DrexFactor is an educational resource and supply store for poi, double staff, and fan performers around the world. The business is run by Ben Drexler, a “world-renowned movement artist, circus performer, and dancer who has spent the past six years teaching and performing the art of poi spinning”.
He’s taught at numerous festivals and events around the world, providing some of the best education available through a variety of classes for all skill levels.
We wanted to know more about the journey he’s gone through by running a business in this community, so we reached out to ask a few questions. You can find his answers, and the story behind DrexFactor, below.
What’s your mission as a vendor? As a flow artist?
“As a vendor: Fire and glow props are pretty and attention-getting but in the grand scheme of things we spend vastly more time with our practice props than we do with either of these other two types. These are the props with which we make our breakthroughs, that we beat up and abuse, and that tend to travel with us wherever we go. I want to create the props that people are going to have those breakthroughs with–dependable workhorse props that may not be as sexy as LEDs, but the ones that are going to be your constant companion and friend through your flow journey.” – Drex
Do you have supplemental income?
My two most dependable sources of income are from prop sales and through my online videos via YouTube monetization, sponsorship, and my wonderful Patreon supporters. I also make money through occasional performance gigs, but I tend to look at these as bonuses rather than a dependable income stream because they tend to be pretty hit or miss.
Having the opportunity to see Drex perform is a fantastic experience. Be sure to keep an eye out at festivals next year if you haven’t seen it for yourself.
If you’d like to check out learn more about spinning poi, Drex has a great resource for you. Either click here or on the picture below to check it out.
What did you do before you were a flow artist?
I was an online strategist for a non-profit human rights organization based in DC.
How did the company get started? What’s the story?
Contact poi was starting to become a big thing. I had a friend that ran a prop making company called Playing Mantis and I tried to convince him to start making contact poi because they were going to be huge. He kept insisting that it was a fad and he’d never be able to get from prototype to full release before the boom ended. After a year and a half of trying to convince him, I finally figured that if he wasn’t going to make contact poi there was no reason that I couldn’t. Within a year it had become my most dependable source of income.
How much time does it take and what does it entail to create your most popular product?
I’m at a point now where I can make a set of contact poi from scratch in about ten minutes. Sometimes I’ll pre-prep by drilling out balls in advance or cutting out lengths of rope. When I have all the pieces readily available I can make a set in less than 5 minutes. To make my most popular contact poi, I drill out a 5/16 inch hole in a vinyl stage ball, cut off a length of rope and tie it through a handle with washers for weights, and then tie another knot in the other end of the rope. I then use a small screwdriver to push the knot through the hole in the stage ball–there’s a trick to this, though, because it’s super easy to crack the ball as you’re doing this!
All the testing and careful attention to fine details show in the final product. Drex’s poi are well known and used throughout the community.
If you haven’t tried a pair for yourself, check out the poi below! Using flow leashes and PX3 knobs, you wind up getting a great pair of contact poi. They look great during performances, too. If you’d like to check out Drex’s store, click here or on the picture below.
How many prototypes did you test before releasing your most popular product?
4-8. I can’t really remember…I deliberately screwed up some of my prototypes to see how durable a final version would be with this flaw or that flaw. I wanted to get a more accurate picture of what the failure rate was going to look like.
How does one even go about testing these products?
You abuse the hell out of them. My first pair of poi where I’d switched from cutting a slit in one end of the ball to forcing the knot through were made about the time I started spinning 3-poi. It was a really frustrating experience and I’d do everything from deliberately tangling the tethers and pulling them apart to throwing the poi against the ground hard enough to get them to bounce to my shoulder height. They’re still kicking today! Those poi are badass!
For my staves, I had a design that I knew worked, but the materials were too expensive. I sat on it for a long time until I saw some sets Casey Houle had made out of PVC and I had my a ha moment. I made up a set and practiced with them religiously for about six months to see what worked and what didn’t. I sold a few of the beta versions at a steep discount at festivals and collected feedback from the buyers to get a feeling of how they would operate in the real world. The biggest problems were cosmetic, but once I had solutions to them I started offering the design for sale.
What are some special projects you’re working on?
I’ve got some ideas for improvements to my staves that I need to R&D a little before they’re ready for public consumption. Ultimately I want to make them as portable as possible and I think there are a lot of ways that that can work. Honestly, the thing I’m most excited about is the release of the Umoja spheres from Lanternsmith. Charlie first showed me a 3D printed prototype of them at Wesleyan Winter Fire Arts almost two years ago and I’ve been dying to get ahold of them ever since. They’re the future of contact poi and I’m so happy they’re here now. I’m also excited to be sponsoring my first few artists, inspiring them to push their art forward and giving them career advice. It’s a thing I resisted for a long time because it seemed like so much work, but seeing the work that Ashlee and Alex are turning in, I’m so proud of them both 🙂
The Umoja Contact Poi are now available! If you haven’t already checked them out, they are perfect for people who want to adjust the weight of their contact poi.
What does the future hold for you and your company?
I’m going to hopefully continue expanding my sponsorship program to include a couple additional artists. Ultimately I’d like to be the place people go for their practice props.
What festivals will you be attending in 2016?
I haven’t been booked for anything other than FLAME Festival just yet.
Make sure you attend FLAME Festival so you can meet Drex and catch his spinning. It’s worth the trek, and you’ll learn enough to practice for months!