the making of la fée lumière
 the final product, photographed by  Kristen Manning Photography

the final product, photographed by Kristen Manning Photography

When I first started dreaming up ideas for an illustration-based product line two years ago, I was most excited about the concept of creating whimsical shadowbox night lights. Not only did I wish I had had something like them as child to calm bed time fears, this idea also afforded me the opportunity to illustrate some of my favorite classic children’s stories!

 paper mock-up of original Peter Pan night light design

paper mock-up of original Peter Pan night light design

I started with a paper mockup and a pre-made shadowbox from a local craft store. I worked with a Portland installation-and-exhibit-design company - GXI - to design a prototype for the box and light component and IGN - an acrylic printer in Vancouver, Washington - to print and cut the plastic pieces.

 acrylic components print and cut by IGN in Vancouver Washington

acrylic components print and cut by IGN in Vancouver Washington

 prototype developed by GXI in Portland, Oregon

prototype developed by GXI in Portland, Oregon

It proved too expensive to have the night lights manufactured locally, but manufacturing overseas wasn’t something I was willing to do either. I’m not one to give up on an idea easily and I decided it was time to strap on my big girl tool belt and learn to use a table saw.

 night light parts, cut on the table saw at ADX

night light parts, cut on the table saw at ADX

Fortunately, I live in Portland, where the handmade and small-batch-manufacturing movement is booming. I was lucky enough to connect with ADX – a local makers’ space – to get one-on-one training in their wood shop. I had to overcome my fear of that scary spinning blade – but, six months later I still have all my fingers!

 working with staff at ADX on the digital router provided by  CNC Router Parts

working with staff at ADX on the digital router provided by CNC Router Parts

I also used their digital CNC Router, which made creating the notches and grooves that hold the shadowbox together less labor intensive! And while these were not skills I anticipated gaining along this creative journey, I’m glad to have them and to have met the fantastic crew of craftspeople and creatives at ADX along the way!

 the Peter Pan night light on display at the ANX Holiday Toy Show, December 2017

the Peter Pan night light on display at the ANX Holiday Toy Show, December 2017

The la fée lumière night lights debuted in December 2017 at the ANX Gallery (ADX’s exhibition space) as part of their Holiday Toy Show. It was the culmination of a year-and-a-half-long process to bring this product to fruition! The most satisfying part has been seeing how both kids and grown ups are drawn into the glowing storybook scenes. When I see their little eyes widen in wonder, it makes all my hard work worthwhile!

Rachel Austen