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The Process with Timmy Mays

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For me, design is means of problem solving. Most of what I make starts with my need, then that need becomes an idea. Not to be selfish, but if it’s not something I’d carry or wear myself, the buck stops there. I first started making bags because I couldn’t find anything that was loveable and affordable. This was my ‘problem’. I’ve always had an interest in textiles and construction, so I decided to make a bag of my own that had all the features I needed. Problem solved! I’ve been hooked on making since.

My best ideas come organically. When I pressure myself to come up with an awesome idea within a time constraint, it’s usually not something I truly believe in. I’ve learned not to force my creativity and to just let the ideas flow. As artists, we have a lot of things on our minds. It helps me to get those things on paper, so that new thoughts can freely come in. This is how most of my pieces start. I’ll go through several rough sketches or doodles before I land on a design that I not only like, but might also translate three dimensionally. Since inspiration could strike at any time, I have drawings scattered in different places – sketchbooks, old mail, napkins… this gets messy and I haven’t found a way to really organize all these random drawings. I’m sure this is a challenge for many.

Once I feel I’ve got a good sketch to go by, I start working out a design in 3D. I begin making a very rough pattern out of paper and tape. This allows me to check my measurements and forms. I go through a lot of paper, because the first one is never perfect. It can be difficult to work this part out, since paper behaves quite differently from actual materials I’ll use. I’ll have to check my measurements again and again throughout the paper process, but at least this gives me a chance to catch major issues in an economical way.

When I’m comfortable with the paper pattern, I’ll use that to make a real sample out of scrap materials. I’ll pick materials that are as close to my ideal end product as possible. I prefer using scraps because it’s very likely this first sample won’t be spot on. Still, I aim to make it as visually appealing as possible. I don’t want to waste any efforts and I’ll probably use the sample at some point. To build, I use tools that are very simple and manual – scissors and carving knives to name a couple. Every piece I make is done with my two hands, from cutting to finishing details.

I assemble all the pieces once cut, many times using cement to keep things locked in place. It makes it easier for me to sew, plus it adds additional bonding strength to the end product. If I’m using hardware, I’ll attached those too, securing in place with cement if needed. Since my aesthetic tends to be minimal, I like to focus on final touches to highlight the care and effort that went into each piece. I might add a glaze or paint to complete the look.

I think it’s important to test run my samples to make sure they hold up, so I’ll use them until I feel they’ve been through enough. This helps me work out any kinks. If I really like what I’ve made but it still needs refinement, I might have to re-make a sample for a final once over. Sometimes, I end up not loving what I’ve made at all. It’s really common for me to have prototypes that don’t ever make it past that stage. I used to get upset with myself when this happened; I would think… what a waste of time that was! I now realize that some ideas take longer to develop; it might be 3 or more samples down the road before it’s reached full potential. I’ve got a handful of samples that I keep around for visual inspiration. There’s been times that I go back to a prototype after months of staring at it, because I finally had an aha moment. Again… the best ideas are organic!

It’s gratifying to finally arrive at a sample that I’m proud of, one that I feel warrants a small batch run. This is however, my least favorite part of the process. Doing repetitive tasks can get tiresome physically and mentally. And to be honest, spending hours on just cutting alone isn’t fun. But, this is the beauty of being in control of every step. When planning a small batch run, I break up my tasks into smaller, more digestible phases to keep me from getting bored. It’s also a good way to keep me on my toes. If I’m switching it up every so often, I won’t feel robotic and unconnected to what I’m doing. I do the best work when I feel personally attached to my craft. Having a hand in every piece makes the process very satisfying. At the end of the day, I want to feel good and proud of what I’m putting out there. Seeing others enjoy my work is greatest reward and the icing on the cake.


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