Archive for the ‘Made In China’ Category
Los Angeles-based photographer Lorena Turner is a self-described “social scientist with a camera.” Her series Made in China is an examination of consumerism in the United States. Turner purchases products, dusts them for fingerprints and then photographs the object under a black light to try and tell a story about its creation.
Above are a tape measure, two rubik’s cubes and the back of a clock.
It goes without saying that we love this project. I remember visiting our factories in China for the first time and being amazed by the number of people that are responsible for making just one of our products. I realized then that even though I’m in this business of producing, I’d never considered what goes into the creation of the things I buy. It’s an interesting dichotomy, and one that has certainly changed my views on consumerism, commercialism and my own personal desire to own “stuff.” I’ve contemplated adopting a minimalist lifestyle, but for the time being I’ve simply settled on getting rid of something I own everything I buy something new. And that feels good so far.
Check out the rest of Made in China here.
Seeing our Little Giants in production was one of the more eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had. We have collectively become so passive in our consumption of products that we fail to understand and appreciate the human touch that goes into making the things we buy. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, but it’s like we imagine some magical robot in a distant land (read: China) that has a massive red button that someone presses and BAM! a toy appears. The truth couldn’t be further from reality.
Once we’ve done all the hard work, of actually conceiving, sculpting and decorating each character, the sample travels to our factory in China. It is examined and dissected and finally a tool is made that will efficiently and expertly mass produce the product. This process can take weeks and sometimes months, and is perhaps the most important (and expensive) behind-the-scenes step in the manufacturing line.
Next, the tooling machine is stuffed with PVC (one of the most-used plastics in the world), and a person must be present to pull a lever and turn the melted plastic into an immaculate and colorless version of the character — right down to Frida’s mustache and Picasso’s signature forehead lines. But still, the sculptures don’t pop out in one solid piece; some of them must then be assembled, if their faces were molded separately from their heads, for example.
The rest of the process can include 50 to 100 steps, depending on the intricacy of paint decoration. While some toys are adorned with decals, the Little Giants are painted, one-by-one, by a person in our factory. It was crazy to see because literally each eye is placed under a machine and dotted in black or red or fuchsia or whatever color we choose. So yes, there is technology at work here, as a computer has programed it to do so, but if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of real, live human beings, our products could never exist.
After the factory has repeated the above steps, in this case to produce give-or-take 25,000 pieces, they must be sent to another location to be tested for various safety regulations. During the interim, the packaging, which we weren’t able to see, is printed and assembled and each piece is placed inside.
Finally some four-to-six months later, the figures are driven to the docks in Hong Kong and placed on a boat. Three weeks later they arrive in Los Angeles, and barring any customs issues, they are then sent to our warehouse in Texas. Then you, the customer, presses a magical button on a computer screen and five days later an Einstein figure is sitting on your desk. It’s as simple as that.
Check out tons of photos below.
Apologies to any folks who were looking forward to a bit more coverage from our trip: we’ve been quite preoccupied running around both Hong Kong and China and we’ve hardly had a moment to blog.
Anyhow, last Thursday we went to visit one of the factories we work with in China. They had just begun production on our Little Giants sculptures, and we were actually able to see most of the process. While I’ll save the photos and explanation of that stuff for later this week or early next, right now I’m happy to offer a glimpse into the factory’s trophy room. Over the years they’ve kept a literal museum of most/some of their products, including a number of thirty-plus-year-old toys they made for the Japanese market.
But I mean these guys had everything — from LeBron James action figures to Popeyes and an old-school Fred Flintstone. The absolute gems however were the silver Mega Men Ultraman characters shown above on the top shelf.
Many thanks to Terrance for his hospitality and for showing us around. Look below to check out our favorite toys from the museum. More stuff to come…