SONIA G – THE PROCESS – PART 1


My blog has helped the Kumano manufactures to have more presence internationaly, it also helped other businesses around Japanese Fude (brushes) to kick start, I have never asked anything in return, never been paid for my reviews, when I started the blog I didn’t even know that I would one day be in PR lists and receive free products to review.

I was happy like this, posting whenever I had the chance, enjoying my hobby during my free time.

At some point the manufactures started saying that if one day I wanted to create a collection of brushes that I should contact them. This made me laugh, I really thought they were joking, that they were just trying to be funny and kind to me.

I could not imagine myself doing this for many reasons. Lack of time, lack of confidence, no pro skills, I am not a legend, I am not a celebrity…  I did not think I had the emotional strength required and who would be interested anyway?

I continued to go to Kumano and they continued to talk about wanting to work with me. I think that the main reason why I am here today, with my own brushes, it’s because of them.

I was offered this huge opportunity and I was not considering it, not even trying… I started dreaming about it, and thinking what if I did?

I was actually really scared of trying, of failing. But not trying is failing anyway.

WHY NOW

I started designing a few prototypes in 2014, a friend of mine put them in 3D but when I showed these to the manufacture and told them what I had in mind, they said it was not possible to do that amount of customization, even paying the price, they could not technically achieve it.

I had a few chats with the manufactures to understand what could be done but when you want a high level of customization -handles, shapes, ferrules-  it’s difficult to find a manufacture that could mass produce them without having to pay an astronomical amount of money.

I had to put this project on hold, technically it was really challenging and mentally and physically I was in a difficult phase. I was trying to have a baby, it was my top priority and could not focus on the brushes.
I stayed in continuos contact with the manufactures,  kept investigating further and one day, in 2016, a miracle happened, I finally had my baby Alice.  I was then ready to continue my brush project, when I checked with the manufactures, there was technically a way to make it happen and we were going to give it a try.

THE MANUFACTURE AND THE CHALLENGES

I had some conditions, one of them was that I could work with several Kumano manufactures in the future should I wish to do so. I want to have the possibility to involve several artisans with the idea of bringing the best from each one.

Mass-producing something unique, consistency, quality, ethically sourcing materials and getting to a final price that was still reasonable, those were some of the challenges that I was facing.

For contractual reasons, I am not allowed to share who worked with me on this project, however, there are still many things that they allowed me to share.

I worked with amazing people, we would talk on a daily basis for months and months, the conversations we had on the emails broke gmail limitations because they just grew too big  🙂  I had to handle each issue and very carefully the financial aspect.

They allow me to share the picture I took with the Master Artisan who worked with me, he is very talented and he told me he really truly enjoyed the challenges I was giving him 😀

 

THE HANDLES

I wanted the handles to have a unique design,  like something coming straight from hell alive 😀  with a stunning gradation and the right shade of red. I wanted the logo at the bottom of the handle. The center had to be slimmer to help with the ergonomics and balance of the brush.

The manufacture didn’t have anything like this available so we had to involve a new handle provider. In order to get to this shape, we had to play with different tools,  with a bit of imagination we managed to combine the right tools, get to the final shape and still keep the costs under control, there was a way to make it work!

This painting technique is also something they never tried before, it was an opportunity for them to try new products and a new way of using them within their traditional knowhow.    It was a big challenge but you have no idea how excited they were doing this!

Then you have to play with the colors and with the sampling and this is not free, on their side they have to purchase products too so every sampling has a cost,  it’s not because you buy just one handle that you pay for one handle, you pay much more.

I cannot share the technique used to paint the handles because it’s their knowhow that they will keep secret from their competitors but they had to apply at least 4 layers,  pigments and special clear coatings or the depth effect would not show through.

Because the orders are of smaller quantity and because it takes so long to make them, this has an impact on the final cost.

Something else that I can share is that these handles have a “step”, they are not crimped. This is more costly as it requires to sculpt a step at the top of the handle to “click” the ferrule in place and have a smooth transition from the handle to the ferrule.

THE FERRULES

The ferrules are glossy black chrome plated brass, this material and the black coating make them really luxurious… and costly.  

Some ferrules also had to be produced and purchased just for these brushes, they are not produced at the manufacture and because the orders were for smaller quantities, their cost is steep.

THE HEADS

These are brushes that were never made by the manufacture so they had to create tools for them,  some were easier, some were more complicated and time consuming. Prototypes had to be made, again and again.

THE LOGO

This part is done at the manufacture, in order to print the logo at the bottom, the name of the brush and my name on the handle, we need several plates. In my case 3 per brush, and each time you change the name of the brush, you need a new one. This is just to say that using different plates on each brush comes with a cost and has an impact on the price, both because of the time consuming process and because of the additional material required.

The printing had to be the most long-lasting technique they had in the manufacture, it is also unfortunately the most expensive.

I have faced several limitations along the way,  for example the initial logo that was planned could not technically be printed at the bottom, after doing some tests we had to decide to change the logo completely. The technique to paint the handles was really innovative and required a lot of work. Waking up in the morning and checking my emails was so exciting but so nerve-wracking too.

BOTTOM LINE

These are the factors that make Japanese handcrafted brushes more costly:

  • unique handles
  • custom heads
  • long lasting logo
  • black chrome coated brass ferrules
  • high quality materials
  • step handle (vs crimped ferrule)
  • bottom logo, name on each brush

Neither the manufacture, not the ferrule or handle provider will give you a reduction price because you are new, the production cost is the same whoever you are.

The cost to produce these was very high, if those brushes were sold by a famous brand they would be much more expensive, you can trust me on that, I wanted as many people as possible to be able to afford them.

I believe that my readers expected from me something unique, with the highest quality. Creating something cheaper would have been possible but I would have to compromise somewhere and the artisans would not have had the opportunity to experiment new products, it was a very enriching adventure for all the people involved.

I will share more about the designs in the upcoming days, also about the reason why I chose those materials and more info about each brush, I have prepared a site specially for this topic but I need to work a bit more on it.

For the moment, only the set is available on Beautylish, the individual brushes should be available sometime in January 🙂

The link is here.

Now, I am going to celebrate Christmas with my wonderful family and I am looking forward to share more pics about the whole process and more details about each brush very soon!

I wish you a very Merry Chrismas to you and I cannot wait to start this New Year with you!

 

10 thoughts on “SONIA G – THE PROCESS – PART 1

  1. Sonia-I am thrilled you have created brushes for fellow brush junkies to purchase. There was no question when it was announced your brushes were for sale, I immediately thought, I had to have them!

    I love your passion and ability to describe to world, the nuances of each brush and their attributes. It will be a shared journey and true appreciation with each post, picture, and brush you create. Cannot wait what the future will bring with future collections!

    1. Hi Alice,
      Thank you for your super kind comment and your reaction to the announcement 😀
      This is such an amazing adventure, I cannot wait for the future and having you here still around after that much time is the best reward!!

  2. Merry Christmas, Sonia. I enjoyed this article very much and must say I am not surprised how you and the manufacturer pushed the limits to create your brushes. You and Japanese artisans share the same quest for achieving excellence. I’m sure they recognized that from the beginning when they sought you out to create your own line.
    When I received my set, I was prepared to receive high quality products but was totally blown away with the quality of the hair, precise bundling and the most beautiful handles I have ever seen…and you know I have a lot of brushes. Now that I have used these brushes for a couple of days, I am totally in love. They are unique and perform beautifully with precision and ease. I was surprised when I finished my makeup this morning as I did not expect my face to look much different, but my makeup look more refined.
    I am not a fan of big handles, and the thickness/weight of the face two handle bothers me a bit as it feels unbalanced in my hand, but maybe I need to get used tot that. The two fan brushes are incredible, and I love the density of the tip and sides of the the pencil and crease brush — I can’t imagine how to created that! Not sure how to use the builder one yet, the super thick ferrule hits my lid so I need to adjust use. All in all, an amazing set for an amazing price.
    Thank you for elevating the craft of kumamo brushes. I imagine you will come out with more brushes as the brush names imply and look forward to purchasing them all!

    1. Merry Christmas Kay!!
      I know you have a lot of great brushes so your compliment means a huge lot!!!
      I hope you will get used to the balance of the thicker handles, let’s see! 🙂
      Regarding the Builder One, try to hold it at an angle and use pat motions to lay down the product (also wiggle the brush while you pick the product or while you apply it). I hope it will be fine but I know there is a learning curve with that little one, hopefully it will be ok but let me know, I am interested to get your feedback in the longer term. It is short because I wanted a lot of precision, if the ferrule was not curved there it would really scratch the skin near the waterline. The thickness helps to obtain more layers and load more product within the bristles, specially with shimmers.
      You got it right 😉 there are more brushes coming, others being prototyped, it’s a constant work in progress, I hope I will be able to bring more interesting brushes and that you will love them!
      Thank YOU for purchasing the set!! <3
      I wish you also an amazing New Year!

  3. Merry Christmas Sonia! As soon as I saw that you were going to have brushes available I knew they would be exquisite in every way. You are a true brush connoisseur so I knew this would be my opportunity to have the best of the best. You sharing your process is the icing on the cake for me. I have been using the brushes for a few days now and they are more than I could have ever imagined. The thicker handles are a dream. I have always struggled with the handles being thinner at the ends. This thickness is nice and is more helpful to me in an nice way that I was not prepared for. My makeup has been turning out smooth, seemless. Thank you for taking a chance because you have done an amazing job. I look forward to all your future endeavors on your blog and in coming out with new brushes. I plan to keep adding onto my collection. I am having so much fun! I love makeup and application and this has taken it to a new level for me. Thank you

    1. Hi Cassie!
      Merry Christmas sweetheart!!! and actually, happy New Year as we are getting near!
      I have no words to tell you how much your feedback is appreciated, I know I can’t target all audiences but it makes me really happy to read that some of you will also love these thicker handles 🙂
      For some it will be easier to handle, for others unfortunately it may not, but it was interesting to shape them like they are, and also I am jumping with joy here reading that the results you reached were so good!
      It’s so scary in so many levels to wait for feedback…
      There were so many tears of fear, happiness, now I am here and it’s real!!
      You are welcome my dear and thank YOU for getting this set!!

  4. Merry Christmas Sonia! I can’t wait to get my hands on these brushes. The set looks amazing, I can only imagine how much of work, sweat and tears is behind the production. Despite you describing how difficult it was to find providers, materials and artisans to create the brushes for a fair price, I think they’re really fairly priced on Beautylish. I knew you’d come up with something unique one point or another. Happy holidays to you and your family. Kisses!

    xx Laura / Laurantaina Beauty Blog

    1. Hi Laura,
      Merry Christmas!!
      Yes indeed! how did you know 😀 😀 😀 It was really scary and there were many emotional moments and I truly thought this project would not be able to see the light, I did not know I would face so many challenges in the process.
      Please let me know, if you get them, how you are liking them-or not lol
      I wish you all the very best in 2018 and we will talk soon anyway 🙂
      Love to you and your family!

  5. Finally, I have been waiting for you to make your own brushes. You are the most knowledgeable brush collector and always very detailed in your analyses. Looking forward to supporting you on your new journey!

    1. I had no idea you were waiting 🙂 <3
      I am looking forward to continuing working on these brushes, this is such a joy and I am having the time of my life 🙂
      Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comment and your kind support!!!

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