WORK > ARTOMATIC key projects > CulturalTies Unicef (2000-2001)
This was the job that sunk the manufacturing arm of ARTOMATIC, creating a financial calamaty that the business never really recovered from. It was always difficult putting boundaries around what we did when our core proposition was that we'd do more or less anything.
There are only a few basic methods of making anything–stamping, printing, folding, sticking (glue, screws, rivets, welding etc) extruding, bending, forming and moulding. And all follow the same basic pattern–create an original and then reproduce from it. All production also requires that you see what you're coing to get before you commit to either the full tooling / origination or the run of items and most, like printing, have developed sophisticated processes (proofing) to accommodate this.
Injection moulding is different. Getting a three-dimensional object requires that you make the tool, which, in this case, cost £20,000. So, with a difficult client giving conflicting instructions and–like us–ignorant of the intricacies of the process we were using, we–foolishly–embarked on this venture and made the tool. The resulting clear acrylic box had all sorts of flaws in it and the whole job from then on a desperate fire-fighting excercise trying to put it right.
The job followed the pattern of all things that go wrong. At first there's real urgency, determination and an inclusive spirit to get it right with everyone working together. But, after that, as people's attention wandered and it became clear that solutions weren't to be found, it started to languish in warehouses and calls weren't returned. Understandably, the client didn't feel like paying us and we'd not covered ourselves contractually, caught between a supplier and the client. The resulting hole in our cash flow sank the company.
Aside from the impact on people's livelihoods (the factory was closed and the company re-started as a broker operating exclusively from Clerkenwell), this was the first job we'd actually failed to deliver.