Conception and Production of "Death" Hand Fans

While you wait for your little taste of death arrive in your hands here's a little backstory to the development and production of how I got these things hand fans made!

Making a Thing...

My friend Sarah and I were sitting at my booth last year at Anime Expo, one of the more sweaty convention I've exhibited at (due to extremely hot California sun), when we noticed how many people were fanning themselves with AX Program Guide Books. I'm not sure if Sarah was joking when she said it, but when she suggested I make fans for people to cool themselves, I took her absolutely serious. 

It took me months of searching for a company to produce these for me. With the quality that I insist on having to sell anything at my store, this was a little harder than I had ever expected to encounter. With a few minor set backs, botched prototypes and misunderstandings, I did however finally find a great company who was willing to work with my anal retentive artistic eye. 

"Death" Hand Fan Design Mock-Up in Adobe Illustrator [ 17.4" x 8.7 ]

Since this was all new to me I had to re-explore design concepts. My initial idea was stupid. I was just going to put Death front and center with no consideration of how a fan is held or what it would look like on this medium. I'm glad I came to my senses. After researching what other more artsy fans looked like I came to a conclusion that I should try to make her maximize the space as much as possible, without sacrificing the darkness that having a lot of black ink surrounding her.  Once I was happy with the design, I sent it to my production company and received the most disappointing prototype photo ever.

Learning Experiences

Now here is a great learning experience I really want to share with every one because I could have saved quite a bit of money, time and frustration if I would have understood this better. Never make assumptions that a company you are working with understand your vision. When starting the conversation with this company, I told them I would like to print on Silk and use dyed black bamboo for the base. When I came to them saying exactly what I wanted, they assumed I knew what that entailed as far as printing goes. I did not. Below is a photo of their printing sheet on silk after they ran their printers for production. I was dumbfounded by how off the colors were from what I had sent them above!

Attempt to print on silk with high color density.

When I saw this I asked if they had played with the colors in photoshop or something and only then told me "When printing on silk, the colors need to be soft because silk does not take ink well." Well thanks! This would have been great information to know ahead of time. To add to the frustrations they also had already printed the entire order and were only checking in with me at this point to see if I was happy with the printing. Really? UGH! After a bit of arguing back and forth (only a few emails, thankfully) we worked out a deal for them to fix the issue and print on sturdy paper. I had to repay for setting the printer and a new sample, but everything else was taken care of, they were actually rather accommodating (after I raised some hell with them of course). I wish I could say that this was a fluke, that companies never do stuff like this, but the unfortunate truth about producing things (especially in mass quantities) is that for a lot of companies its cheaper for them to run their printers once and blame it on you if their are mistakes than for them to start their printers a few times to get it perfect. I had similar issues with my book, and have heard from many other artist friends that encountered the same. Suffice it to say, once all the issues were worked out with this company I was extremely happy with the final production. 


I really wanted this to be something special, so instead of just printing fans and having them only packaged in the standard little polybags they came with, I looked into getting custom red velvet pouches with my logo on them. With that I also wanted to include a certificate card that I have now hand signed and numbered as proof that anyone who bought one received a limited edition from my first run of fans ever. When preparing packaging I learned 2 things really fast. 1) get quotes for everything you need before you start any sort of production and 2) try to use one company for everything; hand assembling and producing from multiple vendors is like having one of those vomit-migraine you get after drinking too much alcohol and dropping dinosaur acid. Because of how small I needed the cards, the company I use to print told me it was a custom shape and would need to charge me nearly 5x what it ended up costing me to just print standard business cards and cut them in half! Which is what I did. The pouches, much like the hand fans, had a similar issue of production where they screen printed everything before I gave approval. They misconstrued a line in one of my emails and assumed what it was I was green lighting was the entire production, not just my size requirements. Fortunately, in this case, there weren't any major issues and and the bags they produced came out wonderful.

See more production photos on my Flickr. ]

Anyway, that's what it took to produce these amazing little pretties. Hopefully are enjoying my massively long Development Blogs and at least find the information I ramble about useful in your endeavors!