Ever wonder how the products we see at retail showrooms or at the major home furnishing markets are made? Recently I was given the chance to look inside a few artisan factories in China where some of the products conceptualized by award-winning designer Carolyn Kinder take shape.
Ive been privileged to tour a half-dozen factories in the U.S. over the years – plus two factories in Europe – so I am familiar with the basics of manufacturing lighting fixtures and accessories. How items are made in China, however, was still a mystery to me. I’ve heard good stories and I’ve heard bad ones, but I never have been able to see for myself until the iconic designer Carolyn Kinder invited me to visit a few of the factories in Mainland China that manufacture her line of lamps and accessories.
Kinder – who learned how to paint as a child, traveled as a young woman throughout Europe to perfect her technique for framing art, taught oil-painting classes to her local community, and later operated the luxury wall décor and lamp brand Kinder-Harris, among other artistic endeavors – fell in love with China years ago and wanted to share its culture and craftsmanship with me.
It is her eye for detail as a painter that ultimately led to Kinder’s success in creating multi-dimensional finishes for frames, lamps, casual furniture, and accessories. Relying on the teaching skills she used when she ran an art studio, Kinder has a knack for training employees of all levels how to apply finishes by hand.
When the home furnishings industry began moving operations overseas, Kinder was able to show factory workers in China how to apply individual layers on a multi-step finish. As her licensed line grew and production expanded to more factories, Kinder established a secondary residence in China to be readily available to visit each facility and check on production quality and finishing.
Are there factories in China that produce merchandise that is sub-par? Of course, but what this trip with Carolyn Kinder and her team showed me was that there are numerous small factories in China who have offered high quality in mediums such as ceramics, finishing, and metalwork for decades. Discovering who those small companies are, and nurturing those relationships, is the key to keeping product quality consistent.
Another benefit of having a Kinder International office in China is the availability of team members nearby with a vast supply of design knowledge and the skillset to troubleshoot or come up with alternate solutions if a production problem arises.
In the next article, I’ll give you a closer look at the innerworkings of this globally successful design company and the team members who help keep Kinder International at the top of its game. For those of you who may never have the opportunity to visit a lighting or home accents factory in China, I hope you find these images of my trip interesting.