Getting to know Christian Pomeroy
Developed while taking part in our Retail Therapy collaboration with Product Design Engineering students in 2015, Christian's Finnieston Crane model-kit has become a firm favourite and best-seller at GSA Shop. We interviewed Christian to find out more about his experience in developing products for retail.
You started designing these products whilst studying as part of our Retail Therapy project, tell us a little bit about that process…
I’d had the idea during a class inspiration trip to the London Design Week for a series of metal model kits representing Glasgow’s industrial heritage. I decided to start with the Finnieston Crane, as it was the most recognisably industrial part of Glasgow’s skyline. The main design for the project was my welded chopsticks, but I opted to work on both the chopsticks and the crane model simultaneously as I thought they would both work for the GSA Shop. The tutors during that project were extremely supportive of experimentation, and the whole project itself was a brilliant introduction to a lesser known side of the Product Design Engineering degree. It demonstrated to my classmates and I that there can be more to design than just working for clients.
In what ways do you feel this experience contributed to your design education?
Designing the cranes gave me experience with proper design for manufacture and assembly. As well as this, I’d never worked with photo-etching or sheet metal. The Retail Therapy project as a whole was a great opportunity to try new processes and expand the boundaries of my experience of the capabilities of materials. Playing around with drips of molten steel taught me a great deal about how steel behaves in its liquid state, and designing the cranes taught me about the mechanics and limitations of photo-chemical etching.
Where do you find inspiration and ideas for your designs?
Most of the things I work on are driven by an interest in the processes that shape them: the cranes, photo-etching; the chopsticks, welding. I’m always looking for new and interesting processes to learn about, as you never know when they might come in handy!
Can you tell us a bit about the kind of processes and materials you use?
The cranes are made out of 0.2mm photo-etched brass. The brass is fairly soft, allowing it to be easily folded and assembled, and over time acquires a nice patina befitting the industrial theme of the model. The photo-etching process uses acidic ferric chloride, and an acid resistant, photo-sensitive film to prevent the metal from being etched away in specific areas, creating the shape of the kit. The scale of manufacturing for the kits is small enough such that I can still do the packaging at home with a scalpel and laser printer, but in future I hope to outsource this to reduce the lead time on the products. In terms of processes I enjoy, the cranes aren’t very highly rated because they’re very hands-off. I do enjoy metalwork though, and I’m hoping to teach myself more metalworking skills such as silver soldering and brazing in the near future.
What were the hardest parts of developing your products and hurdles you face as a maker in starting and running a small enterprise?
Prototyping photo-etched parts can get quite expensive, as one-offs cost the same to tool up as a full production run. It can get quite intimidating to commit to prototyping something despite knowing that it will be worth it in the long run. In terms of being a small enterprise, I really don’t feel like one yet, although with luck that might change in the future as production volumes change.
And any high points that make it all worthwhile?
The commission opportunities that came from the sales of my products in the GSA Shop were a definite high point for me, but the reassurance that I can make something that customers will want to buy is equally as important.
What advice would you give to others starting to design products for retail?
Design the process involved in making them as much as the product itself. Even if making a few is easy enough, it can get very time consuming if you make a lot of them. By streamlining the production process it becomes quicker to make your product in large numbers, giving more time for working on other projects.
Has selling your work with the GSA Shop helped to raise the profile of your products?
Selling via the GSA shop has led to several clients approaching me with private commissions, which have given me further design experience and exposure. It’s also given me some confidence that becoming an independent business might be a viable living.
Give us a sneaky taste of things to come…what are your big or small plans or ideas for the future?
Currently I’m working on a model of the Forth Rail Bridge to sell in Edinburgh and Queensferry, and I’m also considering taking my final year project further, and possibly crowdfunding it to start a business.
Which other designers or makers products impress or inspire you?
I was very impressed by the elegance and design of Ellen Britton’s Patina keyrings, which were also in the GSA Shop. They have a design that seems simple but yet with such attention to detail in the finish that makes it so much more.
What’s your favourite new material to work with or colour combination just now?
I’ve been doing a lot of work with brass and copper lately, and I’m hopefully going to teach myself silver soldering over the summer for building a steam engine. As for colours, I can’t really say, although I have a friend that swears by the combination of orange and grey.
Shop our Christian's best-selling Finnieston Crane model kit in store and online.
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