I am an artist and the Founder of Allyson Block Designs. I know painting, and I now know a little bit about manufacturing in the USA.
My experiences are unique to me, but they must translate to others as well. I started with an idea of how I wanted something made. I found a local person to cut and sew some samples. And that person was great, easy to work with, and produced a great product, so much so that I decided to move forward and try to sell these products. However, the person I had found was not interested in doing production, so I was left with the task of finding a cut/sew manufacturing facility to help me.
My journey has been winding and, for the most part, unfulfilling. I explored factories that wanted to take my only sample on trust to make their sample. And when I said no, they showed me the door. I thought the point was for them to take the measurements and make the sample. Why did they need my sample? The egos at play were large; if I did not trust them with my only sample, I could not work with them to make me one of their own. Needless to say, I did not return.
Frustrated but still hopeful, I worked with a company that seemed more like “family.” They charged a lot for samples but seemed to be more personable and, in the beginning, gave me a fair quote. However, that quote seemed to rise as the samples were actually made. The leather handles on the samples were made with extra leather lying around the factory; that same leather would not be used for the final product. How am I supposed to visualize the final product, I thought? It is impossible.
Deflated but not despondent, I tried again. The next factory was personable and more informal. I thought I had found my destination. In some ways, I had, as the emotional connection was strong. The product samples were made at a fair price and often to my liking. The problem occurred when the samples began to differ from my specifications without explanation. The facility sometimes made samples based on what they thought I would like or what materials they had on hand rather than what I had requested.
Upon confrontation, no explanation was given, and no apology was imparted. It left me feeling like I have to accept that getting it right 70% of the time was the only answer.
In addition to these frustrating events, neither facility allowed me to work with and manipulate items in progress. It is impossible to explain the frustration regarding the loss of control for an artist who usually determines every mark on a canvas. With these experiences in hand, I decided to STOP the madness and look toward my abilities and resources. Namely, my husband and I decided to take a few sewing classes and begin the process of learning to sew these items ourselves. Although not sewing experts, it allowed me to take a step back, research handbags, engage with startup zoom webinars, learn about sustainable materials and think about how I might want to shift my company as I move forward.
“Everything happens for a reason” came back to mind, and I am hopeful this is true! I will keep you posted on my journey and wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season!