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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

A new space for the modern artisan

Darlings, honestly where does the time go? And where do I start... so much has happened. But first let me share with you one of the most exciting things to happen this year. My chums and I moved into a mansion, it's simply fabulous! Read all about this magnificent new space, here in my darling chum; Amanda Carr's article....
proportion london has relocated from its previous Victorian tramshed factory in Walthamstow to a modern state-of-the-art space that allows its skilled workforce room to breathe.
History and charm of the old has its place, but ask any of the skilled artisan workforce at proportion london’s new bright and airy factory if they want to return to the leaking roof and challenging layout of their loved but decrepit Walthamstow factory, and you wouldn’t get many takers.
Creative Director Tanya Reynolds explains ‘we wanted to keep the quirky eccentricity of our heritage and the strong connection to our artisan craft based practices, but bring ourselves right up to date with the best technology and working techniques within our industry. proportion london is evolving into a strong and modern company and we needed new space in which to flourish. “

Space for the Modern Artisan
The new 42,000 sq ft of factory space is located in leafy Highams Park, one train stop from the old factory but a world away in terms of modern design, state-of-the-art technology and manufacturing style.
The streamlined factory houses design and manufacturing facilities for fiberglass, papier-mache and wax mannequins and bustforms, together with tailoring facilities, prototype laboratories and the creative team.
Proud of its heritage but wanting to modernise both its management techniques and working practices, the new management team of Mark Henderson (Gieves and Hawkes, The New Craftsmen), Antonia D’Marco and Reynolds, recruited process consultants Exelin to advise on space planning and production strategy.  Reynolds continues ‘Between us, Antonia and I have over 50 years of experience in the mannequin business but we wanted a new way of ‘seeing’ in order to embrace the future.”
For starters, proportion london has ensured the creative process, particularly in its experimental early stages, is fully on show, by constructing a glass wall between the visitors meeting room and design studio. Clients can see prototypes being constructed, new finishes showcased and even live sculpting happening in the long gallery space where the creative team work.
The daylight filled studio has a modern laboratory feel to it, with mobile workstations that move to support each project under construction. Craft technicians in white overalls use the purpose built space to view prototype mannequin shapes from all angles and ensure perfect balance and form.  This ‘room to breathe’ in artistic terms helps to strengthen the team’s strong creative edge and stay ahead of the competition.

Logical Flow and Streamlined Process
Logical flow of process is another time-saving benefit of the new factory, which allows each area of manufacture and development to flow organically and efficiently across the factory floor. Both the physical and the creative journey have been accommodated.  One clear winner was the papier-mache process, with the construction of a new mache suite, with mould lamination, lining, baking and finishing happening in a linear progression of internalized rooms, saving space and time.
Sharing of creative expertise has also been considered, by placing the Special Projects workshop, where you might find development work ranging from new mannequin shapes for luxury design houses, through to work on a museum installation or film props, next to the development studio, allowing the creative team to consult and share comment on development projects as they unfold.

Hi-Tech Combined with Bespoke Craftsmanship
Investment in advanced technology systems ensures the company has the edge in terms of speed and quality. Four gleaming white, space-age spray pods house the most advanced spray and bake facilities for super-fast batch finishing of mannequins, touch dry in a breathtakingly short four minutes, with exceptional quality of finish and no environmental contamination.
Giant sealing-screen doors keep areas environmentally and temperature controlled, with a state of the art extraction system that ensures areas such as mould-making are kept pristinely clean from dust particles, which can ruin a mould finish. 
The unique skills of the individual craftspeople have also been accommodated, with each team contributing to the design of their own bespoke workspaces, with every essential material and tool positioned to improve productivity.  From custom made tailor’s benches with perfect-height fabric rollers, to curated shelving for the packing area, to the customised machinery to keep the mould clay at the perfect temperature, the new space was truly a team effort.

A Leaner Management Approach
Mark Bushrod of Exelin has helped the management team construct a Lean Management strategy (used at Lexus cars amongst others), to bring harmonious and continuous improvement to working conditions.  The new factory hasn’t just facilitated better working practice, it has also invigorated the management team intellectually, enabling them to discard out of date practices and introduce streamlined modern ones.
A new Operations Manager, Craig Frost joined to both oversee the move from old to new factory and manage the day to day running of the site. He brings with him expertise from the manufacture of luxury yachts, which seems appropriate since at times the factory feels like a sleek ocean going liner, all white and gleaming in the daylight filled space.
The new home is just one more dynamic step for the company, which also sees an exciting new showroom space for clients open in London’s Shoreditch early this autumn.
Chairman Mark Henderson, already an experienced hand in modernising British craft based institutions at Gieves Hawkes and The New Craftsmen Gallery, is clear the future is bright.
“We’re incredibly fortunate to have found such a perfect home for proportion london. Here we can grow, strengthen our skill sets, develop new concepts and techniques and deliver a first rate product quickly and efficiently. This is British creativity and making at its best. We have a worldwide opportunity with proportion>london and this new home will play a key part in that”.

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