A look at the entire process behind a single item—in this case, Tina Frey’s joyful pink Champagne bucket.
“Making things has always been part of my life—but it never even occurred to me that it could be a career,” says Tina Frey, now a San Francisco-based designer. “When I went to university, I did a biology degree with a minor in chemistry. I thought, Maybe that’s what you do—you choose something that’s not easy.” That not-easy “something” for Frey was finance; she became a CPA and eventually a regional director for luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. Nothing clicked. “I had the opportunity to exit, and I said to myself, ‘If I don’t do this now, I’m never going to do it,’” she says. Frey showed up at the San Francisco Gift Show with her first collection—a grand total of two bowl designs—in 2007. “I remember walking through the show and seeing all these elaborately built-out stands,” she says. “I didn’t even have order forms.”
Frey’s work was good enough to earn the attention of buyers. Her timing—debuting her line in the opening months of the global banking crisis—was less than ideal. “There were days when I was happy to get a single order,” says Frey. “I definitely did wonder if I did the right thing, especially during the years when people didn’t understand what resin was. It would have been so much easier to go back to finance and having an income again.” Frey, though, persevered. Here, the San Francisco-based designer shares how she made the transition from college biology major to corporate CPA to artisan.
“Even when I was working in finance, I was always looking at things. I spent six months of my time with LVMH as a regional director in Guam, an island so small you can drive across the narrow part in half an hour. It was amazing, with incredible scuba diving, and I found myself so inspired by the ocean. I love the sea—the blue, the colors, the sea life, the organic nature of things.”
“Having a background in chemistry helped me understand what resin really is. Part of the fun of working with resin is the color variations. I like the translucent colors—they remind me of colorful candies, especially when you mix them together. I did think about working with porcelain or ceramic, or glass. Porcelain didn’t offer the translucency; glass did, but it didn’t have the same sculpted aspect to it. This marries them.”
“I work with resin a bit differently than many people. When I create a piece, I sculpt it first—you’ll actually see my fingerprints in the finished piece. That’s how I can translate something directly into the object. Then they’re cast and hand-finished. Early on, I tried working with a computer-generated 3D shape, but it was kind of generic, less unique.”
“One of the things I like to do is make something multipurpose. I knew I wanted to do a Champagne bucket—it’s the sort of thing that I knew I needed, and you think, when I need something, other people might have a need for it as well, especially with California being a big wine area. But you can put all sorts of things in a bucket—magazines, anything—and I made it with that mindset of economy.”
“When I started, I was still consulting in finance four days a week—then three days, then once a month. I know sometimes people can be fearful about making a change, especially if it involves walking away from something that’s really stable. There were definitely moments of self doubt—but if you have a dream and you really feel it, if you really believe in it, you’ll be successful. I’m not out of ideas of things I want to make.”
Photos courtesy of Tina Frey