Top 10 Design Star Stories of 2013

Top 10 Design Star Stories of 2013

Inspiring stories of independent designers creating products with Ponoko.

2013 was an amazing year for us and our amazingly creative customers. Ponoko customers are not only making super cool original products, they’re solving design problems for underserved markets and building successful small businesses.

#10 22 year-old Vlogger Celeb Brings You Interrobang Jewelry

Video blogger Karen Kavett has a earned a huge online following for her quirky and educational videos on design. Her audience was large enough that Karen wanted to try offering merchandise related to the topics she covered in her videos, specifically typography.

Read Karen’s story on how she launched a line of typographically inspired jewelry designs, and get her tips on building your own social media following.

#9 Photoframe Jewelry Turns Your Instagrams into Accessories

Monique Malcom thinks there are some photos that are “just too amazing to be locked in the digital dungeon.” Having already created her own t-shirt business, she decided to expand her brand with a line of photo frame jewelry that’s perfect for showing off printed Instagrams.

Read Monique’s story to learn how she hand finishes each piece and created custom laser cut gift boxes for her products.

#8 Bamboo Cake Toppers of Animals in Love <3

With a background in editorial art direction and experience running her own creative agency, design veteran Valerie Thai decided to translate her graphic designs into product designs. Her Cabin+Cub Etsy shop sells adorable cufflinks, collages, cake toppers and more.

Read Valerie’s story to find out why she loves wood and how she got the idea to make cake toppers.

#7 Creating Cloud Sculptures from Laser Cut Layers

Being an artist doesn’t mean you’re not in business. And artist Helen Reynold’s is taking control of her own career — from organizing her own exhibitions, handling marketing and PR, and managing sales. Of course, she’s also busy creating art!

Read Helen’s story on creating an installation of cloud sculptures, and why she thinks there’s a shift happening in the business of the art world.

#6 Cases and Enclosures for the Raspberry Pi Computer

As it says in the Raspberry Pi FAQ, “The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard.” And for Fabien Royer and Bertrand Le Roy, founders of DIY electronics company Nwazet, it’s the perfect technology on which to base a range of kits and enclosures for electronics hobbyists.

Read Fabien and Bertrand’s story to learn more about the Pi and the challenges they faced prototyping some of their products.

#5 Which Comes First, the Product or the Business? For iluxo, it was Business from the Start.

While most small businesses evolve from the demand of a particular product, Mariko Carandang proves that some people can simply sit down and say “Ok, I’m going to start a business.” She now designs and sells everything from city skyline clocks to locket necklaces to her popular kitty cat rings for her brand iluxo.

Read Mariko’s story for tips on starting your own business and what the biggest challenge has been for her.

#4 Dapper DIY, Fabric & Pattern Templates to Make Your Own Bow Ties

Jay Thompson is a many of many roles and… bow ties. He manages a museum gift shop, designs fabric, and makes his own bow ties. People often ask Jay where they can buy a tie like his. So Jay decided to start selling his fabric on Spoonflower and the plastic pattern templates on Ponoko.

Read Jay’s story to learn why it was totally worth it to teach himself Adobe Illustrator and check out a video on the right way to tie a bow tie.

#3 Electric Eel Wheel is a Hardware Hit with Fiber Hobbyists

Maurice Ribble’s wife Emily spins her own yarn for her knitting projects. But toting around a spinning wheel to her knitting group was a bit of a hassle. So Maurice, a computer engineer fascinated by the way things work, challenged himself to design a portable, electric spinning wheel for his wife.

“One thing lead to another, and now you can buy them on the internet,” he says. And lots of people are buying them!

Read Maurice’s story to find how he scaled his business to meet popular demand for his hit product.

#2 Think You’re Too Busy to Start Your Own Product Line? ROBOMUSTACHE Proves it’s Possible!


“I basically worked a full time job, a part time job and at the same time developed all of these ideas,” says Charles Wade, creator of ROBOMUSTACHE. It all started with a race to make products in time for a local craft fair. By creating variations of a single core design, offering DIY kits, and using Ponoko’s on-demand service, Charles was able to establish his product line and keep up with all of his professional work.

Read Charle’s story for motivation to start your own product line.

#1 Photographer Creates Camera Accessory for 150 yr old Photo Technique

Jody Ake works with a wet collodion process, one of the earliest photographic techniques, to create his distinct style of eerie, antique looking images. When the wooden plate holder, a necessary part of for his in-camera method of photography, fell apart, it was impossible to find a replacement; so Jody created his own.

The popularity of his “Ake Holder” industry-grade photographic plate holders encouraged him to start a small side business called In Camera Industries.

Read Jody’s story to learn about the design requirements for creating a device for a such a specialized process, and see examples of his excellent work.

Inspired to create your own product line? Make stuff from prototypes to production runs with Ponoko’s laser cutting and 3D printing services.

What Etsy’s New Policy Means for Ponoko Customers

Early this month, Etsy released new guidelines for Etsy shops. The new policy officially welcomes shops that use outside/outsourced manufacturers — as long as they are first “approved”.

Etsy writes that “These new policies are crafted to support a diverse community of makers, designers and curators — from the solo artisan just starting out, to the full-time seller hiring staff, to the artist who partners with a manufacturer to bring her creations to life.”

The “artist who partners with a manufacturer” should apply for approval in order to sell on Etsy. This includes all Ponoko customers using our laser cutting service to help create their designs.

According to the new policy, “Digital prints and posters, music, books you’ve authored, and 3D printed items can be sold without review.” This means that Ponoko customers using our 3D printing service to create designs do *NOT* need approval.

I contacted the Etsy integrity team and asked some questions on behalf of Ponoko customers.

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Dapper DIY — make your own bow ties!

Ponoko-made project by Jay Thomson

Jay Thomson wears a bow tie to work every day. “[People] get a kick out of seeing them, and they often will strike up a conversation with me about my tie. They’re always amazed when they find out I make many of the ties I wear,” Jay writes on his website Lavaguy.com

He wanted to wear a different tie every day, but between his day job of managing the gift store at The Barnes Foundation museum, painting beautiful abstractions, and designing fabric patterns, he was having a hard time finding the hours it took to make a single tie.

So Jay decided to find a way to streamline the bow tie making process. He designed 7 different tie shapes and used Ponoko’s laser cutting service to create acrylic templates (shown in action in the photo above).

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Spoonflower free swatch day is TODAY!

DIY on the cheap free

Our digital fabric printing friends, Spoonflower, are having a 24 hour FREE swatch day.

Get a free swatch of your own design printed on any of their 8 fabrics, or order an indie design from the Spoonflower marketplace. Shipping is also free to anyone, anywhere!

When you order your free swatch, you can also choose to a make a $5 donation to Heifer International.

Get all the details on Spoonflower’s free swatch day HERE.

Spoonflower fabric + Personal Factory project winners announced

Congratulations to the winners of our June blog giveaway

For last month’s giveaway, we asked you how you would combine design-your-own fabric printed by Spoonflower with the make-it-yourself possibilities of Personal Factory.

Our judges have picked their favorite 5 ideas, and each of these winners will get their design printed on their choice of fabric courtesy of Spoonflower.

Amy’s idea of lasercut, custom quilting templates and ombré printed fabric sounds beautiful. (Bonus: you can download the templates for free.)

Gabriella’s intimate apparel idea is fantastic: combine 3D printed underwire with printed knit or silk to create a custom fit & design bra.

Kate started off her idea entry with “Oh! Oh! I am actually already working on this!” So what’s she working on? Her own ottoman design with a CNC routed frame and printed upholstery twill fabric. AWESOME

Michael grabbed our attention with his idea for a prop, steampunk jet pack with folding wings. The wings will be created from printed linen-cotton canvas and operated by lasercut gears. We have to see this.

Tamara had a brilliant take on decorative wall art. Print a repeat pattern on some cotton sateen and then continue the pattern on a lasercut frame.

Congratulations again to our winners, and thank you to everyone that entered. And huge thanks to Spoonflower for sponsoring the giveaway!

Stay tuned to the blog for the July giveaway. We’re announcing it today.

Last chance to win your design printed on fabric from Spoonflower

contest closes June 30 at 10pm pacific

You’ve got just 2 days left to enter our June giveaway sponsored by digital fabric printers Spoonflower!

You could win a free yard of fabric printed with your own design.


How to Enter: leave a qualifying comment at the original contest announcement by June 30, 10pm pacific.

For your comment to qualify, you must:

1. Tell us how you would combine Spoonflower printed fabric with a Personal Factory project

2. specify which Spoonflower fabric from you would use*

3. specify which Personal Factory digital making method you would use**

Winner selection & Prizes: People from Ponoko and Spoonflower will pick their favorite 5 ideas to each win a free yard of digitally printed fabric in any fabric they choose.

Ideas & Inspiration: check out what ideas other people have entered and take a look at our latest Maker Story interview with Andy and Becka Rahn.

Click HERE to enter & get full contest details!


*Spoonflower fabrics include:
quilting weight cotton, organic cotton sateen, organic cotton interlock knit, upholstery weight cotton twill, linen-cotton canvas, silk crepe de chine, cotton voile

**Personal Factory digital making methods include:
3D printing, CNC routing, laser cutting

Tools For Textiles and Music

Reed tools and miniature weaving looms with Spoonflower and Ponoko

Andy and Becka Rahn have been dabbling with Ponoko service since 2008.  Becka was curious about designing puzzles, and Andy who is a software engineer couldn’t pass the geek aspect of laser cutting his own designs.  The day Ponoko crossed his computer screen, he started designing his first project.

An art and fiber teacher, Becka decided to make tiny textile tools as holiday ornaments.  She knew of plenty of people who would find miniature weaving looms irresistible.  Andy started with designing reed tools for his oboe, as he found that he was in need of a gizmo to help with the meticulous job of creating reeds for the instrument.  The couple are currently working together on a DIY mini frame loom for weaving enthusiasts.

Both Andy and Becka love working with bamboo and acrylic.  The bamboo is a favourite for its natural finish and feel as well as strength, and the acrylic colors are always an inspiration for fun, vibrant projects.  Becka combines the lasercut pieces with Spoonflower printed fabrics that she also designs.  This means that she has ultimate control over every step of the design process, enabling her to create highly individualised ornaments.

In the past, these handmade fans approached making very differently, sticking to their traditional hobby tools and techniques.  Andy found the transition to digifabbing especially natural, as he was already familiar with digital design tools.  Becka found the new design possibilities exciting and inspirational, and she loves the “whole new level of cool to the materials” that she now has available to her

More from the couple under the cut:

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Win a free yard of *your design* printed on fabric from Spoonflower

Contest ends June 30th

UPDATE: Thanks so much for entering our Sponnflower fabric giveaway. The contest is now closed and winners will be notified and announced very soon!

This month the Ponoko blog has partnered with digi fabric printers Spoonflower to give away a free yard of printed fabric to 5 winners.

Spoonflower lets you upload your own design, choose a fabric, and get your design professionally printed on to fabric.

They’ve been digitally printing fabric for the masses since 2008, and the Spoonflower marketplace is the largest collection of independent fabric designs in the world.

Spoonflower can digitally print on 7 different kinds of fabric, and winners of our blog giveaway can choose whichever fabric they like.

How would you use digitally printed fabric from Spoonflower in a Personal Factory project?

How to enter:
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment telling us how you would use digitally printed fabric from Spoonflower in a Personal Factory project.

Think about how you would combine your own textile design with your own design for 3D printing; CNC routing; or laser cutting. Or all three!

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Craft You Can Touch, Craft You Can Eat

What do preserves and digifabbing have in common?
Last Saturday’s Craft2.0 fair had Ponoko smeared all over it. Sticky, sweet and delicious, where the former and the latter aptly describe the JamOff jam making competition, while the middle is just as appropriate for the featured designs. Chromatophobic, Freestylen and Super Very proudly displayed their allegiance to Ponoko in form of banners, which attracted many questions from the public.

Keep reading…

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Ten Best Articles on the Future of Fashion, Fabric, and Adornment

Best of the Blog 2010 — fashion + textiles & jewelry

There are two big reasons why digital fabrication and mass-customization are on the rise and here to stay:

#1 People want to reclaim making. They want to have a hand in the products that populate their lives.

#2 People want products that are tailored to their individuality. One size does not fit all.

While fashion and adornment may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to a manufacturing revolution, there is no other industry with a longer history of self-making or quite the same need for absolute customization.

This top ten counts down the best examples of what the future holds for the fields of fashion, textiles, and jewelry.

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