Keepworthy Creations: Using Blender for Prototyping Gift Designs

Childrens publisher and gift company Keepworthy Creations have been using Blender to prototype collectable gifts they produce to accompany their books. They started by using Blender simply to aid creating technical drawings to send to their manufacturer, but liked the process so much that for their next project they persuaded their manufacturer to accept .blend files directly.

Peoria, IL — Keepworthy Creations LLC is a book publisher and gift manufacturer based in Peoria, Illinois that produces collectible children’s storybooks and thematically related pewter finish keepsake gifts designed with Blender for the Critters Like Me™ collection. The company is producing gifts for the two current books in the collection, Baxter’s Big Teeth and Randall’s Christmas Vision.

Baxter’s Big Teeth Synopsis
After a big forest fire, Baxter the beaver’s family and friends are missing. The only kid left in the colony, Baxter realizes he will have to learn to grow up on his own. Unlike the grown beavers, Baxter doesn’t have his big teeth and isn’t able to help rebuild. Angry he runs away and vows not to come back until he gets his own teeth. Afterwards, Baxter meets a boy named Kevin and the two develop a heart-warming friendship. Baxter learns about losing teeth, growing up, and the importance of patience.

Baxter’s Big Teeth Gift Design
One of the elements of the story involves Baxter putting his baby teeth into an acorn for the Tooth Fairy. Keepworthy Creations used this theme as the basis for the keepsake gift. Company partner and designer, Christopher Hovey, used Blender to design a collectible-quality Tooth Fairy tooth box for children to use as storage for their lost baby teeth.

For the first gift, Hovey used Blender to plan the proportions and dimensions of the overall box. “I wanted to create a high-quality gift with a warm, organic design that would share a common theme with the book while still being affordable in a slow economy. Already familiar with Blender, I felt it was the perfect fit.” says Hovey.

Chris drew the details of the oak leaves and embossed acorn in Adobe Photoshop on a separate layer over three view orthographic projections of the box that were created in Blender. At that point, the manufacturer was not familiar enough with Blender to accept 3-D files and hand-tooled the ornament box details based on Hovey’s detailed drawings from Photoshop. Keepworthy Creations worked with the manufacturer to start accepting .blend files for the next book/gift combo in the series and its companion gift.

Randall’s Christmas Vision Synopsis
Randall the reindeer has been working as Mr. and Mrs. Claus’ butler for some time. He longs to do something more exciting with his life. When a new job opens to guide Santa’s sleigh, the Clauses won’t let Randall join the other reindeer because of his poor vision. Instead, Randall is given the task of decorating the village hall for Christmas. With the help of a friendly polar bear, mischievous twin squirrels and a slightly grumpy owl, Randall comes up with a decoration theme that changed how Christmas was celebrated around the world.

Randall’s Christmas Vision Gift Design
To promote the book’s theme of Christmas decorating, Hovey designed a pewter finish star ornament, Randall’s Star by fully utilizing Blender 2.5’s polygon design capabilities as well as V-ray and Shapeways for rapid prototyping. Randall’s Star features an embossed reindeer and holly in the center with snowflakes on the spokes of the ornament. After giving the manufacturer a crash course on Blender, Hovey was able to design the one million polygon face count gift with relative ease. Hovey heavily relied on Blender’s sculpting tools to produce the embossed reindeer and holly.

After the initial design was completed, Hovey was able to test different finishes of the star in V-ray. He exported an Autodesk .FBX file from Blender which was later imported into Autodesk Maya. He tried several different metallic V-ray shaders including gold and silver before finally deciding that a pewter finish best represented the small details in the star. Company partner Bob Counce, a seasoned engineer, checked the design for proper tolerances and corner radii to allow for the smooth flow of metal and even cooling throughout the die tooling. The final finish on both gifts is done by hand.

Upon final approval from his other partners in the firm, Hovey submitted the design to the manufacturer for production. Blender allowed the total design of the product to take less than two months and saved the company considerable time and money with the ability to rapid-prototype.

“I feel that Blender’s sculpting power and overall versatility are hard to match,” says Hovey.

Baxter’s Big Teeth and Randall’s Christmas Vision are both written by Betty Counce and illustrated by Dave Seay. For more information, Keepworthy Creations may be accessed at www.keepworthy.com.

The Baxter’s Big Teeth fan page may be accessed here.

The Randall’s Christmas Vision fan page may be accessed here.

Screenshots of the wireframes, photos of the gifts and illustrations from the books may be found on flickr.


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  • khanDude

    nicee how big is it?

    • Chris

      4.5 inches in diameter

  • chkr

    Some of those links are wonky!

  • Olaf

    I’m really impressed that Blender is being used for technical drawings, since it isn’t designed for that. I personally would use SoldWorks and import the designs into Blender for rendering  and animation using the DXF import. I’ve done this in the past and it works beautifully.

  • UnconventionalT

    First and third links are messed up. You can still access them by copying the link address, though.

    • http://www.blendernation.com Bart Veldhuizen

      Links fixed, sorry about that!