Which comes first, the product or the story? A chicken and egg problem for 2019.

Posted by Anne Fletcher on

Since when do you put on make-up to get dirty "making?" Since making became infotainment about the thing being made, that's when.  I'm chuckling at myself lately as I comb my hair, put on a clean(ish) apron, tidy up the background of my work area, and get to work . . . filming myself working.  

For most of my career, making things with my hands was a private, meditative activity.   It was a safe place to try new ideas, consider them, revise and iterate until I was ready to share (or more likely, until the deadline).

Now, I’m self-consciously “making” for an audience.  Even when not in front of the camera, I'm considering the if/when/how to film a particular process.  Just the potential for future filming corrupts private thoughts. It's a total mind-bend, making me doubt my own motives.  Am I filming myself earnestly creating a genuine innovation?  Or am I creating new products for the sake of content, to tell the next chapter of the "brand story" for the content-hungry web-nets?  The chicken and egg problem for 2019:  Is storytelling in service to product? or is product in service to the story?  

I know this isn't news:  Are you on vacation to experience it or to 'gram it with your selfie stick? Etc. But it is new to me, in an everyday sense, as over the last year or so I've made a commitment to marketing Orta, and to growing into a proper business.  And that means sharing our story.  And of course, a big part of our story is how we make things, by hand right here in Oakland CA.  (See, that's me doing "branded storytelling!")  Sigh. I'm still not sure how I feel about all this.

Anyway, here with a big dose of meta, are some stills from the video I'm making for Kickstarter about the creation of our newest product, the large microgreen kit that will be available in July (The small kit is available now.  See, I'm weaving product into the story!):

I started by drafting the form onto templates, which I transferred onto plywood to make a box the exact dimensions and rough exterior shape of the finished form.

This is the positive form for what will become the negative space in the planter. It's the planting pocket, inside-out.

Carefully lining up the edges of the box to make sure the dimensions are correct. You can just barely see the positive form that will create the pocket inside the box.

The box, ready to pour plaster in. I'm claying the edges to prevent plaster from leaking out before it cures. (It leaked out anyway, as you'll see in the video!)

The blank form, just cracked from the mold. The basic dimensions are established, but now I need to refine the form.

Transferring curves from the templates to the blank.

Rouging out the bottom of the model.

Carving the feet.

Once feet are carved, the long process of refining and sanding begins.

 Before I could finish shaping and sanding the plaster positive, I had to let it dry for about a month (it was a wet, cold, spring, which slowed everything down).  After that, I stopped videoing myself.  I needed to consider the form privately as I sanded, and I needed to get the master mold done in a sensible amount of time. But now that I’m back at the computer communicating about making, rather than actually making, I’m wishing I had the footage.  Luckily, something will probably go wrong and need tweaking, and I’ll have another chance at self-conscious mold-making for the camera.

The finished model, a bit banged up after having been used to make a casting mold.Unmolding the first cast from the test mold.

The very first cast from the test mold.  Still some tweaking to do, but it's almost ready for production!


Are you a maker contending with these issues too?  How do you handle it?  Please do let me know.

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