Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seven years and still going strong

Happy Birthday to us! This week we are celebrating seven years since the StoneImpressions brand was born.

StoneImpressions originated from the incredible talent and determination of our founder, Melinda Earl.  Back in 1994, she was a single mother working out of her garage.   Using her background in fine art painting, she began uniting plaster, oils, china and cloth to produce textured still lifes. Always trying to improve, she began experimenting with transferring images onto stone. However, the known methods were extremely time consuming, so she set out to find a better way. After four years of research and experiments, she developed a patented, hand-printing process and founded PhotoStone in 1998. 

A few of the original PhotoStones

PhotoStone produces high quality prints of photographs, wedding invitations and old family photos onto stone.  The majority of the PhotoStone clients are high-end photographers like Linda Johnson Photography and Michael's Photography.  PhotoStones are a unique way to preserve a treasured memory and make a truly distinctive gift.

Like any good dramatic corporate tale, the evolution of PhotoStone into StoneImpressions is shrouded in a little bit of mystery.  Another one of the founders seems to recall that it was his idea to use the PhotoStone process to create high-end decorative tiles.  Melinda remembers it a little differently.  I have been around almost since the beginning, but I plead the Fifth.  Like any good diplomat, I will only stipulate that without the tremendous efforts of the two of them, this company would never be where it is today.  They have both put their hearts and souls into it and their unending enthusiasm and steady leadership has brought us miles and miles from where we began.

StoneImpressions started in a rented 4,000 square foot "vintage" industrial space in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego.  It was actually an old S&H Green Stamps factory (and if you know what that is, you are showing your age!)   One of the "charms" of the older structure was that if we plugged in too many things at once, we would blow a fuse.  We then had to go knock on the door of the adjacent neighbor and enter their bathroom in order to reach our electrical panel.  We literally ran a sweatshop for two long, hot summers before we realized that the ancient air conditioning system could be repaired.  No loading dock meant that we would have crates of stone tile dropped off in the front driveway and then have to unload them, carton by carton, and wheel them all the way to the back where the production took place.

The crew back at the old building
We moved to a much larger, newly-constructed building in late 2007.  We were so excited when we could plug in the microwave and the printer at the same time!    But more importantly, the new space also allowed us to expand the production capacity tenfold.  We went from no loading dock to a forklift and a pallet rack that can hold 36 crates with literally tons of stone.  We streamlined the production process and made a significant improvement in our sealing technique.

Our current home.
The new building also gave our design team room to spread out.  There is no denying that expanding your physical space somehow opens up breathing room, both mentally and creatively.  We've gone from simple Still Life murals to elaborate pattern tiles with a more ambitious color palette than we ever thought possible.  This year we released our first catalog that focuses exclusively on Pattern Tile Collections and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Some fun examples of how the company has
grown and changed through the years:

The Logo Changes
Our "logo" circa 2004
Our current logo

The Evolution of a Website

Our very first website

 Screen shot of our website at some point in 2004.

The current website - click here for the real thing.

Designs - Past, Present and Future(?)

One of our early Still Life Murals, named "Water Buffalo."
This is the equivalent of an embarrassing high school yearbook photo.  Go easy on us, please.

The gorgeous Clermont Noire mural - click on the image to really see the color and detail.

Another example of the new - Altalena Pattern in the Ochre color.  Find all of our newest designs here.

Our future?  Some funky modern patterns that we are working on.

The whole experience of bringing a company from the tiny kernel of an idea into a full-blown, thriving business is unforgettable.  Small business owners who have done it,  know that it is exciting, challenging, mind-expanding, frustrating, fun and ultimately rewarding.   We have both grown and contracted with the economy, but we have always maintained a core of smart, hard-working, resourceful people who are a joy to work with.  And we could never have come this far without the unique contributions of each one of them.  We really feel fortunate to have such a great team.

So this week we celebrate our seven years and look forward to many more!  Happy Birthday to us!


paula knappert said...

So happy to be in the photo of the "old" crew. Congratulations on the evolution of StoneImpressions......Great product that has inspiration and life.

Jennifer Hunsicker said...

Happy Birthday! You came a long way in a short time!