2008-07-17 / News

Smith and Ianetta's garden art showcases artists

By Michaela Kennedy

Dwight Smith showcases one of his HypnArtic garden art pieces. Smith, along with Jamestowner Ray Iannetta, created the company to help feature artists and their work. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten Dwight Smith showcases one of his HypnArtic garden art pieces. Smith, along with Jamestowner Ray Iannetta, created the company to help feature artists and their work. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten After Ray Iannetta backed his car over an expensive sculpture prototype, designer Dwight Smith knew he had made the right decision to go into business with the right people. And so the two men marked the beginning of HypnArtic Artwork, Lawn and Garden Collectibles.

Iannetta was looking for a designer, and a sounding board for his larger vision. "Not many artists get paid a lot, and they are always struggling," Iannetta said. "If we could build a company that would feature artists and their products, if we could build a product that can work for the masses, we would pay royalties to the artists. That helps fund them to do their one-off designs. That was the whole thought behind this."

Iannetta said his wife is an avid gardener, and he wanted to do something in the same interest. Combining his love of design and moving parts, Iannetta researched outdoor sculpture. He saw artwork, 6 to 7 feet high, made of copper and stainless steel, on some trips he made out west. "When you look at these pieces of art, they're usually in the $1,500 to $3,000 range," he added. His goal was to bring the metal art retail price down to the $500 to $600 range.

Iannetta and Smith toyed with ideas over coffee about three years ago. He was not sure of what Iannetta was asking of him at first, and was not sure where he would fit into the project. They played with designs. "Ray has a fascination of movement in sculpture. There's a lot of mechanics involved, almost like building an airplane." Smith became the creative input for his friend's idea.

Iannetta, Smith and two other men joined forces to create Hypn- Artic Artwork, and started to produce high-end yard and garden sculptures. Iannetta became the chief executive officer, and Smith is the director of design. Another partner, Sam Liu, does the manufacturing in China, and George Yapchaian is their strength in retail. "We have a good team," Iannetta said.

Their business has started out small, with a concentration on quality. Iannetta, a veteran of the Six Sigma business management strategy prevalent in quality manufacturing, focuses on process improvement and variation reduction. Iannetta makes sure the sculptures have great durability by the seashore and can withstand high humidity and salt.

Movement within the sculptures is also a key factor. "The motion should be hypnotic. If you were on Prozac, you'd want to throw your pills away," Iannetta said, adding, "We have had prototypes here, there and everywhere."

The partners still laugh about the ruined prototype. They had spent hours and thousands of dollars on prototypes. "We had to buy the copper, the stainless steel," Smith said. The prototypes arrived, and they began assembly outside. "I had my whole heart and soul into it," Smith recalls. One particular sample was his favorite. "We went to lunch. Ray backed out the car and crushed it."

Iannetta's reaction, "Aw hell, I didn't like that thing anyway," was the motivation that convinced Smith that he was working with a great team. "I took that attitude as an 'aha' moment," Smith adds. "These guys were not going to let anything beat them down."

Iannetta used his overseas contacts to find a manufacturer in Guangdong Province in South China. He saw the mineral-rich region as an ideal place to source materials and to employ hand labor for the sculptures. "If every one is different, that is artwork," he said.

"Things that require motion are critical, but it is still made by hand."

Sales goals to date have been modest. The company currently distributes two art pieces, and two more designs are about to be marketed. The business operators are currently working to get the products into large lawn and garden shops nationwide. "Our goal is to get into True Value Home Centers across the country," Iannetta adds.

The company's strategy is to draw in various artists and mass produce new designs.

With contacts in major sales catalogues, Iannetta is confident that the company's vision is a big one. Catalogue retailers like to get their product refreshed every year. "If we had enough designs, we would take those designs and do limited editions for each catalogue," Iannetta explains. "The artists can then make money that funds their large (art) pieces."

Smith hopes that at some point the company will be able to host a whole stable of artists. "We've exceeded progressively in what we set out to do," Smith said. "Every time we got a shipment, it looked better than the units before. It's been slow, but I feel we've made quantitative steps with where it has gone."

More about the new company and its products may be found online at www.hypnarticartwork.com.

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