Mo For All

Can you grow a mustache as stylish as this?

Winter is almost here, at least if you’re in the Northern hemisphere, so it’s time to wrap up warmly.  If you find all that layering a little depressing, Nathan Pryor’s HaHaBird neckwarmers will surely put a grin on your face.  Even if you can grow a trendy mo of your own, you may want prefer a slightly lower level of commitment and opt for a comical growth of leather or felt.

How did you come across Ponoko? I came across Ponoko in Wired magazine a year or two ago.  My first thought was “that’s really cool,” but I didn’t have any projects in mind.  When I eventually realized a use for it, I had the hardest time tracking down what I’d seen and spent hours searching for Nokoko, Konopo, Poko, and every other variation of the name I could think of.

How did you used to make products before Ponoko? In the case of the mustaches,

they were all hand cut from multiple layers of fabric and stitched together to get the depth and layering I wanted. It was time-consuming to the point of being non-viable economically, and I was getting frustrated at throwing away half of them due to construction problems.  There’s no way I could have done the leather ones before Ponoko.

I only started making with Ponoko about five months ago, but I don’t know how many times before that first order I uploaded designs, calculated prices, then bailed at the last minute.  I wrestled a lot with the worry that I was betraying the handmade ethos by bringing laser cutting machines into the process. I eventually decided that laser-cutting was to hand-cutting as machine-sewing was to hand-sewing, and since I had no problem using the sewing machine I shouldn’t have any with the laser cutter. Ponoko has let me create patterns that would have been impossible (for me, at least) to make by hand.

How would you describe your creative process? It starts with writing down on my phone — because it’s always with me — every silly idea I have that I otherwise would have dismissed or forgotten by the time I was able to do something with it.  Then I can review the list later, expand on the good ideas, and rearrange them (not-so-good ideas to the bottom; never deleted). After that, lots of sketching and scribbling, staring off into space, and mocking up with paper, cardboard, and scraps of whatever material is appropriate before I get to the computer stage.  I work on the computer full time in my day job, so I’m not always eager to go back to it for my creative time.

Have you been surprised by anything in the Ponoko process: positives/negatives? A few things have surprised and impressed me, but in retrospect they really shouldn’t have.

One was when I got my very first order into my hands, held the cut pieces against the printed file, and they lined up precisely.  Logically, it makes sense, but it was still a “wow!” moment. A lot of creative doors opened up in my mind right then.

The second surprise was when I had a question about a mistake in a file I’d uploaded too eagerly and without thorough review, and the support I got was so prompt and personable.  Sure, machines are doing the production work, but there so many great people involved and willing to help out.

The only negative related to variations in the finish of materials between orders.  It wasn’t an issue in the end, but it did catch me by surprise.  Considering they’re natural materials (leather, in this case), I suppose it’s to be expected, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re working with material from two different runs and identical fit & finish are critical.

Do you have any tips for other users? – Get your design off the computer screen before you upload it: print it, cut it out, assemble mockups and make sure everything fits and is the size you think it is. It’s easy to lose your sense of scale onscreen.

– A good idea can wait a day or two: I was so enamored with the magic of “design it/upload it/have it made” that I raced through the process from idea to upload in about an hour once, when I should have sat on it a little longer, reviewed it, and tested it. As much as I wish it were, it’s not quite like simply sending a file to the printer on your desk.

– Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to get a productive use out of every last square inch of your material.

– Make some of your own test pieces in the scrap you’re not using:  try engraving at different depths, even if it’s not something you’ll use in your current project, so that you’ll have a reference later.

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