Episode 11: Expose Yourself to Art with Jesse Genet and Stéphan Angoulvant

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Lumi makes a fabric-dye that becomes permanent when exposed to bright full-spectrum light, as from the sun. But that’s not why the founders, Jesse Genet and Stéphan Angoulvant, are on the show. Rather, it’s the way, starting with an obsession of Jesse’s when she was 17, that the two bootstrapped a company using collaboration, crowdfunding, and craftiness. Find Jesse, Stéphan, and Lumi on Twitter.

Show notes

Photos of my visit to Lumi in January 2013. Jesse and Stéphan  attended to the Art Center College of Design, where they studied industrial design. Jesse and her step-father made this crazy machine
that lets them expose a large area of fabric or material at once to the
UV light necessary to fix the dye. Lumi’s early history involved just selling printed goods made with their process.

Lumi’s first Kickstarter campaign was very early in the crowdfunding site’s history, raising $13,600 towards a $12,000 goal in which the rewards were products made with their nascent method. The money helped fund more research and experimentation. Bakelite (an early plastic) was an accidental outcome of trying to replace shellac, which was made from beetle excretions. The adhesive used in Post-It Notes was originally considered a failure and it took years before the inventor and a 3M colleague figured out how to make a workable product using it. Etsy is a place to sell one-of-a-kind products, whether made from scratch or bespoke for a customer.

Lumi’s production offices are in the Brewery Arts Complex, an enormous artists-in-residence campus, of which I took some photos. Stewart “Whole Earth Catalogue” Brand’s book, How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built, explains the appeal of places you can tear up to use as you want. Lumi has more conventional office space that they share with Adam Lisagor, known as @lonelysandwich on Twitter, and who accidentally launched a remarkable video business for promoting apps and Web sites in a low-key and delightful fashion. President Obama namechecked 3D printing in his State of the Union speech in February 2013 and freaked people out.

The second Kickstarter campaign Lumi launched was to fund a serious production run of dyes and kits. They raised nearly $270,000 for a $50,000 goal and, miraculously, fulfilled all the rewards (to domestic backers) on time. Jesse teaches classes on Kickstarter and making things with Lumi via Skillshare.