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When we decided to create a flight tray we knew we wanted to source the finest materials and create an object that would act as equal parts art object and functional flight tray. The initial design was developed with the help of Kevin Greenland, an industrial and UX designer (and dear friend and colleague). Kevin sketched out all our ideas in Rhino and developed a few options that we could refine further, once we decided on the material and fabrication process. Kevin is a digital magician and must be given extra credit for having the ability to read Sabrina’s “technical drawings”!
Once we decided on brass as the material, the search began to locate a fabricator in NYC. We were lucky to find Williamsburg Metal Spinning and Punching Corp. This company is one of the last industrial businesses of its kind in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, operating for over 75yrs! Stepping inside you’re surrounded by gigantic hydraulic machines, hundreds of cast die molds and many decades worth of metal dust and grease. It is absolute heaven for anyone who makes things to be standing in such a historic and impressive workspace.
Tom DiSanti, the owner and guru of all things metal, is almost as passionate about metal fabrication as he is about photography! Tom was helpful in refining our design based on the limitations of the material and of the machines. After a few rounds of prototyping and problem solving, Tom and his team cut the brass sheet and machine-bent it to shape. They made four holes in the base of the tray to accept the round feet. The feet were punched using a die and hydraulic press.
Once the trays were cut and bent and the feet were punched they came back to studio headquarters where Sabrina hand-sanded every square inch of the metal. We knew we would be applying a patina so it was very important to have a highly refined surface.
Early in the design process, we needed a solution to prevent the copitas from wobbling on the metal. We also knew that we wanted natural and beautiful materials that would at last a lifetime. Sabrina has worked with leather in past projects and connected with a company in upstate New York called Pergamena. As you can see in these images, the process of preparing a pelt for tanning and dying is laborious! The pic on the left is an old school leather measuring machine. To the right is an image of freshly tanned hides.
Pergmena is known for their superior quality parchment and leather. The hides come from animals that have died naturally or been raised for food. They are committed to ethical and environmentally friendly practices, just like us! All of their hides come from North America, with the majority from local farms and hunters. The leather is vegetable-tanned, a traditional and environmentally sound process, the pigments they use are natural and biodegradable whenever possible. The leather we chose is Hudson Calf in slate blue. The pelt has subtle variations and markings on the surface. It was really satisfying to put the final coat of oil on the leather and watch the nuance in the surface texture appear.
The leather was laser cut at Laser Art NYC just a few blocks away from our studio in Ridgewood. Owner, Matthew Laska is the best, always willing to troubleshoot and help us optimize our design and fine-tune our files.
Matt also made us templates for stamping the leather. These were super helpful when Gabriel set up the press to stamp our cross logo across each piece of leather. Fun fact: Our cross design is a digital trace of one of the first crosses Michiko hand-painted inside a copita prototype from our Oro collection. A big thanks goes out to Kyle from d'emploi and Darren from Awl&Maul for letting us use their space and leather press!
We were surprised to discover that soldering the corners proved to be a big challenge. It is very difficult to solder when the metal gauge is so thick because it requires extra solder, which means more heat and the possibility of distortion. After some trial and error, Sabrina took them to Evan James Jewelry, where Rick, the owner, was able to hand solder each one using his fine jewelers' expertise. Each tray has is own personality, containing the history of each makers hand who touched it.
The bottom of each tray has our logo machine engraved in the center. This addition was made by Tony of Tony's Jewelry, another of Sabrina's fabricator's from past projects. Tony along with his brother George offer every type of metal engraving service. George is a master hand engraver, if you want to be blown away by his skill please check out his Instagram!
We had samples made of two types of engraving: Laser and Machine. We chose the machine engraver because it created a carved look. We offer custom engraving as an additional option to personalize the tray.
Our friend Matt over at Laser Art NYC helped us create our custom packaging. We designed a system that protects the tray from any damage while in transit and acts as a great storage solution as well (we encourage collectors to hold on to it:). It’s made from recycled paper and finished with a wax coating.
We developed a special ombre pigment for a custom set of porcelain copitas to accompany this tray. The copitas are made in the same way as our De La Tierra collection and are exclusively paired with this tray.
Sabrina has a background in foundry work, metal casting etc., and wanted to give the trays a warm golden glow. Sabrina worked hard to develop the patina through many hours of R&D. The patina she chose is a hand-applied cold patina finished with 1 coat of oil and 3 coats of wax. We decided against a polymer coating because a.) it dulls the metal finish and b.) it changes the chemical reaction of the patina. All this means that our natural finish allows the tray to oxidize over time creating a unique weathered look. The more you handle the tray the natural oils in your hands will contribute to the aging process (think antique brass candlesticks). If you choose to avoid this look, we include cotton gloves for handling and recommend a yearly application of paste wax.
We consider our limited edition heirloom trays to be utilitarian art objects. This piece will make a beautiful and impressive addition to your home bar, as well as enhance any prominent surface in the home.
It is a perfect luxury addition for a bar or restaurant serving top-shelf agave spirits as a flight and will surely add aesthetic value to a guest's experience!
However you choose to use and display this item, we hope the story of how we made them will contribute to your understanding of their beauty and appreciation of each trays individuality and value. Get one here!