My name is Benjamin Cowden. I am a metal sculptor with a love for mechanical devices. Working in my studio in Oakland California, I have made devices that lick lollipops, kiss strangers, and mix cocktails. My contraptions can be seen around town occasionally, and have been featured by BoingBoing and Make:blog.
Part of my love for mechanisms is my fascination with patterns: patterns of movement and patterns of structure. About four years ago I decided to try designing some belt buckles using patterns I had seen on buildings and clothing (one of my first inspirations were my own Argyle socks!). I had the patterns cut at a local lasercutting shop, and they came out so wonderfully, I decided to have some more made.
In the years since, I have added bottle openers and refined the patterns I use to really take advantage of lasercutting technology. So many tiny, intricate piercings allow for a super strong but very lightweight buckle, not to mention stylish. I began making the earrings last year when I realized that an impact-resistant resin like Delrin would be an even more lightweight medium for these beautiful patterns.
The process of building this business has been, for me, a wonderful blending of my skills and background as a metalworker with my keenness for fashion and style. I hope you will agree with me that every item in this line will look great in a wide variety of environments and last for many years.
Holidays are coming up! Supporting a Kickstarter project and gifting your reward is a great way to have unique, innovative gifts for your friends and loved ones. Barring a natural disaster, I guarantee fulfillment of the first 200 rewards by December 15th. If you need delivery earlier (Hanukkah comes early this year!), just let me know and I will work hard to make sure your reward makes it on time.
Each belt buckle is lasercut from T304 Stainless Steel. They are contoured to fit the body, and have a bracket and pin to fit any 1-1/2" snap belt. The piercings, inspired by architectural and fashion patterns, make them very lightweight but also strong. There are seven different patterns (see chart below), and for each pattern there is an optional bottle opener in the corner, and two finishes: Brushed Stainless and Black Lustre.
Want to design your own buckle? Check out the Custom Buckle reward! You can make the buckle any shape you want, and create your own pattern.
Need a belt? Any 1-1/2" snap belt will do, but I have full-grain leather belts in black and brown to save you the trouble of finding one. You can add a belt to your reward by adding $20 per belt to your pledge. At the end of the campaign, I'll send out a survey to all backers, and you can let me know what color and size belt you would like. Belts come in sizes Small-XXXL.
The Bottle Openers are made from the same T304 Stainless plate as the Belt Buckles. The have a curved recess milled into the front to create an edge to grip the bottle cap. The edges of the openers are rounded over to create a very soft feel, similar to a worn beach pebble. As much as I love crisp, modern patterns, I had some fun with curvy Nouveau motifs and created a couple extra versions of the opener. Each one has a ring in the bottom corner where you can attach your keys or whatnot. See the chart below for available patterns.
About a year ago it occured to me that the same patterns I was using for the Buckles could be cut in a lightweight resin to make beautiful earrings. I experimented with acrylic, nylon, and other materials, but they either cut poorly or were too brittle and broke easily when dropped or mishandled. Then I tried Delrin, a material familiar to many metalworkers since it is often used for non-marring forming tools. Despite its light weight, Delrin is super tough: you could even step on these earrings and they won't break.
I have two "sizes" for the earrings: Teardrop and Contour. Really they are shapes, but the Contours are smaller and more subtle, where the Teardrops are more bold and lively. Want to design your own earrings? Take a look at the custom earring reward!
My goal with this campaign is to bring production levels up while maintaining the quality and craftsmanship that I have been striving for this whole time. There are a few critical pieces of machinery that I need in order to efficiently produce larger orders. Having the ability to make a bulk order of parts also means the per-part cost goes down, which will help me keep these pieces affordable. Specifically, contributions to this project will go toward:
- Arbor Press for bending buckle brackets
- Large Capacity Tumbler for production runs
- Bulk order of Buckle, Opener, and Earring blanks
- Hiring a studio assistant to help with production and fulfillment of orders
Barring a natural disaster, I guarantee to deliver the first 200 rewards in time for the Holidays (December 1st-15th). I will be in contact with backers to make sure their orders are fulfilled in time. Here is my timeline:
- Before End of October: Kickstarter Campaign ends, bulk lasercutting orders (for Buckles, Openers, and Earrings) are placed. New Equipment is purchased.
- Early November: Part blanks delivered to shop. Fabrication begins.
- Before End of November: Parts requiring Black Lustre finish are delivered to finisher.
- Early December: Reward fulfillment for at least the first 200 orders
- Mid-December to January: any remaining orders are fulfilled as soon as possible.
Risks and challenges
I have been making these pieces for several years now, and so as far as the process is under my direct control, I cannot see much that would slow me down. Nevertheless, ramping up production always carries some risks. For my project, the greatest risk will be delays from my suppliers. My lasercutter in Indianapolis has been wonderful so far, as well as my finisher here in California. I intend to be in contact with them well before I place my bulk order to make sure they have material on hand and are expecting my purchase order. I have included buffer time in my timeline to allow for some amount of delay, and will keep a firm eye to holiday deadlines for backers using their rewards as gifts for friends and loved ones.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)