My name is Tom, and I’m an architect and a bit of a nerd. My partner, Patty, is an artist and photographer. Together, we design and create unique geometric and architectural model kits and cards; our line is called Thomas Houha Designs. We work from our home studio on six wooded acres near Portland, Oregon.
My designs evolve from my many interests, including architecture, space travel, geometry, and all things nerdy. As a kid, I spent time with my architect dad building harpsichords, telescopes and stereo systems, so the idea of working with kits has always been second nature to me. I started making model kits myself when I was experimenting with a new laser cutter to make gifts to friends and family. After making my first few sets, we decided to share them with the public. With that, Thomas Houha Designs was born.
One of our first products was a design of the Portland, Oregon sign – an iconic 1940’s-era billboard in downtown Portland that has become a bit of a logo for the city. I sold some kits of the Portland sign at a Maker Fair at the local science museum, where I was demonstrating how to use the laser cutter and 3-D printer. We opened our Etsy shop a little later, and by then we had added bridges and geometric orbs to our collection.
When I design a new kit, I start by sketching my ideas out on paper. Next, I design in more detail on the computer, and send them to the laser cutter. All of my prototypes go through several revision cycles; if the product passes this process, we move on to designing the packaging and instruction sheets. The production phase is actually the slowest part of the process, as all the model parts are cut one sheet at a time. Luckily, we have our own laser cutters, and we’ve been able to upgrade as needed.
Patty and I believe life is about doing what you love – and we love being creative. Etsy has helped us live by that philosophy, and has given us the opportunity to sell our products all over the world. We get so excited when customers send us feedback and photos; we’ve even had a few brides tell us that they used our model bridges as table decor and cake toppers! In the future, our plans are to continue growing our business. We will both be working on Thomas Houha Designs full time by March 2016, giving us more time to develop new products, including life-size model kits. Who knows where this adventure will take us? We are here to enjoy the ride!
All photos by Patty of Thomas Houha Designs.