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).


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:


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…


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.


When Medieval Meets Modern

Whystler’s 3D approach to making.

Meet Whystler – a Canadian digital sculptor with a medieval bend.

How did you used to make products before Ponoko?

-I make my living selling virtual products, that is products designed in 3D for virtual worlds (ie. clothing, furniture, apartments etc).  Since I already use digital imaging programs, like 3d Studio Maze and Corel PhotoPaint, it was a simple matter of taking these skills and using them to design things for Ponoko.  Even before my career as a virtual artist, I was a potter and sculptor specializing in clay and paper.  I think this experience also translates well to 3d printing and laser cutting.

What type of products do you make with Ponoko?

-I think you might say that I am still experimenting with different angles on Ponoko.  I have created products that are recreational, like the 3D chess game and some toys.  I’ve gone into housewares like products for lighting and decor.  I tested out a table design, and my harddrive is full of other pending products for Ponoko.  I just love this service.  It really opens up the floodgates for artists who like the sculptural process.

How would you describe your creative process?

-Everything starts with a spark of inspiration:  an external source or combination of ideas hits me in such a way that I think it would translate well to laser cutting.  Sometimes I actively pursue the inspiration and sometimes it comes as a surprise.  The next step involves a pretty rigorous research period, where I spend a lot of time on internet searches.  This information not only builds on the inspiring idea, but also exposes me to what already exists on the market and allows me to make the decision about whether to continue with the project.  If something close to what I am preparing to do has already been done, I quickly lose interest.  I like new things.  Next, if the idea has survived to this point, I start drawing it in Inkscape, or I might make a 3D model as a virtual prototype.

What material/s do you use/ have you used and why?

-I think my favourite material from Ponoko is bamboo.  It has such a nice grain, the material feels good and the look is very natural.  I’ve also done a bit of work with other plywoods and acrylics.  Acrylics are nice because of the range of colours available, and the finished product looks slick with flame polished edges.

Have you been surprised by anything in the Ponoko process: positives/negatives?

-I think the fact that your service completely opens up manufacturing processes to artists that were previously only available to companies who could afford large scale product is wonderfully surprising in this age of industrial competition.  I am very grateful that folks like Ponoko, Shapeways, and Spoonflower are doing this sort of thing.

Do you have any tips for other users?

-Tip 1:  Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, but don’t be discouraged when you aren’t given all the answers you want.  Learn how to search effectively on the internet and be tireless in your quest on the Ponoko website for information.  If you really want to be a designer, no one is going to hand you information on a platter.  You have to get out there and find it.  It’s all there and really, it’s not hard to find.

-Tip 2:  Strive to be original.  If you just want to make a quick buck by copying someone else’s idea more cheaply, then this game is not for you.  You will get no enjoyment out of it.  The *real* thrill is creating something unique that you can say has a lot of “you” in it.  It’s not about making money fast.

#Neocon09 Coverage: Wrap-Up

Comparing the trends at NeoCon with independent design.


There is always a design zeitgeist that emerges from the various styles, methods of production, and materials that are popular at any given time. So, I decided to compare what I saw at NeoCon with what I am seeing from independent designers using rapid manufacturing.


Centerview: Haile McCollum of Fontaine Maury

I’ve always loved paper products and frequently send letters and cards to friends and family, but the Holidays are really the raison d’être of stationery. So for the month of December, I’ll be focusing on all the things Ponoko loves: mass customization, consumer creation and laser-cutting as they relate to paper.
One stationery company that I’ve personally had the good fortune to freelance for on occasion is Fontaine Maury. Since the spring of 2003, Haile McCollum has been designing modern, personalized graphics for everything from notepads and rubber stamps to melamine plates and canvas wall decor under the brand Fontaine Maury.

The company is soon moving into wallpaper and fabric. Patterns can be customized with silhouettes of the client’s choice. One such silhouette damask featuring Haile’s own profile along with her family is featured in the January issue of Country Living.


With her growing business and a new baby, Haile has been pretty busy. So I thought, what better time for an interview! Below, Haile talks about her love of customization, digital fabric printing, and demonstrates how to correct someone’s spelling with tact.

Me: First of all, congratulations on the baby! Give us the details: name, weight, size, hair color!

HM: William Banks McCollum, little brother of Parker. 8 pounds 3 ounces, September 10, 2007! 15 months old and a QT pie. Hair… maybe red!


Me: When and why did you decide to start a stationary company?

HM: First of all, its Stationery- ery. -ary is when you are standing still and trust me, Fontaine Maury is not standing still. So my big picture is not stationery, but personalized. I moved back to the South after a just turned 30/snowboarding stint in Jackson, Wyoming. Got to our little town, Thomasville, and needed something to DO, not being married or having kids yet, I had lots of free time and not so many opportunities that I could really dig into. I almost bought a sewing machine to do digital embroidery. I love the idea that technology would allow me to sew what I can draw. But the machine was $16,000.  I already had a printer and a computer. So I started a personalized stationery company. I also had some stationery experience and only one 4-H sewing class under my belt, and that was in 1979.

Me: How has living in the South influenced your work and company?

HM: I think that living here I am somewhat out of the inner, super fickle design loop. Which is good in a way. I might be over stimulated if I lived in Brooklyn. Dunno.

above: live oaks line the streets of Thomasville
Me: You attended school in the south as well?

HM: Yes, Vanderbilt University, BS in Human Development (one part organizational psychology, one part mojo, one part managing people in small groups). Savannah College of Art and Design, MFA Graphic Design- I actually wrote my thesis on the correlation between the industrial revolution and the technological revolution and how once artists and craftsmen eventually master the machine born from the revolution, amazing things happen. Think the arts and crafts movement as a reaction to the industrial revolution. But until the artists get a hold of the machines, and the “hand done” (does not have to be literally hand done) element into the work produced, the work is less than stellar. Example- digital fabric printing. Until artists grasp what the printers do we’ll see some pretty shabby designs produced by the developers of the technology. Not artists, engineers and the like. Once the technology is more widely available and artists (creative types) grasp what can be done, it will be amazing! It’s the missing link.
Me: Tell us your thoughts on customization. Why did you decide to offer this service? In what ways does offering custom products build your relationship with clients/buyers?


Machinate: Wordle


I found this little web tool on the Spoonflower blog. Wordle allows you to paste in text, enter a url or a del.icio.us user name to create text clouds. Above is what I got when I ran the Ponoko blog through.
You can also tweak the color palettes, create a custom palette, choose from 34 fonts and mess with the layouts some. Here’s the New Museum wordle.


And of course, you can save them to the gallery or send the image straight to your printer. I think they’d make cute post cards or inspiration posters.