I'm John, I'm 39 years old and live in Athens, Greece.
I've been passionate about computers and all computer-related stuff ever since I laid my hands on one, back in 1984. I started working as a graphic designer and IT in a creative studio when I was 19. Later on, I worked for publishing houses and ad agencies, while creating CGI for 2 Greek sci-fi movies and several multimedia productions -and doing some programming on the side, you could say that I can do anything provided I have a PC in front of me!
How did you start vaping?
I smoked since I was 20 but I've never been a heavy smoker, I was rather a half-pack a day guy. I even rolled my own for the last 5 years of my smoking habit.
My first contact with ecigs was in September 2012 when I saw an Ovale in a friend's house. I gave it a try and I realized that it was not just "air", the vapor was flavorful and rich. Surprisingly, I didn't look more on the subject right then. Quite the opposite happened: Ecigs came and found me, in the form of a vape shop that opened right next to my place of work! This was in the start of 2013. I went there and met George, the owner, who showed an amazing amount of patience towards my surprise about "low-tech" coils and wicks! I left with a CE4 clearo and a small eGo battery.
Ten days later the eVic came out and I was impressed with its interface and controls. Well... there came a time when I was equally impressed when I tried to remove a drip tip and I was left with half an eVic in my hand and the other half still on the atty! [laughs]
You finally made a career out of vaping. How did this happen?
I had never imagined that ecigs would be my main job and that seven months after my first puff I would design my own stuff, but there was a long series of events that lead to this. It all started mainly because of two things... The first was that everything I wanted from Vapist.net was always out of stock! Eventually, I got so angry that I thought "That does it! I'll make my own!" -at some point I told Carl all about it and he laughed!
The second reason was an email from Thomas (aka Mr. Frost) asking me about Greece's vaping market and whether I knew someone willing to offer his products. These two incidents, along with the fiscal crisis and my worries about the future, made me decide to quit everything and start doing what I do now.
I started one year ago by creating the site and my company. I met Mr. Frost and we agreed on me being the reseller of his Gkmf and F20 products and Frisco from Atomo mods was looking for a Greek reseller too. Of course, my dream, right from the beginning, was to create my own things in the way I personally envisioned them.
Everything on InnerVape (website, design, photography, code and the final products) are my own work and this is extremely satisfying even though it's very time-consuming.
Yes, I started with drip tips because they were easier to manufacture. I didn't want to risk starting with a more complicated object, it might prove disastrous for someone taking his first steps.
Now I'm on my second line of drip tips, this time made by mixing two materials. When I saw this style it was love at first sight and I really wanted to design a line of my own and see what I could do with it. When my first drip tips were out of stock, it was the perfect timing for this project. I call them Line ][. They're in production now and they are almost ready. There will be 12 designs in steel, bronze and black plastic, bearing rings of different materials. People's reaction on the 3D renders is great and I honestly believe that vapers will love them.
There is also a plan about a unique type of drip tip that's never been done before, but the inside part will need some very delicate job and I'm not sure yet whether it's feasible or not.
How was the step from the drip tips to your first mechanical mod, the Gaia? Did the production difficulties escalate?
My first taste of production was with the drip tips (using steel and bronze) and the vapers' comments were very positive and encouraging, as were the reviews from M. Todd and P. Busardo.
Starting 2014, I began making the Gaia, a 22mm mechanical mod with a magnetic fire-button, that would come in 3 materials (steel, bronze and copper) so that the user could customize its looks according to taste. The whole production consisted of just 111 pieces. Gaia's production was plagued by a series of mishaps, and my everyday life became almost paranoid during the two months it took to complete! I was running around, trying to find solutions to an endless array of problems. Well, the effort was worth it!
I'm thinking of a vaping stand for mods and atties, made of steel with bronze details. It will be telescopic, so as to accommodate all 22 mm mods, and divisible into small pieces, so as to be easy to carry around in a pocket. I'm also thinking about an atomizer, but, in this case, I would like to make something really special. There's this crazy idea... but I can't think of a way to make it come true -not yet!
Apart from focusing on retail, I'm also expanding cooperation with stores that have expressed interest in my work -from USA, UK, Germany, France, and, recently, Japan.
What part of your job do you love the most?
In my case the answer is easy: every little thing! In this line of work, I'm able to create something from scratch by employing all the skills I've acquired so far.
I'll be more specific. It's fascinating to bring to life something that didn't exist, something truly yours, which the world might embrace or reject. I'm starting with an idea, I put it on paper to visualize my thoughts, then comes the 3D model (and all the corrections it needs before fixing the final dimensions), the files go to CNC and the production begins. Later, I'll decide on the photo-shoot, there'll be some digital retouching and everything is uploaded to my page and all the other places I'm active in (forums, Facebook, etc.). Finally, the product is ready to go on sale through the site. This chain of creation/production/acceptance is amazing, especially when you combine them all using one single tool: a computer!
When all this is met with approval and encouragement, it gives you extra strength and motivates you to keep trying. Honestly, the psychological factor and the fact that it all depends on the public reaction, is very important to me.
Stephen King has said that he writes with an ideal reader in mind. Do you have an ideal vaper/customer in mind?
That's a really good question. What is the profile of a merchant's ideal customer? Someone who makes a purchase, pays timely, advertizes the product (either online or by talking to his friends), someone who doesn't ask questions?
This would leave me feeling empty -although it would fill my pockets. I keep in touch with most of my clients, either through mail or Facebook, and we maintain a strong connection because I don't view them as money, I view them as friends who enjoy my work. I often show them my upcoming designs and we talk about them. Their opinion (whether it be positive or negative -and the latter is more creative!) helps me refine the final product. Of course, we also talk about all kinds of things -completely unrelated to ecigs- like all friends do.
For me it's important not to forget that I've been in "their place", meaning the customer's place: the place of one who waits forever on a pre-order list, or counts his money to decide whether he can afford an overpriced atty, or receives a totally different product than what was in the photo, or searches through e-shop after e-shop to discover an elusive mod. I try to avoid all these things and looking from the customer's point of view makes it easy to see what I should NOT do.
It's good that you said "current" because these things change! At home I use a Hammer by Kato. I'm not a fan of pipe-like mods but the Hammer proved to be the handiest mod I've had so far. For outdoor use, I always carry a mech mod and a variable voltage one, usually an eVic and my own Gaia, or maybe a Poldiac. As far as atomizers go, I prefer a Foggati and a Killer 307. I mostly use the Mary drip tip from my last line -because of the person it was named after.
What are your thoughts on the clone issue?
When I made Gaia I'd never thought I would fall victim of cloning. I assumed that I was an unknown creator and they won't bother with me. I remember laughing about it and saying that if this ever happened -as unlikely as it seemed- it would probably be a good thing, a form of advertising that would introduce me to many people. If the Chinese bothered with my work that would mean I was doing something good! Until some friends sent me the link of the Gaia clone...
After the first second I felt somewhat raped... I clicked to see what they had made, while I posted at the forum that I was thankful for the promotion -Gaia was out of stock at the moment. At the beginning I was met with sarcasm , some thought I was a troll, others started asking questions. I told them who I was and simply stated that of course I didn't like people stealing my work but I understand that when a manufacturer offers overpriced products then the customers have no other option than to look for clones. As a result, the thread had 12000 views in two days and everyone's comments were incredible! In that thread I've had the warmest response I've ever faced, on both a professional and a personal level. Some read it all just to see what I had to say, while dedicated clone fans started looking for the original Gaia.
They were used to seeing angry developers who went there to rant, and the whole thing leading to locked threads and account bans. So, my stance seemed unreal, the thread took an unprecedented turn and I'm sure that everyone was pleased to participate. Finally they started making donations to offer me the clone as a gift. Some even proposed that the shop owners contact me and negotiate a cooperation of some kind -the things that were said in this thread were unbelievable!
What I said about clones and originals rings true to both opposing parties. Of course it's not that simple. "No clones and no overpriced originals" is open to discussion. Who decides that something is too expensive? It's highly subjective and it is up to each manufacturer to feel the pulse of the market.
Well, some developments are easy to predict. The number of vapers will skyrocket. Knowing this, the Big Tobacco is getting ready (I believe Altria is already behind some Chinese OEM factories). When they'll be ready, we'll see the legislators relaxing their stance -for obvious reasons. There will be two kinds of e-cigarettes: the cheap ones, made by the big corporations, and the pricier ones, made by small developers or by the big players as their "premium" models.
There's an even worse scenario: the domination of the market by big corporations through the establishment of worldwide standards that suit their needs, thus making it difficult (or even impossible) for smaller companies to stay within spec. They have the means to lobby politicians and organizations, and make it so all small companies are deemed illegal one way or another. But I strongly believe that the big money lies on e-liquids and not on vaping devices. Current eliquid manufacturers will face a relentless war.
So, what's the future of ecigs legislation? Will the "restrict and ban" trend go on?
For the time being, we'll keep seeing a rather high-handed legislation, especially in the US, where every State makes its own laws. Europe seems to be acting more sensibly.
But, think about it, when does a law change? When a million signatures are gathered? Of course not, that's just wishful thinking, it's not the way legislatures act. The whole legislative landscape on vaping will change when the chain of powers who shape this market -or wish to do so in the future- decide they need this to happen. Such changes will probably have a negative impact on us, the creators, but may benefit the vapers, simply because corporations will want them to have unrestricted access to their products.
As far as restrictions go, I try to be as objective as I can. I accept the fact that vaping does not produce the toxic substances we find in cigarette smoke, but some traces are there and this makes it improper for public indoor spaces. I have to respect the rights of people sitting next to me and not be the obnoxious vaper who shows off his "safe" toys everywhere imaginable.
Thank you John! This was an amazing conversation and I'm honored by your presence on Vapeorama Blog.