Founder Nora Napientek. Photos courtesy of nora fleming.

Gift Shop Plus Winter 2023
Meet the maker: New technology speeds up creative flow at nora fleming By Julie McCallum

Pictured above: Founder Nora Napientek. Photos courtesy of nora fleming.

Christenen explains the process to create prototypes on their Formlab SLA printer…

“…Acts just like a regular printer – a file is uploaded to the printer (can even be done off site). There is a container of resin, and wherever the UV light hits the resin, it hardens into the shape that is indicated from the file. This goes in layers to make a 3D piece. The model is then cleaned in alcohol, and finally sets with another UV light. For our size minis, the entire process takes about 4 hours (printing, cleaning, and setting).”

For more information on the printer used at nora fleming, visit formlabs.com/3d-printers/form-3.

For almost 20 years, the nora fleming company has been celebrating life’s precious moments. The nora fleming collection pairs traditional ivory-colored serving platters and home décor pieces with unique, decorative inserts, “minis,” that represent holidays and themes. Each stoneware, melamine and wooden serving piece has a small hole on the rim to place a “mini” that enhances the event or occasion.

nora fleming’s distinctive collection also includes over 80 minis which cover seasons, sports, hobbies and holidays. New minis are released quarterly to ensure the collection stays fresh. The nora fleming collection is available in 1800 specialty boutiques throughout the United States and online at www.norafleming.com.

Recent technological advances have ushered in a new era at nora fleming. New tech in the design process has proven to be an affordable and approachable way for new minis to be developed.

The company recently promoted Janice Dayon Christensen to president. Prior to her new position as president, Christensen previously held the roles of coordinator — events & social media, director of branding & communications and VP of brand strategy and product development at nora fleming.

While the company was founded in 2004, Christensen was hired as its first employee in 2008 after a chance meeting with Founder Nora Napientek at a local craft fair. Capitalizing on her penchant for all things tiny, an affinity for crisp spreadsheets, plus an innate love of buying beautiful yet practical products, she found her dream career at nora fleming. Before joining the company, Christensen was a high school teacher and an at-home mom to her three sons.

Napientek tragically lost her brother and business partner Jon Neidlinger in an accident in 2019. His wife, Britnee Neidlinger, joined the company as co-owner shortly after. Since that time, Christensen filled in during the interim to be a shoulder to lean on for the nora fleming team, keep production running smoothly, circumvent the past few years’ supply chain issues, and maintain the company’s signature culture of whimsy and innovation for which it’s been known.

“I am so excited to continue this next chapter with my nora fleming family,” says Christensen. “We will continue to innovate with whimsical yet practical items, all while spreading nora fleming’s message of sharing kindness through artful entertaining and gift giving.”

We recently had a chance to catch up with Napentiek and Christensen to get the latest on nora fleming.

What do you have in store for the nora fleming company in 2023?

Nora Napientek: There are so many new and exciting changes here at nora fleming! New minis, new bases and a few surprises that we’ve never done before!

Janice Dayon Christensen: We’re most looking forward to more organic shapes and materials to add to our mix of current product.

Can you tell us how the process of developing your iconic minis has changed in the last 2-3 years?

NN: Entertaining has changed a lot over the years with COVID and people tweaking the way they do things. We have leaned more on general minis to bring out the celebrations of simple everyday life. We have learned through this pandemic that we need to celebrate every minute we get to spend with family and friends. We also tried to make deep connections with the end consumers during the pandemic by having personal uplifting videos from myself and “mini idea” drawing competitions. It was a blast for the nf fans and awesome to get their ideas and feedback.

President of nora fleming, Janice Dayon Christensen.
President of nora fleming, Janice Dayon Christensen.

JDC: We’ve also incorporated more technology into the process — specifically purchasing a 3D printer to most accurately see how the minis will appear. Moving from 2D to 3D models makes all the difference when something has the level of detail that many of our minis incorporate. It also reduces our sampling time significantly — we can get a file, print it out, and have something in our hands in a matter of hours versus weeks. The models are then eventually used to make the actual mini molds — so we have an exact representation of how the mini will eventually look. It also allows us to make changes, even minor ones, much more efficiently. We can go through many more rounds of edits with this shortened cycle. We’re not relying on shipping samples, either.

Keeping the sampling process so direct keeps our ideas flowing, too. We can explore many more ideas when it’s just a matter of having artwork made and printing them out — it allows us to be much more creative because we’re not going through the trouble and expense of having molds made every time a new idea comes to mind. Before, when it might be several weeks before a sample was in hand, it was difficult to start and stop the creative process — now it just continues flowing because we can get and give immediate feedback.

It’s really harnessing the best of technology and marrying that with the creative process in an international setting. We know this technology can be used in many industries (medical, engineering) but we’re happy to have found a use for it at nora fleming.

What caused you to rethink your production process?

NN: Changes in supply chain and shipping has made things more difficult for everyone in manufacturing and distribution. We consciously over ordered from our suppliers last year in order to guarantee that we have enough product for our customers. It’s been difficult for cash flow at times, but we have made it through and are looking forward to some normalcy in the coming years.

How are the changes impacting your design and production processes and timelines?

NN: We are just really trying to stay ahead of the game, making sure we have mini and base production artwork at least a year in advance. It can get tricky due to trends but we hope to be the setters!

Tell us about the process of developing new minis and retiring old ones.

NN: New minis are designed based on industry trends, what our customers request and what our team feels strongly about. Most often we retire pieces based on what new pieces we are bringing in.

For example, if we are launching a new beach themed mini, we most likely will retire an older beach theme mini. We’d love to keep them all, but what people have to keep in mind is that we have a limited amount of warehouse space and love to consistently bring nf consumers new and fresh products.

The loyalty of nora fleming customers is unrivaled. What do you have planned for those diehard fans in 2023?

JDC: Nora has some very exciting and new experiences in the making for our customers! She is thrilled to be back on the road doing signings and meet and greets. Her hope is to have even more intimate curated experiences for nf lovers!

The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer collab with Hester & Cook has launched. Any more collaborations in the works?

NN: Rudolph’s popularity blew us out of the water! We were floored with his sales and response! Stay tuned for more exciting collabs!

Julie McCallum

Julie McCallum is publisher of Gift Shop Magazine. She is formerly the editor-in-chief of the publication, as well as editor of Museums & More, and she has more than 25 years experience in publishing.




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