Bringing a New Glaze to Market

Design 7 Seven by Artist Sandra Gonzalez Combines Affordability
With Superior Open Time

 

Sandra Gonzalez with her glaze product Design 7 Seven.

by Diane Capuano Franklin

By positioning herself at the intersection of art and business, Sandra Gonzalez has built a successful and multi-faceted decorative arts career. As the owner of A Work of Art in Fort Worth, Texas, Sandra has been providing murals and decorative finishes to a wide array of commercial and residential clients for the past 15 years. As an expansion of her business endeavors, she has moved into the more complex field of product development. Within the last 18 months, she brought her first product on the market: a high-performance glaze that is versatile enough to meet the needs of decorative artisans and professional painters alike.

The glaze is called Design 7 Seven, a name that incorporates the use of Sandra’s favorite number not once but twice. And what makes this glaze so special? Certainly one of its defining properties is its extended open time, which enables artists to provide a seamless application on expansive walls without having to move at breakneck speed. Another major selling point is its price, which Sandra positioned in a way that allows decorative artisans to keep more money in their own pockets.

Design 7 Seven is an online business strictly devoted to one SKU—a 1-gallon can of acrylic glaze. “Some clients ask why we don’t sell our glaze in quarts, but getting those quarts is actually more expensive than doing gallons,” Sandra says. “It’s a cost of doing business type thing. My whole thought process was trying to share that savings with the professional faux finisher.”

 

Sandra Gonzalez completed this project using Design 7 Seven.

An Artistic Life

Before we get to the development of Design 7 Seven, let’s provide a little background of Sandra’s artistic life.

In college, she combined her practical and creative sides by studying both business administration and art. “As it turned out, those are the two things that have kept popping up in my life—business and art,” she reports.

Sandra spent some time working as a floral designer and then taught art for about eight years at a private school. She left teaching to work for the church affiliated with the school, which gave her time to pursue decorative painting on a part-time basis. In 2001, she made the decision to devote her full-time energy to her decorative arts business.

“In our area, there was a huge demand for decorative arts and murals, so we got work instantly,” Sandra reports. “The very first year, we were asked to participate in a Parade of Homes for the builders in our area. Then the work just kept on coming—from designers, builders, property owners and homeowners. We had business from both the commercial side and the residential.”

From murals and faux finishing, Sandra expanded her business to include cabinetry and furniture finishes. Eventually she began doing complete remodels.

The superior open time of Design 7 Seven makes it ideal for projects covering expansive walls or ceilings.

A Fateful Reconnection

The seeds for the introduction of Design 7 Seven were sown during Sandra’s years as an art teacher. One of Sandra’s top students was the granddaughter of the man who invented one of the nation’s top joint compounds known as Murco Wall Mud. Years later, Sandra and her former student reconnected. By then, Sandra was well into her career as muralist and decorative artist while her former student was an executive in the family business.

Over the years, the company Murco Wall Products (also based in Fort Worth) had grown to become a diverse manufacturing company selling not only joint compounds but paints, primers, tools and supplies. The company also was growing its reputation for selling hypoallergenic products that were low-odor and low- or no-VOCs.

Murco also did private manufacturing, which dovetailed nicely into Sandra’s desire to bring new products to the faux-finishing marketplace. Her initial focus, with Murco’s help, was to create a glaze with superior open time. The necessity for a long open-time glaze was borne out by her experience in working on large-scale projects, especially when the weather was extreme.

“The walls we were working on were sheer expanses, 21 to 30 feet high and 30 feet long,” Sandra recalls. “We had to work incredibly fast to get the walls to come out seamless. We would be working in construction areas where half the time it was hot with no air conditioning and other times it was freezing cold. We would use damp rags and do our best to keep moving.”

Sandra eventually discovered some high-end quality glazes that provided the open time she needed; but in the back of her head, she wondered if she could create a top-quality glaze at a mid-market price point that would allow artists to eke out a higher profit margin per job. It was her meeting with Kristy, and subsequently other executives at Murco, that allowed her to move forward with that idea.

Another project completed by Sandra Gonzalez using Design 7 Seven.

Extensive Product Development

Sandra recruited her son, Caleb, to help her with the development of this new glaze. A talented musician and artist in his own right, Caleb had an educational background in music business that Sandra felt could be helpful in this endeavor. “I knew he had the mind for it,” Sandra says, “so I asked if he would consider helping me with this.”

The next two years were devoted to product testing and refinements. “Caleb challenged me with questions like: What do you want this product to do? What do you not want it to do? What should be this product’s parameters?” Sandra recalls.

At the top of her list, of course, was the long open time—not only to accommodate huge expanses of wall but also so that the artist could have time to go back into the finish and make any necessary repairs. Sandra also wanted the product to be able to accept not only acrylic colorants, which would make the product appealing to the decorative artisan, but also Universal Tint Colorants (UTCs), which would make the product accessible to the typical painting contractor. “I wanted to make a product that would address the needs of both markets,” Sandra explains.

Sandra gives Caleb credit for his relentless focus on heightening the product quality. “The people at Murco would produce a component and bring it to me, and Caleb would challenge me. If I said it looked perfect, he would say, ‘Okay, now, let’s mess it up and try to fix it.’ He would challenge me to push it beyond our comfort level and beyond what we knew the product could do previously. There was a lot of testing until we got to the point where we could say, ‘This is it. We love it.’ ”

But even then the product was not finalized. Sandra decided she needed professional artists to give their assessment of the product, so she turned to several acquaintances from the Lone Star Artisan chapter of IDAL, including Darlene Hartley, owner of the Painted Wall, and Tim and Camet Runkle, who own Beautiful Brushworks. “I knew them,” says Sandra. “I knew I could trust them. I told them, ‘Please push this as far as you can and tell me what you think.’ ”

The artists came back with positive feedback, in one case, noting, “I actually went to lunch and came back and was able to pick up from where I left off.” Sandra and her artisan friends also tried the glaze in the extreme Texas heat, and it worked out very well.

The versatility of the product has turned out to be a great attribute. “You can add various products to it—metallic paint, Mixol, UTC, everybody’s acrylic colorants, paint, mica,” Sandra says. “That is one of the things we explored in the preliminary—how much stuff can I add to this? How tight can I make the mixture and still have it work?”

In her own work, Sandra is pleased to have a product that she can use for various types of projects. “When I’m using metallic paint, I put a little bit of Design 7 Seven as an extender into the paint to make it go on smoother,” she reports. “I also put some of the glaze on my palette to use when I’m painting murals.”

A Positive Reception

Sandra officially launched Design 7 Seven at the IDAL Show in Fort Worth in Fall 2014. The feedback she has received in the ensuing year and a half has been extremely positive.

“We’ve had people calling us from all over—New York, Florida, California—and they’re loving it,” Sandra says. “I love hearing their feedback—how they’re using it, how it’s working in their environment.”

Success with the product isn’t happening overnight, but Sandra is pleased how the product is catching on. “We’re a start-up, and start-ups can take quite a bit of time to get the word out, but we’re starting to get people calling us and saying, ‘This distributor told us about you.’ We’re very thankful that other companies are starting to see the value in us and sending clients our way.”