ways. Sometimes blurring the line between work and play helps to create more opportunities for my soul to be nourished. I will also unabashedly turn off my phone or leave it on the opposite end of the house at times.
We love to support women-founded ventures. Is there a company/product that you’ve come across recently that you think more people should know about?
I love the products from Provisions by Kat. They are all solid and they all work. They make me want to use essential oils in my daily life.