Q&A: Vapor Sky, LLC

Vapor Sky, LLC is a really cool company that creates custom Stellar Portraits of dates specified by customers. They donate to and support WFIT, and were a sponsor at Kevin’s 2nd Annual Celebrity Golf Tournament last June.

Co-owner/co-creator, David Inman, Director of Operations, kindly answered some questions for us about their incredible work and commitment to WFIT. Since he was so thorough, I defer to his information about this exciting art e-retailer. Suffice to say, one of their pieces would be a great Christmas gift!

SW: Please outline your company’s origins.

DI: Vapor Sky was started by my friend, Michael, and myself. We met while working together in Portland, Oregon. Neither of us has ever liked working for someone else, and over the years had been trying to come up with an idea for a business that we could start. After we both relocated to the East Coast, Michael eventually found himself unemployed in Charlotte, North Carolina.

One night while lying in bed, inspired by other personalized art and his love for science and astronomy (and a need for income), the concept for Stellar Portraits came to Michael. I was living in Florida and had barely heard from him in nearly a week when he sent me a link to a website. This was the initial vaporsky.com.

I learned about the concept (because) Michael had created (images) of the stars and planets over a specific location at a precise moment, artistically enhanced and printed onto canvas. I was instantly amazed, thrilled, and believed in the concept. My initial reaction was to invest some money into helping him get off the ground with the business. That quickly morphed into “let me help you manage the business side of things” (which is what I enjoy doing), and from there it organically turned into a business partnership.

SW: What is your company like now?

DI: Vapor Sky is wholly owned and operated by Michael and I. Michael has a background in photography and graphic design, and enjoys all things artistic, as well as the aforementioned love for science and astronomy. Naturally, Michael is the artistic brains behind the operation, handling the creation of each Portrait, the design of the website, construction of ads, and all other graphics support. Most importantly, he is the creator of the Stellar Portrait concept and the Vapor Sky name. He holds the title of Executive Director.

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration with emphasis in Supply and Logistics Management from Portland State University and several years’ of professional experience. As the Director of Operations my contributions cover more of the day-to-day business operations: making sure we are compliant, bookkeeping, interacting with vendors, developing strategies, etc. I also do most of our creative writing.

Although this probably sounds like a distinct separation of the duties of running the business, that could not be further from the truth. Michael and I collaborate on every aspect, (offering) ideas, opinions, and experience to the tasks of the other. How we run the business together is more like a swirling of our individual contributions. The great thing about our partnership is that we complement each other very well, and more often than not share the same thoughts on everything from design to business structure to future growth.

At this time it is just he and I covering all the work. We have plans to hire some people to handle printing, stretching, minor design work, etc., and go from there as we grow.

SW: Please describe your process and the final product.

DI: The process of creating a Stellar Portrait begins with a date, time, and location. With this information we are able to locate, using software that employs scientific algorithms, the exact positioning of the stars and planets at that moment directly over that location. From that software we extract an image of that specific alignment. Using image editing software, we artistically enhance the image. This process includes resizing the image to the full size requested by the customer, touch-up editing based on our artistic approach (never changing the accuracy of the placement of the stars and planets), and applying the color scheme chosen by the customer. The completed image is then transferred onto 100% cotton canvas that has a glossy finish by a printer that uses a 12-ink giclee printing process. This ensures a sharp picture and accurate, brilliant colors. Then the canvas is stretched onto a one-and-a-half inch thick frame the width and height desired by the customer. To finish the process a paper backing is applied with hardware attached for hanging. Then the Portrait is packaged and shipped ready to hang the moment the customer opens the box. It can take up to two weeks to get a Portrait due to print and shipping times.

The quality of the ink, the canvas, and the stretching will keep the piece looking sharp for a very long time. Like any art piece, Stellar Portraits require some care. Keeping the piece out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources will insure the longevity of the Portrait. From time to time the piece may need to be dusted, (which) can be accomplished without damaging the Portrait by wiping (it) lightly with a microfiber cloth.

Since the entire process until printing is digital, the image could conceivably be printed onto or transferred to any surface. Currently, we only print on canvas, but, have begun the early stages of exploring other media. A couple possibilities could be wallpaper and interior window privacy adhesives. Whether we use these specific media or not, part of our growth strategy is to expand into offering other products along with Stellar Portraits.

Currently, we ship within the United States (free shipping on all sizes 36″ x 24″ or larger within the continental U.S.). Recently, our top priority has been investigating and getting set up where we can also make our products readily available outside of the U.S. We have already had interest from people in Europe, Asia, and New Zealand, so, as you can imagine, the ability to ship to these places is something we are working hard to make happen very soon. Promptly getting our customers what they desire is our primary focus.

SW: What is your relationship with WFIT?

DI: We first got involved with A World Fit For Kids! as a sponsor for the 2nd Annual Kevin Sorbo Celebrity Golf Tournament held in Las Vegas on June 10-11, 2010. On top of sponsoring the event we committed to donating 10% of all sales we made that weekend to the organization.

When we founded Vapor Sky, it was very important to us both to build a company of high integrity and service. One way we dedicated ourselves to doing this was by determining that we wanted to be a company that gives back to our communities locally, nationally, and globally. To show our dedication to this and have it be a constant reminder to us, we (made) it one of the core values of our company. From the time we launched in mid-April, 2010, we were looking to find a charity to which we could align Vapor Sky. That is where A World Fit For Kids! came into play.

Michael and I both are very passionate about living healthy, active lives, so, WFIT’s mission to promote this very thing in kids’ lives really hit home for us. Their purpose matching what we believe to be a very important facet of life was a big part in why we chose to get involved with WFIT. Starting in August of this year we committed to donating a portion of our profits each month to WFIT to help them reach their goals.

We hope to have many years of being able to help support this great organization and all of the fantastic work they do for underprivileged children. As our company continues to grow, we will continue to reach out to our communities, giving back in ways that enrich the lives of all those we have the privilege to serve. As people and a business, we are committed to leaving the planet and its inhabitants better than how we found them.

SW: How did you hear about Kevin’s tournament?

DI: When we launched our first site, we posted a short story on trendhunter.com. That day the editor for Thrillist.com (a national daily men’s email publication) contacted us saying he wanted to feature us the next day. After the feature we were contacted by a company that does major gifting suites for all of the Hollywood awards shows about possibly attending one of their events. This was the first we had ever heard of how these gifting suites worked, so, I reached out to a number of vendors at past events with this particular company. A couple of them responded with some good information. One was Mikel Schwarz, founder of RibbedTee, (who) provided a lot of great information. We exchanged several emails and quickly formed a good business relationship. When he got involved with the lady who was putting on the Kevin Sorbo gifting lounge, he passed our contact information to her. She contacted us about doing something else first before we settled on the Kevin Sorbo event. And when we were there, we got to meet Mikel and his wife–great people!

SW: Why should people order your Portraits?

DI: People should order these, if for no other reason, to see one in person. I know that I am obviously a little biased, but, Stellar Portraits are simply amazing up close and personal. Even as an owner who was instantly amazed at the concept, the first time I saw one in person my jaw dropped.

Stellar Portraits are so incredible to behold due to the quality of the materials and the printing process, that the colors pop right off the canvas and leave you feeling like you are being enveloped by the stars and planets significant to your special moment. Therein lies the true beauty of each Stellar Portrait: It is yours; it is you!

The visual representation of the stars and planets in each Portrait is unique to the person for whom it was created. Even a date, time, and location as few as 30 minutes earlier or later create quite noticeable differences. This unique alignment of the stars and planets enhances the importance of the moment the individual has chosen to commemorate. It is the creating of art from a significant event in one’s life that fashions a personal bond between the Portrait and the owner. They may not eat or breathe, but, Stellar Portraits are living art.

Adding to the liveliness of the art, we include an informational packet with each Portrait that shows the stripped down image and labels the significant stars and planets that appear on the artwork. There is a second image that outlines the constellations followed by a brief explanation of them. The art does not just hang on the wall looking fantastic, but, it can be an interactive piece as the owner learns of the different stars, planets, and constellations. The Portrait and its newly-educated owner could very literally be the life of a party!

On top of the highly personal nature of Stellar Portraits, each one is fully custom-made. We do not, cannot, create the Portrait until it is ordered. Really, the customer provides us with everything we need to create the art. Without the date, time, and location we could not gather an accurate image of the stars and planets; we only apply the (ordered) colors and only print it to the (specified) size. It truly is collaboration between the customer and us to create this fine work of art. More than selling art, we are providing a service.

For that reason, adherence to impeccable, fast-response customer service is our number one goal. Not only will a stunning, personal piece of art be purchased, but, the detailed level of our customer service will get people what they desire in the quickest amount of time possible. We can respond to customers’ needs anytime.

People should buy Stellar Portraits for the quality, deeply personal connection to the piece, its ability to be tailored to any décor, and for a shopping experience that equals the significance of life’s special moments.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk more about Vapor Sky and our commitment to A World Fit For Kids! We appreciate you wanting to tell people about us (and) for helping us to reach our personal and philanthropic goals.

Please see the Vapor Sky, LLC website here: http://www.vaporsky.com/

Follow them on Twitter: http://twitter.com/VaporSky

(Photos courtesy of Vapor Sky; close-up photo by Steve Lui)

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