When a message from Ken Oliver that says “Hey guys I would love to come and spend a few days with the Canvas Corp Brands team” comes across your email, what else are you going to do but jump up and down and try TO wipe the smile from your face?! So with the anticipation of the upcoming visit with Ken Oliver, the Canvas Corp Brands team prepares the showroom for an exciting few days.
Ken arrives in his casual attire at the XNA airport in NW Arkansas, ready to get creative and work on some new ideas for 2017. The trip begins with lunch at a local Mexican haunt and great conversation between Ken and Canvas Corp Brands co-owner and creative force, Christine Meier, which sets the creative tone for the visit. The days ahead would be filled with brainstorming new product ideas, testing products and preparing for a class the next evening with a few invited Ken Oliver fans.
The brainstorming began with no rules and an agenda to come up with new surfaces, new mediums, and new papers that support the Ken Oliver Color Burst line,as well as other creative products that support the Ken Oliver Collection.
For those not familiar with Ken Oliver’s Color Burst, it is a collection of the most amazing colors of pigment powder that do amazing things when combined with a bit of water and a paint brush. Color Burst redefines water coloring and opens up so many creative possibilities. Along with the Color Burst Powders, the collection features stencils, die cuts, boards, ribbons, papers, cards, along with tools and other surfaces that look great when color is added. Canvas Corp Brands produces all of the Water Media papers, cards and banner kits for the Ken Oliver Collection, helping to expand the surfaces in the collection. Experts in paper, they gathered papers from around the USA and the world in hopes to find the perfect paper and that they did. Ken tested every paper until he found the ideal paper that is the right kind of smooth on one side and the perfect touch of texture on the other. Together Ken and Christine developed 11 different Water-Media surfaces that are all white and longing for a bit of Color Burst Color.
Upon arriving at the Canvas Corp Brands home office located in Springdale, Arkansas, which is sandwiched between Bentonville, home of the largest retailer in the world and Fayetteville, where the University of Arkansas is located, Ken toured the factory to see what happens behind the scenes. A walk by the rows of warehouse racks that line the warehouse and are filled with products from 7gypies, Tattered Angels and Canvas Corp, is how the tour begins. Then onto a peek at Glimmer Mist paint being produced for an upcoming Tattered Angels order. The row of racks come to a stop and a wide open space emerges that is filled with pallets of fabric rolls, carts of fabric scraps and a 25’ table that is covered with layers and layers of fabric ready to be cut. The patterns are all hand-drawn and spaced out over the entire layer of fabric and a large electric cutter is used to trim out the patterns. Rolling carts carry the pattern pieces into a room tucked away that is nice and cool and lined up with industrial sewing machines that are running full speed ahead. Today burlap flowers are being sewn and there are boxes and boxes being filled for a big order. Christine explains that the flowers were developed when the challenge of finding ways to use up all the fabric scraps that continued to pile up as the cut and sew operation grew. “We could not throw away all that great fabric, so we came up with the idea to sew the strips into flowers and now we not only use up a majority of the scraps for flowers, but we actually have to cut strips to keep up with the demand for flowers. Each flower is hand-sewn and no two are exactly alike.”
Stepping out of the tidy room filled with the fast paced machines, rows of tables emerge that are stacked high with today’s production. Everyday is different and the production team flexible enough to create paper pads one day, package flowers the next or put together ensembles of scrap to create all the scrap packs that leave the building. The Ken Oliver Papers were all cut and packaged but this same team and tucked away in boxes ready to be shipped as the orders arrive. Along with the Ken Oliver products, Canvas Corp Brands offers over 5000 different items across all the brands and custom items so the hustle and bustle of the shipping team was filled with energy as they gathered products up for the orders that are scheduled to ship today.
The tour ended in the Canvas Corp Brands Outlet shop. The shop is part of the warehouse, but in its own little space where it features all of the current items from 7gypsies, Tattered Angels and Canvas Corp, with some racks outside of the shop that are filled with discontinued products, seconds and overruns. All of the items are offered at great prices and the projects and displays are inspiring.
So with basic papers covered, Ken threw out the challenge to figure out how to make canvas and other fabrics a great surface for Color Burst. This may sound simple, but Color Burst washes away a bit too easy, so determining a way to make it stable on fabric was the first step. After lots of trial and error a few solutions were found, with a few additional mediums that are perfect companions for Color Burst were discovered. Currently being sourced and tested, these new items could be available as soon as September.
With a way to stabilize the Color Burst, the sky was the limit when it comes to fabric surfaces. Sketches were made as new designs were created that would be cut and sewn by Canvas Corp Brands in their Springdale, Arkansas facility that would be part of the Ken Oliver Signature Collection. Canvas Corp Brands has one of very few sewing operations in the USA and their growth in the cut and sew business is just amazing. They produce products for other manufacturers, for Etsy shops, for Makers and for Retailers around the world. They offer a vast collection of home décor and craft blanks in canvas, burlap and denim, as well as custom items. They have even expanded to add their own screen printing division, which also got Ken’s creative juices flowing.
With pages of notes, sketches and ideas, Christine was ready to get to work on sourcing, designing and costing the new products while Ken prepared for the upcoming Color Burst Class he was hosting in the shop that evening. Places were set, supplies were allocated and samples were ready to show off the amazing watercolor journal that was a sure hit. The students began to arrive, they were buzzing with excitement to meet Ken and to have the chance to spend the evening with him, creating and seeing his work in action. Ken’s witty sense of humor, natural gift for teaching and encouragement to all who are creative made for an amazing evening of color, design and creative exploring. Each page in the journal held a different technique that class members will be able to use again and again. There were no rules about what colors had to be used, no need to copy each page, just the education on what could be done and the freedom to do it your own way.
Ken took the time with each student admiring their work, answering questions and adding fun little stories along the way. He started the night with a great quote “Think Hippie Thoughts” and that was a great theme throughout the night as he continued to remind everyone there are no wrongs and there are no rules.
Ken taught many great techniques with Color Burst, but also provided great pointers for stamping, stenciling and watercolor.
Blend Color Burst + Water + Paint Brush = Magic
The night ended as the last bottle of Color Burst was packed away and our time with Ken came to an end.
Ken did not leave empty handed as he filled his bag with creative products from all the brands that were perfect companions to his collection. Ideas filling his mind for home décor, seasonal and mixed media projects he would have to make time to create. Her notebook in hand, lists of projects and ideas abound, Christine was ready to begin working on new products for the Ken Oliver Line right way.
We headed to the summer show in Salt Lake City to show new products for Fall 2016 where we partnered with Ken Oliver Crafts and Maya Road to on an amazing booth, but so sad, the booth was lost. Luckily we all have a good sense of humor and made the best of it. We set tables, created a few fun projects and set out the items we carried to the show.
Some of the new items may be ready to release as early as September with the rest to be introduced at the international craft show that will be held in Phoenix this year. The CHA show as it is known, is a show designed for creative people – manufacturers, retailers and creatives to get together and show off their newest products, creative ideas and to network and build relationships like the ever growing partnership between Ken Oliver Crafts and Canvas Corp Brands. Stay tuned for new things to come and if you have not had a chance to try Color Burst, the Water Media Papers or other Ken Oliver Products we hope you are encouraged to find out a bit more about them. You can buy the Ken Oliver Water Media Papers on the Canvas Corp Brands Online Shop and you can stop by the Outlet Shop and view the entire collection of Ken Oliver, 7gypsies, Tattered Angels and Canvas Corp Brands products.
To follow Ken and learn more amazing ideas and techniques and to be so inspired follow him on Facebook where you will see projects and videos.