A mini pottery workshop for children designed in Quebec for an American company is sold in some 90 countries. A revolutionary toy (1000 revolutions per minute, to be precise).
All ceramists will tell you this, it seems. With a pottery wheel, the trick first consists of properly centering the lump of clay on the girelle – the rotating plate.
The ingenious centering device of the Make It Real Mini-Pottery Workshop is at the heart of the gaming experience, says Montreal industrial designer Dominique Roy, vice-president of industrial design and advanced design for the American company.
It was he who proposed to this company specializing in games and creative activities to design a toy wheel to make mini-pottery.
Inspiration came to him when he saw photos on Instagram of a potter modeling tiny vases on a standard wheel.
“I thought the idea was funny, and I started researching it. »
He discovered that miniature pottery making had hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts and that mini-turns were offered online.
He got one and did some testing.
“The first thing I made looked vaguely like an ashtray,” he confides without false shame.
The pressure of the palms on the clay, the difficulty of properly proportioning its humidification, the poor centering of the piece, all of this leads to resistance which often demands the electric motor beyond its power.
The Make It Real design team tackled the problem.
Surprisingly, this team is largely located in Quebec.
Based in Maryland, Make It Real employs approximately 80 people worldwide, including more than twenty in Quebec.
The company was founded in 2016 by American Isaac Wolman and his wife Sara Gibber. However, Wolman had previously been vice-president of sales for the Montreal creative toy company Wooky Entertainment.
Its advanced design team includes a designer in Montreal, another in Magog, one in Halifax and one in Hong Kong.
“Obviously,” he says, “the products are made in China. »
After this detour, return to the tour.
Dominique Roy started working on the miniature tower concept in January 2022.
“I started the project, then worked with my designer in Hong Kong on the mechanical aspect. Then, the project was transferred to my designer in Magog, who worked extensively on the centering tool and refinement of the design. »
Indeed, everything revolves around the patent-pending centering device.
A three-piece tube is temporarily assembled around the small removable wringer. The tube is carefully filled with clay, then a hub is stuck in its center, through a cover which allows it to be positioned perfectly. The assembly is then dismantled, leaving only a cylinder of clay perfectly formed around its hub.
Once the wringer is put back in place, a transparent bell is placed on the lathe, fitted at its top with a needle which stabilizes the hub.
On a slot made on the side wall of the bell, we attach a template which will guide the modeling tool to gently profile the clay cylinder.
“We act on one point rather than with two hands on the model,” emphasizes Dominique Roy. “It’s a lot less demanding on the engine. »
The designers were therefore able to install a reasonably powerful, direct-drive motor, without noisy gears. “It’s super quiet, it’s relaxing. It’s really satisfying. »
Supplied with the toy, the clay dries and hardens in 24 hours.
It took four or five prototypes to arrive at the final product. It was during tests that children made the suggestion of making the centering cylinder, which until then had been opaque, transparent.
Especially since these days, children know how to appreciate quality design. “Quite young, they have access to iPhones and electronic products where the design is hyper sophisticated,” notes the designer.
In short, “we arrived with a fairly refined design”.
Launched this summer, the Make It Real Mini-Pottery Workshop is distributed in some 90 countries.
The first deliveries were made during the summer, early enough for merchants to build up their stock in preparation for the holidays.
“The results are really good. We have a retailer in England who already had no more stock in the first week of December,” notes Dominique Roy. “In China, it’s our best seller. »
The product “has already received multiple awards and accolades, including Most Innovative Toy of the Year by the China Toy Association.”