Early Bird Light by Perch!

I was so excited when I heard from Amy at Perch!, who wanted to share the redesign of her Early Bird Light. Usually we share new product development in our Deconstruction column, but in the real world, sometimes products just need an update. That’s why this time we’re sharing another important aspect of product design – redesign. Take it away, Amy!

In my line of ceramics that includes lighting, tabletop, garden and tiles, the Early Bird Light been my best seller for over 7 years. But it was time to tweak the design a bit. We will start to have the “blanks” of these made in Thailand so this is the model that went to the factory there. Keep in mind, I only had to get three finished pieces out of this plaster mold as we won’t be making them in the future (so it’s actually a pretty sloppy mold!)

The original Early Bird Light in white.

This is a block of balsa foam ready to be transformed. The little bird is one of my Henrietta ornaments which the new Early Bird is based on. This piece of foam was about 13” long. One of the problems with the original Early Bird was that the girth of its belly was just a little small for European sockets and bulbs – the bulb stuck out a bit, so I really wanted to address that in the redesign.

Coming along – it sort of looks like a bird. Using saws, files and sanding pads I have roughed out the shape.

Now he looks like a bird – pointy beak and all. The wings were attached separately and I’ve now got to make those transitions a bit smoother. I’m not worrying too much at this point about how the molds will be made, I have molded several bird shapes and have a rough idea of where the parting lines go around the wings.

And the tail end.

Messy hot glue wings. But the girth seems good.

At this point he has been covered with a few layers of joint compound and sanded quite a few times. The grey covering is sandable primer.

Another joint compound and primer shot.

Now things are getting intense! I don’t know why the only color spray paint I had was magenta but that’s what it was. I like to coat the models with something glossy for the final coat to help with cleaning them off when the mold is done. At this point I am building up around the bird with the gray clay – the pour hole will be through the tail.

At the last minute I decided to make this a three-part mold as opposed to a two-part mold. Again, I wanted to be safe with this piece because I needed a prototype but this is NOT the mold that will be used going forward. Considering it’s kinda roundy and has lots of undercuts, I went with the two belly pieces splitting apart. So this shows the two bottom pieces and the box built around it. The tail is still blocked with clay since it’s the pour hole. The next step is to pour plaster on top of this for the third part.

This is the messiest mold I’ve ever made! This is the first pour and there was a small hole in the nose area so there was clay leaking out everywhere. I would normally have left the clay in there about 15 minutes, but I was pretty much refilling it the hole (sorry, whole) time.

Messy! It’s also wedged against that mold on the left so it doesn’t fall over. That wasn’t great planning (do as I say not as I do).

Yay! It worked. So I have already taken it out and cut out the belly and the wings and put a wire hole in. It’s just drying there. You can see the two sides of the mold off to the sides.

This bird will need quite a bit of clean up. Considering I’ve been making plaster molds for 10 years or so it’s not my strongest skill, but it will do.

And here it is finished with a grey glaze! It was fired twice (cone 04/06 for those interested) and wired with one candelabra socket. At this point the magenta model is off in Thailand getting really nice molds made of it and I have about three finished prototypes like this one. Once the birds come back to us in Brooklyn, we will glaze them here in a new range of colors.

Thanks, Amy! Check out more Deconstruction here.

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.