Not only is the Writer's Block a fun play on the phrase, it is also a playful desk accessory. Available in either stone or wood, the simple design offers the perfect place for your notes. The pad is held up by a pencil placed through the hole at the top. This allows you to keep your pencil and notes all in one convenient place for whenever inspiration strikes.
Birdhouse ROHBAU by Torsten Klocke - $89
Taking the iconic birdhouse form, designer Torsten Klocke gave it a new and interesting twist. Using a mix of concrete and wood, the ROHBAU birdhouse is a simple blend of two materials that creates a beautiful and functional design. The inner wooden panel can be slid out to add seed or clean, while the sturdy outer shell protects its inhabitants from any type of harsh weather. The size of the house is 10x7x5 inches, ideal for many types of small common birds.
Grandpa's Fire Grill by Henrik Johansson - $20
Whether out in nature or just in your own backyard, the Grandpa's Fire Grill is a perfect way to contain your food when cooking over a fire. Made from stainless steel, the adjustable wire rack can securely attach to nearly any branch you find. This then becomes your handle as you set your food overtop the flames and can watch as it is grilled to perfection.
This is the sixth installment of Hands On, a series of informal posts dedicated to honoring the people, machines, and processes involved in making and manufacturing.
Introducing Carmana Designs
Carmana Designs, established in 1981, is a family-owned, high-end custom cabinetry and millwork shop located in the Newbold section of South Philadelphia. It was launched by Carmen and Anna Maria Vona, a highly-skilled master cabinetmaker, and an interior designer respectively. This dynamic duo turns their clients’ design dreams into reality.
Carmen learned the craft from Anna Maria’s godfather, Luigi Sammarone. After four years of training, Carmen chose to set out and start a new business. Beginning in a small 5,000 sq. ft. building, Carmana Designs quickly outgrew its location and in 1999, the Vonas purchased a complex at 1715-19 McKean Street. Built in 1912 at the turn of the century, the grand front building was the offices and showroom for the former Abbotts Alderney Dairies and the rear building housed stables for horses that pulled milk delivery carriages. The original cobblestones can still be seen in the floor of Carmana’s shop to this day. Now the 40,000 sq. ft. structure houses Carmana Designs and all of their immense woodworking machinery imported from Italy and Germany. The machinery made things faster and more precise, but did not replace the old-world woodworking techniques where the cabinets were always authentically assembled, finished and installed by hand.
Every project begins in the office at the drafting table. Carmen designs every aspect of each job in Microvellum/AutoCAD, a program that relays information to the enormous American-made CNC router in the shop. The CNC precisely cuts out the parts, effectively shaving down production costs and allowing employees (usually a team of 4-7 at any given time) to work on multiple jobs simultaneously and finish assembling the cabinetry by hand. From there, the pieces are sanded, assembled, and then taken into the shop’s double downdraft paint booth, which happens to be one of the largest on the East Coast. The piece is sprayed with a unique blend that is tailored to the client, and a proprietary high-gloss urethane sealer is often selected to deeply highlight exotic, natural wood grains. The final leg of the journey is installation, which Carmana Designs often does to ensure that the client is happy with the finished product.
While nearly 75% of their projects are for commercial use, they are often called in, (sometimes at very short notice) to craft single parts, such as tabletops and wooden legs for various designers. Both wood and corian are used to full effect in the shop and only metal has to be subbed-out to another local Philly manufacturer named Meschino Metal Works. Carmana stops at nothing to fabricate, finish and install authentic, handcrafted, high-end, high-quality custom cabinetry, millwork and case goods.
Having been in business for over three decades, Carmana Designs has enjoyed the good times and has weathered the bad -- most recently the devastating recession that put many local cabinet shops out of business. Carmana Designs is stronger than ever and proud of its legacy of handcrafting custom cabinetry for generations to come.
The experience in taking an artistic idea and turning it into a viable business has been much like a growing tree branch. There are constantly new limbs and new leaves sprouting in places you did not expect. Sometimes a leaf browns and you have to make decisions: do you add more water or do you trim the browning leaf?
Okay okay - so maybe it's the artist in me that felt compelled to create that beautiful metaphor to explain the complicated thing that is business. The fact is - it takes some time and effort to overcome the fear and hurtles of being an artist, but at the end of the day it is one of the most empowering things a creative individual can do. Creatives have an upper hand in so many ways. You can and should mix your artistic right brain thinking with newly learned left brain actions.
These aren't pieces of advice that I am suggesting will work for everyone-- rather these are the things that I've found helpful to keep in mind throughout the early life of starting a business. My hope is that others can find value in our experiences and relate them to their own work.
1. Be flexible, always. You have to be willing to learn a new skill even if you find it boring. I still dislike using excel, but once I got over that hump, I am now able to compile real information and data that in turn helps me understand where my business is, where it wants to go, and how much time and effort it may take to get to the next milestone. If you think something will take you 2 weeks, and do the smart thing and buffer for 4 weeks, it will actually take you 6 weeks. Always be flexible.
2. Be kind and modest. I have had to rely on countless friends and mentors - not only for emotional support or just as ears willing to listen - but for actions that resulted in business growth. Remaining modest has made it easy for us to find friends or friends of friends who are interested in helping and supporting a vision. Wether it be a photographer to shoot some content, or a web designer to help tweak some code, or a connection to someone in city government. If you are genuine - others will see this, and the resources and people you need will slowly but surely make themselves visible.
3. Fake it till you make it. My mother always told me this adage and for years folks used to laugh at me for simplifying the complex world of business into a one liner. If you want to be a company, talk as a company. Drop "I" and replace it for "We". You think your company is too small to be doing something? You are probably wrong and it's probably time for you to start doing that next level action.
4. Emulate those who you admire. If you want to present like Steve Jobs, you need to watch his videos, take notes, then imagine you are him at your next speech or presentation. Follow what works. Pay attention to what doesn't. You should know your market better than anyone else, which also means you are attuned to what is and is not working within your industry. Find what suits you, borrow from it, and make the changes that fit your business so you can make it your own.
5. Always be preparing for growth. One day we received an email asking for our line sheet and wholesale prices. While we had not created those documents or terms yet, I had saved a few I found online many months back that I was able to reference. This simple preparation allowed us to quickly put together an appropriate wholesale document. Our version 1 lost us some customers - so we asked around and learned from the mistakes. Now we have purchase terms that not only work well for us but that also engage retailers.
6. Entrepreneurship is all about risk mitigation and management. When starting a business you will find you are constantly in a position of making decisions. Do I order 50 or do I order 500? You need to ask your self what the safest, least risky method is for you. If you order 50 and sell out right away - will it set you back 2 months as you wait for more inventory? If you order 500 and it turns out the item is not popular - are you now sitting on a ton of wasted inventory? Do you need to create "tests" so you can measure if something is a worth while expenditure? In our case - we used Kickstarter as a platform to test the market we wanted to enter.
7. Stretch your money. Pay yourself enough to get by, only after you've put the money in the right places for your business. If you weigh the risks properly and keep on building your sweat equity - you'll have the cash you need to cover those unexpected costs.
8. Don't be intimidated. It's easy to beat your self up when you realize maybe your math skills or business skills are rusty. You may compare yourself to other successful endeavors and find it hard to imagine you making it there yourself. Stop that now and re-read #4 and #5 above. You have a creative mind and just maybe that is what will set you apart from the rest.
9. Use YouTube to learn. Seriously. The internet is a powerful tool and we ourselves use it constantly to learn. You can type almost any topic into youtube and find multiple individuals or organizations ready to share information and knowledge in an easy to watch and take in format.
This is the fifth installment of Hands On, a series of informal posts dedicated to honoring the people, machines, and processes involved in making and manufacturing.
Introducing Paper Box Studios
Our favorite thing about Philadelphia is the incredible community of artists, makers, tinkerers, manufacturers, and creative entrepreneurs. Thanks to the city's rich manufacturing past, the dearth of vacant property has left us ample space for meetups, studios, workshops, and offices, but rarely are these locations as beautiful and unique as the ones you'll find at Paper Box Studios.
Paper Box Studios, at 1639 North Hancock Street, is a 32,000 square ft. warehouse that is a space for artists and creative professionals to practice their trades. The 25 spaces available for rent range from 200 to 2300 square ft. What was originally a 1880s snuff, trunk, and paper box factory is now a fantastic blend of old and new-- A/C and heating, wifi, kitchenettes, exposed brick, restored hardwood and beams, and decorative tin elements.
Currently, the building filled to capacity, but interested tenants can sign up for the waitlist here. In addition to the rental spaces, co-working at Paper Box Studios is due to launch on September 1st, and will feature small private offices, open working areas, and access to a conference room.
Founded by local entrepreneurs Amy and Leo Voloshin, Paper Box Studios is also home to their successful textile design studio, Printfresh, which we had the pleasure of visiting.
Printfresh creates on-trend artwork for fabric that strives to be at the forefront of the fashion industry. With a client list that includes Urban Outfitters, GAP Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Mango, Roxy, Billabong, Element, American Eagle, Aeropostale, J.Crew, Justice, Pottery Barn, H&M, and Zara, it's safe to say that you've seen their work before, whether you know it or not.
Since starting in 2006, the company now employs over 20 people and deals primarily in the intellectual property business. This means Printfresh works business-to-business and does not produce finished products. They design and sells fabric prints, which are then sold to fashion designers for million and billion dollar brands to use for whatever they like-- dresses, bikinis, shawls, etc.
By forecasting up-coming trends between 12 - 24 months into the future,the design team churns out up to 115 patterns a week that are then shown and sold to leading fashion designers from all over the world and in turn, influencing the styles you see on the street.
How does someone predict what's going to be in style in, say Summer 2016? Owner Leo describes their process as "speculative design," meaning Printfresh mostly doesn't take specific direction on the characteristics of their designs. Rather, they produce what they expect to be popular in their clients' store by paying careful attention to cutting-edge fashion trends, as well as art exhibitions, and other pop culture indicators. Broadly, Leo says, "it really it comes down to whatever is influencing people." He recognizes the need to keep looking ahead: "Today's innovation is tomorrow's commodity."
Not all of Printfresh's work is speculative, but much of it is. Commission work is also welcome. For example, a client might say "We liked this piece from the Marc Jacob's runway show... can you make it in blue with butterflies instead of birds?"
Using these trends as a guide, the design team gets to work. A bunch of images pinned to a tack board gives an idea of their creative process -- patterns and photos paired with words like "folkloric," "tesselations," "inky," "magic carpet," "wanderlust," or "animal instincts."
A large number of the company's designs start as hand-drawn, in order to avoid the distinctly unnatural look that comes from vector graphics. Then they're scanned and edited, and finally printed on special paper-backed fabric. This allows them to use standard large-format printers with only minimal modifications. Next, the paper backing is peeled of, and the patterns are labeled, and they're essentially ready to go!
While it might seem simple, Leo cautions that it requires a nuanced approach. All his designers are talented artists many from the top art schools on the East Coast, but it takes an extra keen eye to be effective when working with textiles. Designers need to ensure their work answers the most basic question of all: "Can you wear it?" The challenge, he says, comes from creating artwork that is not only beautiful, but is practical for fashion, evokes an emotional response, and would appeal to the client's customers, who may be very different demographically from the designers themselves. But to the bright and highly trained artists who work here, it's a welcomed challenge.
Like the design process, the sales process is streamlined-- the printed physical samples get tossed in a suitcase and presented to clients from LA to London, who are then able to purchase them on the spot. The goods are are delivered as digital files that have been prepped and are ready to be printed.
Clients then may hand off the prints to their fashion designers, or they have the option of working further with Printfresh's CAD & Customs team. They can change colors, play with repetition and rotary characteristics, create custom designs for specific garments, digitize vintage patterns, or do whatever is necessary to satisfy client's needs and make the patterns factory-ready.
Printfresh also boasts an enormous (30,000+) library of vintage fabrics and garments ranging from the 1800s to the 1980s, which includes printed swatches, yarn dyes, antique scarves, garment swatches, full garments, unique lace and jacquards sources from all over the world. They are neatly hung and categorized by every characteristic imaginable. Need something scenic? Something geometric? Something nautical? It's all there, along with a slew of samples that exemplify special techniques like beading or embroidering.
Printfresh makes this collection available to clients locally and abroad who want to browse, get inspired, and interpret trends. Fashion is cyclical after all, and so a collection like this is simultaneously a window into the past and the future.
Our intention with Hands On is to provide a resource for small businesses, artists, and budding entrepreneurs. Printfresh is somewhat of a departure from our usual feature, because their clients are typically million dollar brands. We chose to feature them because even if your business is not this large, our hope is that you found this instructive. Perhaps it helps you to realize the diverse possibilities that exist at the intersection of art and business. Or maybe one day your business actually will be doing millions in sales, and you can work with Printfresh. Who knows? Maybe this will simply inspire you to approach the business world with an open mind, and seeing the success that Amy and Leo have enjoyed, you will be moved to start your own business, and as Steve Jobs was fond of saying, "make a dent in the universe."
To learn more, visit PrintFreshStudio.com. Special thanks to Karen Randal and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for facilitating this trip.
Ceramics artist Ben Medansky is breathing new life into the world of pottery. While his pieces vary from simple to complex, each vessel has a clear design intention and unique style. Whether through geometric shapes added to the walls and lips or the unique glazing patterns, the pieces present both a minimal beauty and sometimes-complex form that is truly distinctive. His work has a real modern "Memphis" feel to it. Check out his website if you’d like to purchase some of his wares or his instagram where you can get a behind the scenes look at the studio.
Valet Trays by M&U co. - $55- $88
When I get home the first thing I do is empty my pockets of that days contents. Coins, keys, and my wallet all get set-aside on the first surface I can find which then ends up looking like a disorganized mess. Instead, keep your miscellaneous pocket cargo in these stylish hardwood valet trays by Maxx & Unicorn. Available in a 6” diameter circular size, or a larger 7”x10” rectangle, these catch-alls are made from sustainably harvested woods and manufactured here in the USA.
Ceramic Flask by Misc. Goods - $92
It’s not often that you see a new take on a design as timeless as the metal tin flask, but Misc. Goods have made a gorgeous white ceramic cast flask that would accent any space nicely. Entirely crafted in the USA, each flask measures 4.25 x 6.5 inches, and is finished with two different tanned leather straps, front and back embossing, and eye-catching brass hardware.
Makr Tumblers by Makr - $28
There is a definite beauty to be had in keeping an object pure and simple and these attractive handcrafted tumblers by Makr studio are at the epitome of minimal design. They are available in three different sizes from tall, short, and flared, as well as, a finish in copper, white, or gray. No matter which you choose they will go perfectly holding your favorite cocktail.
Our brand new "Experiment Selects" page is dedicated to those little experiments we perform here at our home office.
Maybe it's a special outer engraving or maybe it's a unique color combination, either way - these are our most unique styles.
Raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens...here are a few more of our favorite things from great designers around the world!
Box Kit by Hard Graft - £149 (Around $250)
I remember my grandfather's old Dopp kit (doesn't every grandfather have one?) and it looked just like this. Handmade in Italy, this compact square-ish leather bag with a foldover top could be use for anything from toothbrushes to tech gear to art supplies. Visit their site for more gorgeous bags and luggage of leather and other materials.
White Oak Cutting Board by Minam - $120
Cutting boards are the epitome of minimalist design-- just a plain slice of wood that puts the natural grain on show. There's not much room for improvement, but we think Minam's simple addition of a leather loop adds the perfect amount of interest. Cut on one side and use the other for display. Made by hand in U.S.A., and based in our very own Philadelphia. Great town, Philly. :)
Stash Box by Triumph & Disaster - $142
Aside from having my favorite brand name in recent memory, Triumph & Disaster also happens to make some amazing products. This stash box features anatomical and botanical drawings that resembly an old-timey apothecary, which can be used to stash whatever your heart desires once you use up the men's grooming products that are included. "Rock & Roll Suicide Face Scrub"? I don't understand it, but I think I like it.
Full Disclosure: We do NOT have affiliate relationships with any of these brands, and we do not benefit financially from featuring them. We just wanted to share some cool things we think our fans will appreciate.
It's free to the public and opens this weekend, June 14th-15th. We will have our watches on display on the 14th.
In 1999, the event began as an exposition of quality work at affordable prices, with everything from jewelry, paintings, photography, fashion, and ceramic ware priced at $199 and under.
Now, the weekend-long fair allows attendees to navigate a space bursting with arts vendors, live musical performances, culinary curiosities, and an outdoor beer garden. The addition of a Friday night ticketed preview party serves as a meet-and-greet with the artists and a fundraiser for AIDS Fund, giving guests an exclusive sneak-peek at the festivities to follow.
This is the fourth installment of Hands On, a series of informal posts dedicated to honoring the people, machines, and processes involved in making and manufacturing.
From Magnetic Shileding to High End 5th Avenue Fabrication
Amuneal was started in 1965 by Harriet and Sy Kamen, and their dog named Spencer in the back of a candy shop. Sy was an electronic salesman back then when his customers noticed that their components were becoming sensitive to the magnetic fields. He saw the opportunirty and together they both started Amuneal, a business focused on magnetic shielding. They use a special proprietary technique that shields from earths magnetic field. Semi conductors, for example, require magnetic shielding. They moved to the present day location in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia in 1975.
So what's their name mean? The "mu" is a reference to mu-metal, that material used to build magnetic shields. The "neal" references the annealing cycle used to process magnetic shield. The "A" was thrown into the front to ensure favorable placement in industry listings at the time, thus creating the name Amuneal.
With shifts in government contracts and general industry changes within the elctronics realm, Amuneal had to grow and expand it's operations. In 1993 son Adam took over. They are an example of manufacturers evolving with the changing times and technologies.
At one point, Amuneal was one of the countries top suppliers of magnetic shielding. Today, the business is seemingly split. They still do magnetic shielding, but the majority of the business these days comes from custom fabrication projects which vary from major luxury retail clients such as Barneys New York, high end architecture firms like Roman and Williams, and for high caliber artists such as sculptor Mikyoung Kim. A smaller part of the business is focused on their "Standard Products" line of furniture and displays. "The Collectors Shelving System" recently went viral on social media site Pinterest. "In one day we had 50 calls" said designer Connell Carruthers.
Where, What, and Who
Today Amuneal is made up of 3 factories and 1 showroom, all right here in Philadelphia. Their newest location is near the airport which will allow them easier access to their manufactured designs final homes all around the world.
Their specialty is in unique metal finishing, specifically, in replicating vintage metals. They can spray zinc, pewter, bronze, stainless steel, brass, etc. onto almost any substrate. They also do work with wood, plastics, glass, upholstry, etc. Theirs no material they haven't worked with.
The team of about 108 employees hold mixed and varied backgrounds. Some of the creative work happens within the office, with folks who have industrial design backgrounds, who work with clients, and spend time rendering concept models and final plans. Other machinists, creatives, and fine artists work in the main warehouse behind the office. This is where the magic of fabrication happens. It's also where they have their industrial hydrogen powered ovens, for the magnetic shielding and metal treatments, which heat up to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Everything is calculated - from the time of day they use the ovens to how quickly to cool material.
Above the factory floor is a special room affectionately called the "Finders" room. This space houses a beautiful collection of vintage materials, books and prints. This is where they go to calm the mind, to brainstorm, and to find inspiration for a new vision.
When work comes in that requires some extra special skills, they turn to Groundwork or Robert True Ogden. Amuneal holds these relationships dear as these companies all share ideas, processes, and vendors. They even share The American Street Showroom, a former electric company substation turned into a showroom that highlights creative vision and fabrication.
While Amuneal seems to be operate in a niche market, they are open to taking on smaller jobs, especially creative ones. They have done one-offs, to small runs, to huge million dollar projects. Their expertise is varied and their excellence in materials really shines through. This gets us excited - because you never know, maybe one day we'll get into copper and brass plated timepieces?
To learn more, visit www.amuneal.com. Special thanks to Karen Randal and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for facilitating this trip.
- Amuneal uses a local metal supplier right next door in NJ
- They opened their own wood shop this year
- They get 4-5 project quotes a day
- On average, they require a 6-8 week lead time for fabrication projects.
- Amuneal is ontop of it's environmental game. All fluids are drain and captured to later be taken away by a chemical disposal company. They recycle all of their metals and have a low-VOC paint booth. They are pro-active in their relationships with environmental agencies.
-They have a meeting once a month to discuss employee and business health. Once they had an employee express concern over the air quality - so the company did tests in 5 locations for 48 hours. The final results? The air was of a healthy level.
A teacher in primary school in Tanzania teaches her students tree-planting techniques before turning them loose to plant seedlings under her supervision. Training is an important part of our partners, Trees for The Future, tree planting initiative -- their technicians provide the seeds and the agroforestry knowledge, and local farmers and communities do the hard work of growing and maintaining the forest gardens. When buying a watch or wallet, you are contributing to their initiatives to restore our beautiful earth.
This is how a forest garden usually starts: with a handful of tree seedlings planted in bare ground. Within five years, this land in Honduras will look like the lush arrays of trees and plants you'll see in Trees for the Futures other projects around the world. Forest gardens help to shade the land, hold moisture in the soil, and provide food and cash crops for local farmers. Changing lives, changing the planet.
This weekend was a complete whirlwind of celebration, emotion, and success. We had our official launch party at our new showroom here in Philadelphia!
We had an amazing turn out, some folks won watches in our raffle, we unveiled our new Carpenter Card Holder Wallet, and we enjoyed amazingly delicious Cambodian desserts by Philadelphia's own Moulika Anna Hitchens and Tim Hitchens of Koliyan. Drinks and hugs were flowing and no words can express how great that night felt!
Most photos above taken by Scott Rudd Events.
"I’m always looking for ways to express myself through what I wear. Everything from my boots up to my glasses, it all represents who I am. I wasn’t the biggest fan of wearing a watch in the past, not because I didn’t like them, but because I never found one that fit my style.
Being a photographer, I’m constantly experiencing the outdoors and the beauty it has to offer, so finding a product that translates this into my everyday attire is truly inspiring. The watch itself is very high quality, even the packaging is nice. To see so much effort put into a product really does make me proud to wear it and I’m sure I will purchase more in the future.
One last thing, I had a few questions when I first received the watch and Analog was very quick to respond and resolve my issue. Customer Service A+++.”