A little history about T.R.C. Designs, Inc.
the early seventies, my pop presented me with an
antique clock. It was an odd looking clock called an Ogee
that belonged to one of my great uncles. As part of the
agreement, I was to have the clock repaired in order to
possess what I thought would be a very valuable
antique. Now if one were to fast forward here, and view
a photo of my grandmother's family as presented to me
by my aunt, it would be clear as to why my grandmother
would see fit that I should receive this clock. As I look
at the photo taken some decades before I was born, I could
see my image in my great Uncle George(Back Row, first
man on the left)! I could have passed as his twin whose
mannerisms, I’m told, were as eccentric as my own. Ok,
call me sentimental...
|The logical route to take in repair of an antique clock would be to pay someone trained in the craft the hundred dollars, or so, to perform the repair. Instead, I spent thousands of dollars and years in training to learn the craft to repair the clock myself! Brilliant! Seeing an opportunity for a small business in clock repair in a field with little or no competition, I began the task of learning this dying craft. I accepted an apprenticeship at a local jewelry store owned by an old fellow who agreed to train me in exchange for half of the money that we would earn together.As I advanced in my apprenticeship, I acquired the tools required to enter a clock making profession.As my horological skills matured, so too came the realization that my artistic desires could not be satisfied by the "point A to point B" nature of a repair business. So began the experimentation with small Christmas ornaments for my new bride.|
|To my delight, she would, on occasion, take my experiments to work to share with her coworkers who would "ooooohhhh" and "ahhhhhhhh" over the "tiny treasures."As the "ooooohhhhs" and "ahhhhhhhs" began to swell my head, I came the conclusion that everyone would love my "little toys" and I would do well to participate in a local, mall sponsored craft show. I set my sights, paid my fees, and began to build the inventory required for my "grand premiere" as a "world class" toy maker.|
|As the grueling five-day show came to it’s grinding conclusion, I found my cash yield just a bit short of what I had paid for my space! Count our time, the raw materials, food...(you get the picture...) I would quickly discover that perhaps this was not exactly the "make a million overnight" adventure that I hoped it to be.As time eventually teaches us all, success is not always to be measured in dollars and cents. As during this show one of my few customers had a request for a miniature nutcracker for her dollhouse mantel, I began work with my watchmakers lathe to soon produce some interesting results! While the results of this first effort may not have been quite "world class", we now know that the ideas spawned that weekend may just have been the beginning of something great!|
|Along the way in producing these few tiny miniatures came an idea that perhaps a larger version (4 inches or so) might do better for the folks who collect nutcrackers. So, we swallowed our pride, healed our wounds and set focus on the next craft show to be held in an arena setting. To say the least, the results were dramatic. Our handmade miniatures quickly sold out, as did some of our other products that we had come up with using the same techniques that we had learned while creating our miniatures. We even had the Governor’s wife (Lynda Johnson Robb - daughter of former president Lyndon B. Johnson) purchase one of our music boxes for her daughter. Hmm! Could we be on to something?|
A December to Remember!
A few years passed with the same results at nearly every show that we attended. Now, what confused us a bit was the fact that our hardwood trains, and other wooden toys sold nearly as well as our miniature nutcrackers! Oh, by the way, at this point in time, we were known as "The Three Ring Circus". Handmade toys and joys by Glenn and Diana Crider. We had solid hardwood trains, clown toys, circus toys, toy fishing rods, toy ironing boards, music boxes, doll beds, and lots of Christmas ornaments. They all sold well, but the miniature nutcrackers were the items that usually stole the show. Literally… The year was 1987 and this was the year that my little nutcrackers would indeed steal the show by catching the attention of our local newspaper who intereviewed us for an article! As you might imagine, the phone began to ring and the mailbox filled with orders! Over two hundred of them, that were all expected to be delivered in time for Christmas. I had just quit my ‘real job’ to start full time production as T.R.C. Designs. I worked day and night (over 120 hours a week) to produce that first wave of nearly 300 handmade miniatures! As I look back over the years, I realize just how lucky I am to have discovered this very special talent in practice of such a wonderful craft.
|In the mid-ninties, our small family-owned business grew to become a small cottage industry with over a dozen employees producing products for hundreds of accounts all over the country. We’ve produced several hundred original designs in many scales from one-inch to six-feet. As one of only a very few companies in the United States to produce nutcrackers, (less than five) T.R.C. Designs, has been fortunate to have been nationally recognized in magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, Wood Magazine, Southern Living, Richmond Magazine and many others.With all this success, and as I grow a bit older, I’m reminded of an earlier comment about artisitic desire.|
|So… in 2006, we decided that we would stop large volume production to focus on design. We began to scale back by not accepting new accounts for production and informed our current accounts that we would stop in 2007. Our idea was to spend a few years to design some new products, build a few masterpieces, and perhaps, write a book. With that decision came some news that we will be releasing soon.|
Richmond Ballet...For years, it seemed (I've doing this since 1982), I tried and tried to get Richmond Ballet to realize just how unique it was to have a guy in their backyard that made nutcrackers. Finally in 1998, I got Regis Wyatt to pay attention and meet me for lunch to have a conversation about how we could do some limited edition products that could do well for Richmond Ballet.
You see, there are really only a handful of people in the US that can do this nutcracker thing (The bulk of the craft originates in Germany). Consider making a nutcracker as a linear project consisting of over 400 steps and labeled from A to Z. There's one guy in Utah who does the woodworking part (an incredible task in itself and almost impossible for most woodworkers to accomplish). He is an exceptional craftsman, but handles only A to M (the mechanical / woodworking side of the project). Letters N to Z are necessary to perform the artistic requirements of the project and this is where the Utah fellow falls short. The other two ladies (yes, there are only four of us) pretty much just to the N to Z artistic part. So... really there's just one guy who really can handle A to Z. Add that fact that all of our work is completely original, and you begin to realize just how special the opportunity really was to produce a series of limited editions dedicated to Richmond Ballet.
Once we performed our first production run in 1999 (and sold it out), we haven't looked back. We did skip one year when we built the mouse (primarily because he was so very difficult to make that it took us two years to make him). Along the way, we have worked with many other Ballet Companies and Schools all over the nation, including Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Ballet Florida, Kansas City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and many others.
In 2006 we decided to step back with the idea of spending some time off to design, execute some masterpieces, and perhaps write a book ( I have over 300 ideas rattling around in my head!) We informed our accounts that we would fulfill our current commitments but after that, we would not do production for a while. It was Spring of 2006 when we received the USPS commission.
We completed our commitments for production in 2007 and in December 2007, we learned that the USPS would release our stamps on October 23, 2008. So... as planned, 2008 has be a year of designing with no production, but it's beginning to look like we'll have to wait a while on the masterpieces and the book. We've already commited to produce a new piece for Richmond Ballet for 2009, but want to leave the door open for opportunities that may develop as a result of the release of these stamps.
BRAVO has been a wonderful experience for us and it's been a great feeling in knowing that we've been able to help with what seems to be a great fund raiser for the Ballet. It was a phenominal experience when the Ballet commissioned us to produce the nutcrackers that are actually used as the stage props during the performances. I'll not soon forget that feeling when I first saw Clara on stage with 'my nutcrackers' and the joy in seeing her brother successfully pull off the nutcracker's head (a designed in feature!)
Through the years, we've produced literally hundreds of unique designs in scales from 1 inch to 4 feet. I have on my masterpiece to-do-list an eight foot version. I've already designed him in my head and am just waiting for an opportunity or commission to do the work (hint - wouldn't Richmond's Prince be an awesome photo opportunity in an eight-foot scale?). During our busiest years, and with 10 or so part-time employees, we produced a couple of thousand pieces a year. We've never really reached a scale that would allow us to move to the 'next level', whatever that means. I'm not really sure about what's next, I guess we'll see.
As for this year, I just delivered a few nutcrackers (from my personal inventory of past Richmond Ballet products) that will be available from BRAVO. Act quickly if you want one, they'll not last long! :)
In addition to the nutcrackers mentioned above, I'm hoping to sign a few stamps and perhaps provide some memorabilia to help BRAVO with this year's fund-raising efforts. I'll likely turn down other accounts in the coming year, but rest assured, I'll make sure that Richmond Ballet gets on my schedule early in 2009!