Having created and licensed designs for years, I know that manufacturing and designing are two very different practices.
But let’s talk about the design process first.
I love postcards. I love mail art. I’ve mailed all kinds of collage-type art from post offices worldwide. Although in Germany, it wasn’t so easy. I was reprimanded for my attempt to mail hand-painted cards and was abruptly told that the post office required all correspondence be put into envelopes. Boring!
Standing in line in our small Normandy bureau de poste, I had the local mothers admiring my handiwork and clucking over how creative my children were.
And now the inspiration.
At the Left Bank Galerie Lara Vincy, 47 rue de Seine, in case you’re in Paris, I was inspired by an artist who created postcards in tin and by the rack in which to display them. I bought the postcards and coveted the rack that was not for sale. Synchronicity was at work when I met a postcard distributor who gifted me two of the racks she created for her postcard distributors.
Thirty years later, I’m still wanting to reimagine and create this now 1950 vintage rack and to make it available to others. I had arrived at the now or never moment!
Looking far and wide for someone to reproduce my idea, my reimagining.
I was on my own to figure out the where, what, and how of the manufacturing. I launched a search for a wire fabricator. With the help of industry colleagues, I started the rounds of query offshore, first in China. I found neither the quality nor the logistics of buying a container of product doable. Italy was suggested and seemed like a good idea. Again with connections, I made my query and was hopeful for a more upscale, better quality product. That idea didn’t work as the factory took forever to get back to me, we’re talking months!
The more I learned about this process the more I heard myself saying, “What I really want is to manufacture close to home.” Anywhere in the U.S. had great appeal.
I was willing to get on a plane, or jump in the car for face to face meetings — that would be no big deal compared to my other options. So I started a USA search. Thanks to the Internet, I connected with a manufacturer in Texas; that was disappointing. My next query was in Massachusetts. I was getting closer on quality, but still it was a “no go” as they didn’t seem very interested in working with me to develop the product.
Developing a product requires a series of “what if questions and issues to be considered and answered. If I was going to invest, I had to know the manufacturer was “invested” on more levels than just another order. My mantra, “I want to manufacture close to home,” was getting a little worn out and I worn down.
Early and refreshed one morning in June, I jumped onto Amazon for one last search, and voila, I found ACME Wire Products, a three generation family owned wire fabricator. My heart was pounding.
Could this be the one? I made my first query via email and received a call back from one of the three sibling principals, specifically, Mary Fitzgerald, the company president. Mary did more than call, she asked if she could come meet us at our Chester studio.
She wanted to know us, and to learn about our project. Equally we wanted to know the ACME and their operation. A reciprocal visit was made by us to see their work in action. I knew after this visit I had found a genuine collaborator and not just a manufacturer wanting an order.
The fact that ACME Wire Products is located in Mystic was a real bonus. My mantra was realized. Our “original CARDbutler” is not just USA-made but Connecticut made and manufactured right up the road making it easy for design and color meetings, sample approvals and for Mary to bring her girlfriend and cousin to our Essex launch party.
Jill Butler’s Studio Open House and Boutique takes place Dec. 3, 4, 5. For more information on product development or manufacturing, or event details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-526-5155.