The Natural Perfumers Guild wishes to share this discovery with everyone, so please share the link to this blog with other groups, forums and chat places you may frequent. The more the merrier - let's upgrade our products to the next level, with lovely, custom boxes! I am the President of the Guild, and I like to roam social media sites and check out, and "like" the various projects and announcements of the Guild members. Little did I dream when I visited a Facebook page of one of our members, a page that only had 21 followers, since it's new, that I'd discover something that can help all artisan small business owners. But there it was, an iconic image out of South Africa - custom perfume boxes!
When I called some members of the Natural Perfumers Guild and told them about the discovery that they could now start making their own boxes for their products, they either screamed, moaned, said "wow wow wow" or "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god." I mentioned this to the fourth member, as she started moaning - I said everybody seems orgasmic, this is so exciting and fulfilling for y'all". She said "well, we're all having boxgasms!" Credit this sassy term to Lisa Coburn, who gave this creative, catchy name to the phenomena. To date, Aug. 23, only Elise Pearlstine,(click here for Elise's blog on the boxes) Emily Pienaar (click here for her blog on the boxes) and myself are ready to blog about this. I expect several other Guild members to join in the next week or month. We just wanted to get this out to the general artisan community asap.
If you're not an artisan in the fields mentioned above, you might wonder what all this is about. Practically every member of the artisan bath and body community I've spoken with over the years has told me they have spent hundreds of futile hours searching the Internet and trade shows for boxes for their products. There are some box makers to the trade, but their minimums run from 1,250 up, and that's just ridiculous for our small businesses. Lisa in LA and Noelle in Toronto had just been to trade shows the week before I called and didn't find one suitable box. Not one. Many B&B and perfume folks just use jewelry boxes, pouches or pillow boxes. Oh, and let's not forget the organza, satin and other little bags.
You want to get your products into a store? Great boxes will help you get in. Boxes also protect perfume from light, which can degrade the perfume. We needed boxes desperately - and now we can have them.
So here's the story, and it's a great one....including lots of details on the process, links and ideas.
|Emily Pienaar of Rose en Bos Fine Fragrance|
On July 30th, Guild Professional Perfumer Emily Pienaar, of Rose en Bos Fine Fragrance, The Western Cape Perfumery in South Africa, posted on Facebook that she had her new bottle and box photos up. I knew Emily had taken advantage of the Guild bottle buy in April, so I went over to her page to look. She had stunning black boxes with red foiling. Now, I knew she had only purchased maybe 100 bottles, so I wondered how she got custom boxes, and I wrote her. Imagine my shock when she wrote back "my mum made them on a little machine." What?!
Her mom Ros said she used a software program that was not allowed for use with Cricuts in the USA because of a lawsuit, so she sent me to the webpage for Make-the-Cut software to see what machines were sold in the USA and could use the software. I spent days researching the different machines, and settled on an eCutter, made by Craftwell in purpleberry. They have a lovely choice of colors. They also have great videos of the machine on the website.
|eCraft Purpleberry die cut machine|
Ros kindly shared her .svg (Scalable Vector Graphic aka SVG in the scrapbooking world) file for Emily's boxes with me, Elise, Lisa, Noelle, Kat, Stephanie and Chris so we could get an idea of what a box layout looks like. I've included how to measure a box and how to use a ruler (helps on the weird increments I had forgotten how to measure) below.
The length is always the larger of the two dimensions of the open face (flap opening); the width is the smaller. The depth is always the distance perpendicular to the length and width, and is measured from the inside of the box.
|I needed this, since I was out-of-practice using a ruler. Click to enlarge.|
The eCutter from Craftwell will cut tissue paper, paper, cardstock vinyl, chipboard and fabric. It cuts materials up to a 1/4" thick. It can cut and draw at the same time. Make sure if you check out other machines that they have that ability, if you want that feature. It's the new geneation of digital electronic cutters which have freed scrapbookers from having to use a stickymat and handcut their project paper - and it's a boon to us artisan product manufacturers! Turns out with the Craftwell machine I don't have to buy the Makes The Cut (MTC) software, since my machine has software built in. It connects to my computer, or can work alone.
I had to go to Michael's hobby store to get some supplies in before the machine arrived. I found a "scoring board" (see below) which I will use until I get my graphic artist to figure out how to use the draw feature for automatic scoring, some paper and odds and ends for my research and development (R&D) phase. The standard paper for cutting machines is 12" x 12" (figure in a 1/2" border). I found the paper at Michael's ok for the prototypes, but I'll probably want heavier cardstock paper for my final boxes for my fine fragrances. The Craftwell machine has an adaptor that will allow you to load a roll of 12" wide paper on it, but I don't think that will work with heavier paper. I could only do so much R&D in the time period allotted - I wanted to get all this out asap so y'all can start experimenting.
The machine arrived. I was soooo excited, and wondered if I could get it working right out of the box. I could! I was happy using the on-board software to cut out some simple forms, like hearts and stars. I was still waiting on my .svg software box design files and Elise to come over before we could really get into box-making.
|My first cuts - easy!|
|Using Emily and Ros's SVG template, set at a smaller scale than the original, we had quick success!|
|We had a lot of success with the cutting and were delighted with all the colors and sense of accomplishment. So much fun for an R&D template project ;-)|
|Since we don't have the score lines programmed in yet, we had to manually press in the score lines with this scoring tray. The white stick is called a bone folder, and you use the point to "cut" across the paper in the appropriate groove.|
|Then we use the flat edge of the bone folder to actually fold the score lines.|
|The double-stick tape has a red backing which is peeled off. I am going to look at alternatives, since this was very time consuming. Glue sticks or pens will probably work well.|
|Box with sticky tape on seam, ready to fold.|
One designer gave us great tabs, which are necessary to hold the box closed when the flaps were tucked in. One had the measurements more tightly aligned to what we needed. One gave us a flat bottom flap when we needed one that tucked in. The designs were great, though, especially since it was their first time designing boxes, and we currently have our feedback in their hands, and we'll go forward once the SVG files are tweaked. If you know AI, you're in luck, you can create your own, but if not, most graphic artists will tell you it takes maybe a half hour to create your design, and that's affordable. Factor in the cost of a tweak or two before you get your perfect SVG.
corrugated paper inserts to stiffen the box. That is an alternative that I may consider and keep using the softer paper. You can buy the corrugated paper in 12"x12" sheets and have an SVG design made for it.
The blade that does the die cutting is very sensitive to the setting you give it, otherwise, a low setting of three may not cut a thicker cardstock/paper, and a higher setting will tear up the paper. Be prepared to mangle a lot of paper and cardstock. You need to practice a lot. Craftwell has videos that will help you with the settings. It can be set so sensitive it will cut a sticker from the backing paper and not cut the backing paper. Amazing.
|McCoy Paper catalog - did they know I'd be celebrating? ;-)|
Turns out there are stores nearby where I can go and look at the McCoy paper in person. Now on to the options for design. Have the paper printed? Use the pen to draw delicate scrolls on the box? Get a printer to use my cut out boxes (not assembled) and create a plate that will allow the printer to emboss and foil my boxes, like Emily does? Use this technique and try to emboss on my own? Elise is thinking she might like cut out designs on her soap boxes so the customer can see the beauty of handmade natural soaps.
I'm also thinking that if I get sturdy vinyl, maybe I can get an AI/SVG file with my logo and perfume name cut out, lay it over my bottles and hit it with sandblasting/etching spray. Part of the reason I've been so excited is that my head is full of creative ideas. My existing labels, which I used on tan recycled boxes that I have been using, and not loving, since they were softer paper and I had to stuff pretty tissue paper in them to make the bottles steady, look awful on the prototype boxes, no matter what color. Elise played around with matte clear labels and those look good on the matte finish neutral color boxes. However, I'm thinking a silk to shiny finish paper might be better, because the matte ones seem to show fingerprints, but then, maybe the shinier ones will, too. R&D will take some time, and it will for you too, but don't you feel excited now that you can take one of the most important, previously-elusive components of your packaging and take control of it?
Lisa, Elise and I, the three that have actually played with the machine, realize that we have to completely re-do the graphics and aesthetics for our businesses. Color, font, texture - everything has to be redesigned.
The initial outlay is for the machine, papers and maybe the software, if your machine doesn't come with it.
Paper costs: I can fit three of my 15ml bottles on one sheet that costs $0.69-$0.99/each and six of my 3.5ml bottles. More could fit, but when there are too many jammed on there, the cutting blade can have "too many nodes" to work with. I think soapers can get two boxes on each sheet. The costs are easy to absorb for perfume, and I believe the brand image upgrade with soap and other B&B products can justify the cost.
Adding corrugated paper liners adds to the cost, and they'll be respective to the number of items you have already fit on the sheet.
Designer costs: Graphic designers per hour fee can vary greatly. I need to check this out more, but I think the Make The Cut program is all you need, and some training on it, and then you'll be able to be create your own templates. Ros, Emily's mom used it, and I need to get back to her on the learning curve. The eCutter comes with its own software, but I haven't figured that out yet. It should be simple, but I was so carried away with research I didn't have time to sit down with it. I will and post about it. Knowing how to make your own templates will also help you be immediately responsive to a custom perfume bottle, if custom perfume is part of your business.
Software costs: MTC is around $54 and you need to check carefully to see if your machine comes with an alternative, as mine does. If you live outside the USA, you can use the Cricut with MTC. If I understand correctly, Cricut doesn't produce a cartridge (don't understand that bit) to aid in box design/cutting, so the MTC is needed. AI is pricey, and has a steep learning curve, as I understand.
Lisa discovered after she got her eCutter that there isn't a program for her Mac yet. She may just purchase a PC notebook, which is inexpensive, especially refurbished ones, to start using the machine. So, check before you buy - is the machine compatible to your computer?
Some final thoughts and links
Elise and I used 1/4" double-stick tape to seal the side seams of the box, and hated it. Very time consuming. We'll experiment with glue stick or glue pens next time. We also had to score each line and can't wait until that is done by the machine.
I love the thought of embossing/debossing and will experiment with that. In this video, the scrapbooker seems as excited by this method that was described to her, and that she successfully completed, as I was discovering the die cut machines. Since the eCutter draws and cuts at the same time, I need to perhaps draw in the score lines and turn the pen upside down to impress in the scores. Maybe. Not sure that will work.
I'm going to take photos of Emily's boxes around to local printers and ask about the foiling process. There's another way to foil. Using a laser printer for the text/images, and using a heat iron foiling process. I'm just not sure that the paper to be cut can be registered properly and go through the laser printer.
I think this is the most exciting discovery for our businesses that I can remember in my lifetime, except for the Internet, which helps us get our supplies and sell online. And to think it all happened because last year I saw there was a natural perfumer in South Africa, and I felt she might be isolated, so I offered her a one-year membership in the Natural Perfumers Guild. She took part in our bottle buy, and then posted the pictures of the bottles and boxes on her Facebook page, which only had 21 subscribers at that point in time. I am so thankful that I was able to recognize something that could revolutionize our small businesses and have the audience to bring it to, complete with links, images and prototype ideas.
I was going to include a lot of scrapbooking links, but instead I'm encouraging you to search for yourself like I did because you'll probably find treasures and ideas that way. Don't forget Youtube where there are thousands of videos on methods and tips. Just google scrapbook die cut machine also. Good luck and be sure to share the link to this post to all the Yahoo groups, forums, social media you may be on because this discovery will help all of us in the artisan community. Upgrading to beautiful boxes will help all our brands and heighten the perception of our products in the eyes of the public.
The Natural Perfumers Guild is happy to share this custom box information with everyone. Enjoy!