When people come into the store or even at the wholesale shows I was currently at, customers are always surprised that we have come up with even more and different designs than the year before. The questions is always “Who comes up with all your ideas”? Although the ideas can come from anyone within or outside the company, most of the designs are created by Ben Bear and Ashley Warehime, the Father/Daughter Designing Duo.
Ben is the owner and founder of Meadowbrooke Gourds. It was his ideas and designs that got this business started over 20 years ago. If you know anything about how we got started, you already know it started with Ben playing in his garage by using his wood and hand held tools on gourds. He finds that his best inspiration comes from just playing around (and possibly a few drinks). It is during this time that he allows his mind to open to all and every possibility of trying to find something we don’t already know. He will look at all different sizes and shapes of gourds and try and come up with a design that we do not have now or maybe have never even thought about.
Ashley was born around the time that Meadowbrooke was created and has worked on the farm since a very young age. In middle school, she did a rough drawing of a bunny that later became our Ashley Basket Candy Dish, named after her. It was not until her senior year in high school that she stepped back in the picture by working daily with her dad on putting color to his designs. She surprised herself and Ben at how easy this came to her, what a gift she truly had and how much she enjoyed doing it. During this time she developed many of the mixed trans tint dye colors and pastel colors we still use today.
I got to sit down with them to see exactly what they look for, how they design and how is it working together. While Ben likes to play and get suggestions from customers, Ashley likes to look at pictures on a topic for inspiration. Neither look at current gourds that are already being done since the whole idea is to look for the next new design or way of doing a gourd. Both agreed that the one thing neither of them do well with are deadlines. The pressure of a deadline, not really having any ideas or ideas that are only partly completed or when designing becomes too much like a job and isn’t fun totally kills the creativity process.They also agree that having to work on one design because it is due when they really want to be working on something totally different is very difficult and frustrating.
Every year, we retire approximately 25% of our current Meadowbrooke Gourd’s line which means we need to come up with 25% more ideas and gourd designs. I asked Ben and Ashley the process they go through to do this.The best way to describe this is teamwork. They both come up with ideas but Ben handles the cutting and how to put it together part while Ashley does the color and accessorizing. Ashley does not like to draw but she has a very vivid picture in her head of what a gourd is going to look like which she explains to Ben so he can craft it. This is not always the easiest. Ben on the other hand, takes a rough idea he is thinking about and just starts crafting and adjusting to figure out his final design before he hands it over to Ashley to finish. When asked if they agree on everything, they both laughed and replied “HECK NO”! It is a lot of back and forth, compromising and totally redesigning or smashing gourds until both are happy and agree with the final outcome. Ben did mention and I am allowed to quote him “She is always right”! but Ashley was quick to let me know about the exception. She wanted a lit sheep and he didn’t. In the end, both made it in the catalog and after a year, Ben’s unlit sheep outsold Ashley’s lit one. But overall, her history with designs is amazing.
Sales, customer’s positive comments and gourd ideas that surprise both of them are by far the most rewarding aspect of designing. Some ideas can take years to totally form into a design or gourd line while others come easily and quickly. Both agree that a stagnant product is a dead product and neither are okay with this and needs to be changed. The more unique a design is, the better and the bigger the idea, the more rewarding. We are extremely luck to have these two on our Meadowbrooke team.