I had been making beads for about 4 years and was very into Trading Spaces. This prompted the “reveal” each night when I opened the kiln. I live near my parents, so I’d head over with the new beads each night. Mom always wanted jewelry made from something I showed, and dad would always give his critique. He was increasingly impressed with my work, and the improved skills. It was such an encouragement.
I stumbled across a lentil press online. The product was cumbersome and looked awkward to use, and dad and I started critiquing and redesigning. In the discussion, I mentioned how cool it would be to have something similar but square, like a throw pillow. Dad told me how challenging that would be to manufacture. This was the first time, in what would turn out to be many times, that dad would tell me how hard something was to make, and then wow me with it later. We (mom and I) tease, that is how he keeps us thinking he’s Superman. If he told us it was easy, we wouldn’t be impressed when he made it happen, but saying it’s difficult, he can be our hero, and he often is.
That Christmas he wowed me with my very own Pillow Press. It was beautiful and worked perfectly. I had so much fun making beads with it. Then I added some to the gallery of a popular lampworking forum. I had no idea what I had just done with the uploading of that simple image. Within a couple days, I had 30 emails asking me how I did that. No one had ever seen something like this before. It was clearly not made with the tools on the market. As I said, lentils were not new, you can even hand shape rudimentary versions with a spoon, but square pillows! Clearly folks were excited.
Original Press Made for Christmas of 2003!
I talked to dad, who said he could get a CAD drawing for me to shop around to local machinists to see about getting a small production run. I did that, and after 2 guys almost laughed out loud when I showed them my prototype and idea…crazy artsy girl…I found Walter who agreed to do a run of 50. I bought that run and dad and I got to work in his basement, side by side talking and finishing tools. It was a special time in our relationship. He was showing his girl how to work with metal, a passion of his since his late teens. Our family had suffered a great loss only a few months earlier, and this time together gave us an opportunity to talk about, and process the feelings that hung in the air, in a way I’m sure we never would have been able to do otherwise.
After completing the 50 tools, I contacted the 30 folks, who had spurned on the production run. They bought theirs, and began spreading the word. We sold the first 50 in just 2 hours. My dad came home from work that day and I told him I had sold all 50, and had already placed an order for more. He thought I was joking. When I wasn’t, he admitted to my mom, he was afraid I was going to be stuck with half the original 50, and couldn’t believe I had sold them already. Walter kept producing more tools, dad and I spent most nights in the basement working away.
It has been 8 years and we still do all the finishing ourselves. Through the ups and downs that happen in family life, including the extended illness and death of my grandmother, and the birth of my two girls, we work as a family, to bring the highest quality lampworking tools, to a community of amazing and creative artists. This business has been a delightful journey and we appreciate everyone who has been with us on the ride.