Water has a freedom that I didn’t have as a boy. It would snake through our farm along the creek bed while my dog Bear and I would watch and ponder. Where had it come from? Where was it going?
These experiences inspired me to look beyond the farm in Mississippi. Little did I know they would make possible the SkyDreamer.
When I was younger, I didn’t mind sleeping with my head slumped into my chest and enduring the sore necks that came with it, if it meant I could see and experience yet another far off corner of our world.
Whether it was sleeping in back of economy class while cruising over the Pacific or motoring up the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia crammed into a tiny boat with a questionable safety record, I would brush off the pain and soldier on. It was part of the experience – a Rite of Passage.
But then something changed. Those pains weren’t going away as quickly; they would linger, sometimes for several days. I thought of my mother and her practice of good posture after a car accident that left her with two compressed vertebrae. I was 3 years old when it happened. I walked away without a scratch. My mom endured a life of neck and back pain. Maintaining good posture is how she managed her pain. It was a lesson she drilled into me whenever she caught me slouching.
In a humbling admission, my mom was right. Six years ago, I finally connected the dots. How we sleep when traveling can over time have a negative impact on our spinal health, affecting our quality of life. It was this realization that put me on the path to redesign the travel pillow.
I knew many obstacles lay ahead. Concept designs. Prototypes. Testing. Aesthetics. Manufacturing and marketing. Overwhelming? Yes! Doable? Absolutely! With focus and determination, more good luck than bad, and the support of those who believe in what I’m doing, the SkyDreamer could become a reality.
I spent the first several months studying the problem. The goal was to create a utility that could properly function in today’s travel environment to address the needs of the modern day traveler. It took several uniquely different concepts, but I was finally able to converge on the right mix of functionalities.
To form the contours of what would become the face of the SkyDreamer, I turned to clay to finesse the details. It turned out that regular clay was too heavy for sculpting on a mannequin.
I considered computer modeling, but that approach was too expensive. Luckily, during a trip to Japan, my friend Kuni-san’s daughters, Honoka, 9 and Moeka, 6, turned me onto something they called paper clay. It was lightweight and it allowed me to create better prototypes! Clay modeling significantly improved the compliance of my design.
Now I needed a working prototype, but I didn’t know how to sew. So, I purchased a self-help book and a $39 sewing machine and I taught myself the skills I needed to keep moving forward. My Grandma would have been proud! Eventually, I arrived at a point where I could no longer translate my clay models into their fabric counterparts – the details had become so intricate that they outstripped my sewing ability.
It was time to bring in the experts! And I’d already begun to think about the sourcing of raw materials and manufacturing. It was time to invest in experience and expertise. So, I first teamed up with Liz TurboLizard of SF Sew and Cut.
With over 20 years of experience, Liz and I continued the process of fine-tuning our design. Upon completing the first stage of our vendor sourcing, we started to work with different manufacturers to find one best suited for our needs. We found that mate in North America!
When I was a young boy, with my buddy Bear usually at my side, I would explore on my bicycle the farmlands and back roads around our farm. I would always push to go that extra mile with Bear before having to be back at home before sun down. That curiosity, of wanting to know what was just around the next bend, is what has expanded my understanding of the world we live in and put me on this path.
Six years ago I started this journey to redesign the travel pillow. Four years later, I partnered with Liz. Since, three members have joined the team! For me, it truly has been a pleasure working with them all! The team has worked extremely hard in our research and development of the SkyDreamer! We’ve learned a lot about sleep and travel, and the risks associated with poor sleeping posture. For me, the serendipitous combination of wanting to “meet my neighbors around the world” and the humbled realization that “putting my mom’s advice into practice would be a good thing” are what have lead me to find a healthy solution for how we travel today.