I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tammie and Doug of Molehill Mountain Art Drip Tips. While scouring the Internet looking for a unique drip trip for my boss I happened across the Molehill Mountain Art Drip Tips website and was immediately enamored with the beautiful pieces of art that were created for Vapers. Eventually I decided on one called “Chechen Inlaid Polymer Clay” (review) something or other, and purchased it for just $22.00 plus $2.00 for shipping. It arrived in a matter of a couple of days.
Because I was so struck with the beauty and workmanship of the drip tips I used their Contact Page to send a comment, letting them know just how much I loved the drip tips and how excited I was to order the Chechen tip. Well, one thing led to another, and during the past week what amounted to a simple drip tip purchase wound up being a subject to write about in my Vaping with Julia column, a review of the two drip tips I received, and this, the interview with both Tammie and Doug.
Before the official Q&A, here’s Tammie, in her own words, writing about her experience with vaping and how they (Tammie and Doug) wound up turning decades of artistry in wood turning and ink/paint/clay into a business that produces the most amazing drip tips for fellow Vapers. Talk about giving back to the community!
Tammie: “I first switched to eCigarettes on January 2nd 2012. A friend of mine received a kit for Christmas and she was so excited about it that it heightened my curiosity. When she had gone two days with only 3 cigarettes I got online and ordered a kit for myself.
I didn’t have any intention of quitting. I was just hoping it would help me cut down, but as soon as I took the first few puffs, I knew I could make a clean cut and stop smoking. The hardest part for me was ‘reaching‘. “Hi. My name is Tammie and I’m a “reacher””. It was the act of reaching for a cigarette that was such an entrenched part of the habit! So I quickly moved the cigarettes and ashtrays out of reach from the places I normally occupied and put an ecigarette where I had kept those things. I was thrilled when I hit the one-month mark without a single cigarette! And then two. Then three. I just celebrated one year and am looking forward to celebrating each year for the rest of my life. I had given up quitting and was sure I would die a smoker. Doug is a Vaper as well and we’re enjoying having a smoke free home!
We started with V2. I wouldn’t recommend them (other than their pass-through… it’s well made!) Quickly, I found V4L (Vapor4Life Review) and very much enjoy their Titan line and Dial-a-Volts. Their prices are okay if you only buy from the 45% off sales. I do like ‘cig-alikes’ since I have some arthritis in my hands. They’re simply light enough to not cause me problems. (The Dial a Volt can be pretty heavy at the end of the day.)
Because we had started with 808 connections we simply stayed there… until my one-year anniversary when I treated myself to a selection of girly batteries from Virgin Vapor (Review). I now have four eGo Q’s, along with two Vision cartomizers and my first two mini-ViVi Nova’s. Love them! … And I couldn’t help but play with dressing them up. They of course need the perfect tips, along with a bit of ecig-jewelry.
As for juice, we generally use Vape Dudes. My current favorites are American Standard, Graham Cracker, Key Lime Pie, Strawberry Fields and Sweet Tart. I also love Highbrow’s Buttered Rum and Then Some. Doug enjoys American Standard, Butterscotch Pudding and assorted coffee flavors.
We began making drip tips in August of 2012, so it hasn’t been very long! We ran them by a vapor group on FaceBook and they were very encouraging and helped us sort out any issues. We wanted to offer fine art tips at affordable prices. Doug has been a professional artistic wood turner for about 25 years now (preferring miniatures) so turning drip tips was a very natural addition to his abilities. His work has been shown in galleries such as Joe Wade Fine Arts, Christine’s of Santa Fe and Laguna Beach, The Mariposa Gallery of Fine Art and many others throughout the U.S. The two of us have collaborated on quite a few pieces (wood and clay or wood and ink/paint) and they’ve been shown at The Albuquerque Museum Gallery, the Del Mano Gallery (the premiere wood gallery in the western half of the U.S.), and Gallery M in Half Moon Bay, Calif. There are sizable collections of his work in the U.S., France (and other parts of Europe, Canada, Japan, etc. (All of that to say that he is a well established turner in the art world.)
There is a photo of a ‘random segmented‘ tip in the sold gallery. That technique originated with Doug many years ago in his artwork. Segmenting has been around for ages, but for ‘random’ segmenting he was the first. I think it makes stunning drip tips as well as bowls and vases!
Doug loves collecting and turning wood, but soon discovered the fun of turning acrylics to add to our selections. There are many talented acrylic makers and it’s fun to see the blanks become little jewels for our eCigs! For me, this is a huge bonus in switching to e-cigs. You can be artistic with your set-up! The money saved from tobacco can be spent on fun rewards… like beautiful tips and mods!
As for me, I enjoy working with polymer clay, as well as inks and paints, so you’ll find a bit of that among our drip tips as well. I’m waiting for warmer weather so I can continue experimenting with making my own acrylics. (Needs to be done outside for good ventilation and we’re in deep winter now.) You can look in our Sold Gallery and see ‘my’ acrylics — Lavender Water (a clear acrylic with dried lavender encased in it) and Kayte’s Sea Foam Bottle Glass. I was just getting started with the weather turned cold on me. Drats!
We enjoy a very high return customer rate and are very thankful for each and every customer. We operate our business under the guideline of ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ It’s worked very well for us.
You can see more photos of our tips here:
My current favorite PV:
Spinfuel: Your Drip Tips are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Do you design them first and then make them or are they more organic? By that I mean do you ‘see’ the drip tip in your mind, a certain look or certain design, and then make it? If so, does the final tip wind up looking different than what you envisioned?
MMADT: Thank you so much! Usually, they’re more organic in nature. Each piece of wood or acrylic has it’s own characteristics and I try to shape it in a way that will enhance and not detract from it’s original beauty. Occasionally one of us will come up with a shape, draw it out and I’ll use it to turn some tips, but that isn’t usually how I work. The shapes I envision generally work out, but there are times when the end result is completely different than what I started out to do… which might be a good thing!
Spinfuel: Do other objects or designs you’ve seen ever inspire you? Did you ever see something and think; “That would make a great drip tip”? Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a great design in your head? How does the creative process work for you?
MMADT: Yes! Over the years the beautiful shapes of Indian pottery and various vases I’ve seen have heavily influenced me. My vases influenced many of the drip tip shapes! Yes! I once had to turn a Lego man head! And bowling pins. Isn’t that a great drip tip shape?! I’ve never woken up in the middle of the night… for anything. I sleep like a rock.
Spinfuel: Would you ever ‘duplicate’ a drip tip? If a potential customer is viewing your ‘sold drip tips’ gallery and says; “I want that one like that!” will you make another one or are they always a bit different?
MMADT: I often duplicate tips… or try. Free hand turning is never an exact process so there will always be little variations, but the general idea can be duplicated. And yes, we’ve made many special request drip tips since we began this venture. We’re happy if we can make someone else happy!
Spinfuel: Doug; you ‘turned’ more than 600 species of wood in your career. Which one makes for the best drip tips, and is there a species that would make for a bad drip tip? Which wood is your favorite to work with for Drip Trips?
MMADT: (Doug) It’s impossible to pick a ‘best’. Many woods make excellent drip tips. I have about 100 favorite woods, for different reasons. There are many species that should never be used to make drip tips. Some woods are irritants and in some I won’t use, like Padauk, the dust can be somewhat toxic. And of course, there are some woods that are just too soft to be used for drip tips. In general, the harder a wood is, the better tip it will make. (Such as Ebony, Pink Ivory Wood, Ziricote and Purple Heart.) I particularly like many species of burl woods for the outstanding figure it supplies to the tips.
Spinfuel: Tammie; you perform the polymer clay work on Doug’s drip tips. How difficult is it to inlay this clay into such a small piece of art?
MMADT: Once I reach the point of actually inlaying it, it’s fairly simple. Before that can happen, the process of building the canes requires quite a bit of work and time, particularly if the cane is a complex piece with many shapes and colors moving throughout the clay. Working on such a tiny scale is difficult, keeping in mind that some of the clay will be turned away after curing. So the pattern I see when my part it done, isn’t how the finished tip will look. I’m always excited to see the end result, but there have been a few times that I wanted a do-over!
Spinfuel: Do you, or will you, build a drip trip from a customer’s drawing or request? If I, or any of my readers, came to you with a specific idea or color combination or materials, would you build it? Is the cost higher for this custom work?
MMADT: We have done that on occasion, and are happy to hear what a customer would like, but we know our abilities and reserve the right to say no way, ain’t gonna happen. 😉 As far as a particular wood or wood color, if Doug has it or can get it, (as long as it’s a good wood to use) he’ll gladly work with you in choosing the right size and shape to meet your needs/desires. We do have to set a limit of five special requests per week to keep things running smoothly. No one wants to place an order and have to wait very long and we don’t like the pressure! We’re artists! But seriously, if someone would like something specific, we suggest contacting us and getting your name on the list. As soon as your name comes up, we’ll contact you to see if you’re still interested. It’s a first come first serve deal. No payment is made until the tip(s) is done and you have seen photo’s to approve it. There is no obligation to buy if the drip tip is not what the customer had in mind. We strive for customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, yes, there is a small fee of $3.00 for special requests because the processing is more involved for Tammie and takes a considerable amount of time orchestrating and keeping track of things. Tammie plans to take the $3.00 and eventually go on a cruise. No. Not really. But yes, there is a $3.00 fee tacked on to special requests.
Spinfuel: What is the longest you’ve ever spent making a drip tip? Can you tell us what it was, what it took to make?
MMADT: The Random Segmented tips take the longest and honestly, I haven’t figured out how long it takes because I don’t even want to know. I might never make another one if I calculated the time on those! (The time factor is spread out over days if not weeks.) I wouldn’t be surprised if it were all lumped together to find that I had spent an entire day making one tip.
Spinfuel: Do you sell to eCigarette vendors? Are they required to sell them as your pieces or can they brand them as their own?
MMADT: We would love to be able to do that, but at this point, it’s not feasible. Doug can only make, on average, five tips a day. Six on a really good day. These really are individual pieces of art and you just can’t mass-produce that.
Spinfuel: Where would you like to see your drip tip business go in 2013 and beyond? Are you ever afraid that the drip tip aspect of your work will take up too much of your time and leave less time for the larger pieces, your bowls, vases, etc.?
MMADT: We would like to see our business continue to develop a name for quality product and service. We’re in the development stages of adding new products that will hopefully include hand poured, painted and glazed ceramic drip tips and eCigarette jewelry. I’m so excited!