For the longest time the barrier for amateur product designers to fully explore their craft was production. As in, they may have had the vision but the path to see it become a reality was a bit complicated. However, with the advent and advancement of 3D printer, more people are taking advantage of the new technology.
Take for instance Lyndhurst couple Ashlee and Jason Cooper, who last year started their own company Honest Union that produces innovative houseware items guided by simplicity, utility and beauty. You may have seen their products at the Cleveland Flea and Night Market Cleveland, on Etsy or at their own website.
Jason, a Cleveland Institute of Art graduate, is an award-winning industrial designer who has created mass-produced products in the consumer, medical, industrial and commercial spaces.
CoolCleveland talked to Ashlee about the Honest Union operation.
Let’s talk about the vision for Honest Union.
My husband and I started it a little over a year ago, and it’s a line of modern 3D printed housewares. My husband works full-time as a product designer. So he creates, designs and builds everything. He had a 3D printing project he worked on and had such a good time we decided to buy our own 3D printer for our house and play around with our own ideas. Once we had a few products, we decided to start participating in local shows. We’ve just had a really good response. That’s kind of how it took off.
What kind of products are you talking about?
We have lights, tables, lap trays and pet feeders. All the white components you see on every product are the 3D printed parts. Those are then connected to threaded wood poles. The wood we get is regionally harvested and manufactured in Ohio. And then the plastic we use for the 3D printing is made from cornstarch, sugarcane and tapioca roots. It’s supposed to be one of the most environmentally friendly of the plastics. It was very important to be responsibly sourcing our materials and educating people where everything is coming from.
What makes Honest Union product unique is its use of the wood poles and plastic. The threaded part of the wood was our original idea. We haven’t been able to find whether anybody else is doing it. Also, we’re able to take apart everything to ship. That’s how we can cut down on boxes and shipping cost. That’s important to us as well.
How has Honest Union grown in the last year?
The reception has been great. We get a lot of good feedback that people have never seen anything like this before. With 3D printing, mostly people have only seen like decorative things like keychains or characters. This way we’re using 3D printing to make functional pieces, and we’re mixing it with other materials like cork and wood and steel, which they’re all reclaimed materials as well. In fact, the steel you see on some of our products like display risers and our tables is from old propane tanks that didn’t pass inspection. We get those at a salvage store.
Regarding your products, where do you get your ideas?
We’re always coming up with new ideas from the feedback we get. We started with a tall plate holder and people started asking to do a tabletop one. And we’re just inspired by different things. We have a dog, so that’s how the pet feeder came about.
Finally, what’s the goal for Honest Union going forward?
Our goal is just to keep growing, get some exposure, get the word out and keep participating in local shows. As for our long-term goal, we’re not sure yet. We’re just learning day by day, but we’re having a lot of fun with it.