Sunday, January 11, 2009

making the mold

This weekend I jumped on my cruiser bicycle and pedaled over to Diana Fayt's San Francisco studio for a tutorial on making molds. Now, I have my man Hector at the factory who makes my molds and produces my bisqueware for wholesale, and he is my true ace in the hole when it comes to running my business. But the problem with producing at that level is the cost. When I decide on adding an item to my wholesale line, it's a big investment. Sometimes, that item may not end up selling so well, but I feel tethered to keep selling it because I dumped a bunch of dough into getting it produced. Or, I might have a great idea for an item, but if I feel it will only sell for a short time because it's trendy or seasonal, then I don't see the value in spending the money on getting production up and running on it. These two issues are things that make me feel a bit stale at times.

I've been considering this problem for a while, and the recession makes this issue even more front and center for me. If I don't want to get outflanked by this economy, I have to sharpen my reflexes and be quick to respond to what is happening. Big, cumbersome money investments into new designs and pieces feels like exactly the wrong thing to do at this moment, but sitting around and making the best of what I have seems slow and plodding. I've been obsessed for the past 3 or 4 months with the idea of making my own molds for items and slip casting them myself. That way I can test out new designs, see how they sell, and if they do great, then I can have Hector take over. If they don't, I'm not all tied down to it because the only thing I've invested is some time. Time is money, of course, but I'm finding that right now I have a little bit more of it because of the overall slowdown in business. And I'm convinced that having some mold making skills will push my work to a new and different level.

Diana knows how to make molds, so she very kindly invited me to her studio to give me a lesson. We spent all afternoon, and a bottle of wine, working on a mold for a new item that I'm in love with right now, but there is no way I can produce each one solely by hand. It makes my neck hurt just thinking about it. I found that mold making really appeals to me. You have to plan ahead, think about how it's all going to come together, and be precise. And the other great thing is that knowing I'm working on acquiring this new skill stimulates other ideas in my brain for items I can make. I used to make such labor-intensive work, which I pretty much gave up on because the effort became overwhelming. But now I can think more about making that one crazy, labor-intensive piece, and then just make my mold for it. I just can't wait to cast the first one!