The Joy of Making

(or, the joy of trying to make, and failing, and trying again)

For the last fifteen years, I’ve always had a day job and a night job. I’ve been lucky that my day job has allowed me to travel. And until recently, I didn’t make the connection that travel might also benefit my ‘night job’. I got my first taste of prototyping on vacation in China, when I tried to have this thing made:

Did you guess that it’s a holster for your tablet? Think Han Solo or Lara Croft–sexy and tech! Oh, but then I probably needed a different model for the prototype.

In order to stimulate interest in the Sidewinder (my name for the tablet holster) I even made an app that turns your phone or tablet into a six-shooter so that when you pull it out of your holster you hear the opening whistle from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. (Now that I listen to that full theme, I can’t help thinking that if you leave out the wild call-and-response, you basically have the House of Cards theme.)

The fun of designing something wears off the moment you have a garage full of that thing.

I’d had needle-and-thread product ideas before. (That is to say, I have a bunch of inventory in my garage). The first one was a market bag that worked like a backpack. Friends bought them. (Thanks, friends!)

By the time I got to my third needle-and-thread idea (redefining the t-shirt), I was already aware that producing things with needle-and-thread was really easy; but selling them meant producing them at an eighth of what they could be sold for.

I tried the locally made angle (‘made in San Francisco’–negative 200% margin). I tried designed in San Francisco (negative 100% margin). And my best attempts to combine marketing and social good was re-shoring to my home state of North Carolina.

But alas, making and selling something made of fabric is tough in these days of fast fashion and eternal surplus. The months tracking down paperwork over a design patent left me with little energy to pursue retailers. I still love making things with needle and thread, but after three experiments, I realized that going from design to production wasn’t sustainable. I only have so much garage space to hold inventory.