Thursday, June 24, 2010

Annual Etsy Party and the DIY movement

Last week was Etsy's Annual Party for crafters and artisans. There were tons of local artists and the entire thing was run by Amanda Fisher who was wonderful. There was make your own terrariums and a great DIY movie on the crafters movement in the US. I had a great time meeting new faces and sitting in the comfie couches at the independent studio in NoDa. It was fun to meet a number of fellow crafters and my favorite was getting to watch Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl. AND THE CUPCAKES! Moist bites of delectable strawberry sunlight. I was seduced by cupcakes.
Watching the video really gave me a chance to see artists all over the country making it and not at their craft. For me the interesting thing to see that most artists start out at a similar income level and experience. The marked difference between successful artists started not at the level they began on, but where they grew to. It's a good reminder to all of us that success involves learning from your mistakes as much as anything. And being willing to think that there can be better ways of doing things out there. The most successful artists looked for ways to do things better and the least successful artists talked about how the industry has not changed in 100 yrs or 1,000 yrs. Technology moves forward, the question is if you will embrace the change or not.
The other thing I noticed was automation. At some point any artist has to accept that systems allow a person to get more done. This involves moving from a hobby to a trade. I thought this was a great movie and wonderful insight into living wages as an artist. Because the drive for any artist is to develop unique one of a kind pieces and that has to balance against the cost of doing business.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vstitcher and CAD Design

So for everyone who has done painstaking handmaking, draping, and all the other slow...tedious...annoying pattern designing for shows, there's now a great Jewish company: Browzwear that's offering awesome 3-D pattern making on avatars. It saves a boatload of time, plus you can completely customize patterns to fit various size and body types. This reduces a huge amount of the time and resources needed to produce design samples. In the next 10 years, I think that everyone will be designing their own custom clothes online as a personalized designer. This is probably the single most powerful design tool on the market today and a great company. If you want to see a demo of it and are in the Charlotte (or North Carolina region), you can contact Kevin Gray Pone 704-658-8050 or Gerber Technology appears to license the technology in this country.

The features that impressed me most where interaction between the 3D avatar and the actual CAD program so that any design patterns you render in 3D go back to the 2D pattern. There's probably a lot more you could say about how practical this is for shaving months and $$$ off the design cycle, but just watch the video on the Browzwear link. I think it's one of those a picture is worth a thousand words.

Next week: Etsy Crafter Party

Monday, June 7, 2010

Automation in the Design Industry

So this past week, I have been hired to work full-time first shift at an industrial design/manufacturing company. They do large scale jobs mostly and working there has really changed my mind about both where the textile industry is headed as a whole and how far apart the home seamstress is from a successful industrial seamstress these days. The biggest differences are not the sewing machine. Many of the professional seamstresses and design students I know in college these days still use dress forms, painstakingly grade patterns, and cut it all out by hand.

Industrial companies.....don't. And they save a lot of time and energy doing so. The two biggest differences are in terms of using CAD software to store and design patterns and auto cutting machines which take the designs directly from the computer and cut them out into pieces on the table. This allows one operator to cut and create 3-4 times faster according to them and the quality is consistent every time. I actually think that the biggest difference is that design to finish product can be done in a 1 day- 2 weeks instead of the typical 18-24 months in the industry today. This is the single biggest gain no one seems to realize in terms of reducing lead product design to product time. Also CAD programs can be scaled and changed quickly with a few clicks of a button. This eliminates the TEDIOUS draping, forming, and marking that makes pattern designing a multi-hour or day long process for me personally.

And by working smarter, not just harder, they've managed to create a good working environment with good wages, benefits, and still turn a decent profit. I think it's a lesson for the rest of us in America. If we want to be making $20-30 hr., we need not to be whining about how people need to pay us more, but actively be figuring out ways to cut costs and increase productivity.

And the bottomline for me watching everything is that being tech savy is the way to go. Because good technology changes the work flow, not just tweaks productivity. I think it's far too easy to keep trying to get better at one's craft and getting slightly better at using one's time. It's far harder and more necessary to learn new ways of doing things that change the ACTUAL order of magnitude for the way things are done. If you haven't see an industrial cutter before, you can watch this youtube video here: It's a generation or two behind what we are actually using at work, but it gives you a good idea of the basics.

Next week, my favorite CAD designs on the market right now for textiles.