Spotlight on: Wow Mountain's joyful 3D printed bioplastic flowers and cacti
Three months into lockdown, Missy Dempsey and her partner Josh Flowers were sitting watching "extreme engineering videos" on YouTube when they asked themselves, what if they could make 3D printed flowers from a biodegradable corn-based bioplastic? The rest, as they say, is history as Wow Mountain was born.
The online shop sells 3D printed products, made from a small lab in Sydney, where the couple is based, using a material called PLA, that's polylactic acid to you and I – a bioplastic derived from corn that is recyclable and industrially compostable. Kicking off proceedings with Wow Flowers and Original Wow Cacti, this is an independent business that considers the environment at every step of the way, from using 100% green electricity to run its printers to shipping its products in cardboard boxes.
The founders both have creative backgrounds: Missy Dempsey is a graphic designer and illustrator while Josh Flowers is an industrial designer and CCO of a Sydney agency called Paper Moose.
"Our workflow is pretty much me saying, wouldn’t this be fun! Josh is then really good at taking these wild ideas and making them possible," Missy tells Creative Boom. "Once an idea is sparked, we both sketch concepts in a little A5 journal. Sometimes I will make flat vector art in Illustrator and send it to Josh to make in CAD and sometimes Josh will work directly off the sketches. We both look over the 3D files and make tweaks and changes before prototyping. That’s one of the great things about 3D printing - from an idea, you can have a working prototype in a couple of hours."
How did they come up with the name Wow Mountain? "Our first attempt at the name was actually 'Nubbins World'," says Missy. "We thought that was hysterically funny, but soon discovered a nubbin was a third nipple. It took us three weeks to land on the better name of Wow Mountain. We think it evokes mystery, adventure and child-like joy, which is something we think everyone should get to feel more of these days. It’s easy to feel serious about life through the heaviness of a lockdown. Wow Mountain is a make-believe place where adult kids like us can play."
The response so far has been strong, as Missy and Josh sold out of their first product on the day of launch. "To be fair we didn't have a lot of stock because 3D printing is slow, and this is a side hustle for us. We have an agreement together that Wow Mountain should always be fun, so we hadn't amassed a mountain of stock yet. Seeing people's names we didn't recognise in our order list was a real buzz though, and we're printing around the clock to keep up with orders."
For something so unique, it's uplifting to hear their story and to learn of a side venture that blossomed out of dark times. "There was definitely a mental toll in terms of the uncertainty of it all," Missy says of their experience. "Watching the media every day, wondering when we'd be able to see friends or family again – it's been heavy for everyone. When your home is also your place of work and recreation it's quite challenging. We shuffled around each other trying to find space for ourselves, 3D printers and stacks of boxes. We learned to communicate our individual needs to each other more and give each other space.
"We both love to problem solve and can't let things go until it's done. As an example, one of the perils of 3D printing is that the filament needs to be kept super dry for optimal printing. Sydney in spring is an extremely humid place and we spent weeks troubleshooting failed prints with different techniques to dry out the filament. Josh spent weeks researching the subject. We finally solved it and learned in the process that at our core we're both big nerds who love solving problems and making cute things together."
If you'd like to get your hands on a 3D printed flower or cacti, as well as support an independent business, you can browse and purchase online at Wow Mountain or follow their adventures on Instagram.