I try to do Christmas shopping all year round, and I’ll purchase a little something here and there whenever I stumble upon that perfect gift or an awesome sale. But I also typically start officially shopping for the holidays as soon as the kids go back to school in August. Yes. I am one of “those people,” I suppose. But when life is fast-paced and super-busy, it’s such a relief to have something done ahead of time. (Don’t hold that against me!)

I try to start by compiling lists of ideas for my family, but sometimes I’ll stumble across things that I would like too. So I’ll copy website addresses and photos and add things to wish lists on amazon.com. But this year I discovered something really unique and fun for that hard-to-buy-for gun person. You know, the person who has just about everything (except for a few more firearms, of course). I found these incredible custom gun cases, intricately designed with functional art! So I immediately reached out to Peter Wakem at Carolina Custom Foam to find out more about the company’s products and processes. And I got more than just great information; I got the opportunity to go through the entire custom-gun-case process!

Of course, with endless ideas and opportunities for designs, I knew I’d be overwhelmed and hopelessly stuck at square one if I didn’t just go with a theme. So I decided to highlight USCCA … with a slight twist. I love Damask and filigree patterns, so I asked if it was possible to incorporate those. I also wanted to use the phrase I inscribe on any book I sign or correspondence I write: “Live fiercely. Live safely.” Peter came back with some remarkable designs that perfectly captured my vision, and I was able to tweak them slightly by substituting a little flare for an extra magazine space.

I can’t express how thrilled I was to see the end result. It’s amazing! The laser-cut precision of the design is so clean and beautiful … and so perfectly practical. What a perfect gift for a friend, a leader, a family member, a co-worker or YOU, of course! I got some more details from the top “foam fellow” himself, so enjoy the Q&A. And be sure to start thinking about what designs you’d like to create!

How long has the company been in business? And why did custom foam appeal to you?

“[Carolina Custom Foam has] been in business since 2013, so five years. Custom foam was an unintentional path for a creative outlet. I have a degree in digital design as well as multimedia/animation. We stumbled upon designing lids after we designed a way to ‘mill’ out the foam for holding rifles. I had a customer love the crisp clean lines we did for his gun, and he mentioned he would like to see a logo on the lid. I tried it and—BOOM! Mind blown!”

What is typically involved with the creative process/design process for a custom case? 

“It depends on the job. Some clients know exactly what they want, and I can go with that. Other clients see my work but don’t know what they would like. I usually spend hours planning and talking with them to get a feel of what makes their style unique; then I make it into a case. I usually start with a designed lid, then move the design down into the base.

“There are a few rifle cases I have produced that have an easy 10 – 15 hours of design time, only to turn around and dump another five hours of cut time on top of that. [My clients] usually push me creatively and technically. These are the cases that I am so focused on that I have to be reminded to eat or take a break. It becomes all-encompassing! But the more I obsess on the design, the better it comes out. There have been a couple cases where I will walk away for a week because I’m too focused. But there are also cases that everything just comes together and the design is just ‘already there,’ and I can have a case designed and cut within five to seven hours. I personally love the clients who look at my work and say, ‘Pete, just make me something banging!’” 

How quickly can you create a design? What kind of program and/or machinery is involved?

“Custom handgun cases can take up to one week from design to creation. Rifle cases can take up to two weeks. Our newer, pre-planned themed cases, we can get out in 24 hours. I design everything in Adobe Illustrator, always working with vectors. And I use a few different programs (special trade secrets) to get them over to our 3D laser machines, which we have made to be the right size for cutting the [Appalachian Tough] foam.”

Can a customer get more than one (interchangeable) foam set for the same case?

“Yes! We can do all sorts of solutions for whatever the need is — swappable foam, magazine storage solutions. This is where I thrive — figuring out how we can make it work!”

What are the limitations for something like this? The imagination?

“That’s about it, until we find the ceiling of this whole thing. This kind [of] functional art has not been done before. The storage of items is not new, but what I do, everything that is designed in a case, there is nothing to go study and figure out how someone has done it before me. It’s all new, all unique and, for what I do, I think it’s very affordable.”