We had the pleasure of hosting a short term intern in March.  Alyssa, sister of the wonderfully infamous Chainmail Chick, spent her spring break learning how to make Organic Armor. She fit in comfortably and showed a real aptitude. She helped us get started with circlets for our summer inventory. She also made herself a set of wicked horns.

We’ve had three other interns/assistants since 2006. They have all brought us new ideas, valuable experience, and expanded production capability. As of a couple of weeks ago, we have two new artists working with us.

The first was Elliot, a homeschooled teen from our neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles. He was 17 and aspired to become a filmmaker. He had already created some great fantasy costumes with paper mache. He was great with kids and assisted in the classes we ran at that time. We taught him the Organic Armor process and he worked on his own original character costume. He went off to college after a year and half with us, to study film. We expect to see amazing things from that young man.

When we moved to Asheville we worked on our own for about a year. We met Sean at an art opening. He was curating a group show in a warehouse space and were exhibitors in it. We were impressed with his big picture thinking, community focus and high energy. He was a student at UNCA in the art department. A few months later when we realized we needed production help, we called him. He was excited to be a part of the company and, being a systems kind of thinker, kept trying to improve our systems. This wasn’t always successful but gave us a needed new perspective on things. We bartered materials, training, sometimes cash for his labor.

On paper, having an assistant looks like it automatically increases your output but sometimes it doesn’t. Not because the assistants aren’t skilled, but because you might not utilize them well. It’s another learning process you get to have when you run a business. Sometimes having 2 people working in the studio made everything go more than 2 times faster, but other times it clogged things up.

Paul learned more about his own work patterns. This began our attempt to split tasks into categories: those that took a sharp mind, those that could be done mindlessly; those that took a lot of physical energy; those that needed complete focus and those that could be done while chatting about politics and your favorite bands.

Engineering a complex helmet design from scratch needs to be done when brain power and physical energy are at their peak and there are no distractions. Spraying 40 circlets goes twice as fast with 2 people, but they don’t have to be optimally brain-powered for it, just tuned in to each other. So we learned, we grew our business, Sean got busy with school and travel and said goodbye.

In 2010, Lynette and the rest of JavaFiend Studio moved into a space down the hall from us. She is a painter, costumer, sculptor of macabre dolls and more.

She was fascinated by Organic Armor and was itching to try it. Paul, being a friendly neighbor, gave her some guidance and let her use the materials to play around. We weren’t looking for an assistant then, but it developed that way. She enjoyed it so much and had a real knack for designing with our techniques. At first we did some bartering in exchange for her help. After some months of her showing up regularly we realized we could do so much more that we took a financial leap of faith and hired her part time.

Her fresh sense of design was a real asset to the company. She was super dedicated and worked way too much for the small salary. Because of her, Organic Armor expanded in countless ways last year.

But of course our learning continued. We were navigating the brainpower/energy/distraction spectrum to an even more nuanced degree. And not successfully at times. We tried to create schedules but last minute deadlines routinely derailed them. Late night caffeine-power and love pulled us through, and continues to do so.

Our winter sales are always slow so we had to lay Lynette off after Halloween. Her schedule has changed a lot since then, but we hope to work with her more this summer.

When we started gearing up in April for the 2012 summer shows, we found two more talented people to help us, Nathaniel and Remaya. This time we are way more organized about scheduling tasks and utilizing their time efficiently. It seems to be working well. They both bring unique skills and ideas to Organic Armor and we will continue to evolve with their help.

Here’s to learning how to work together, create together, and succeed together!