Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Head Space

I work alone most days, so I spend a lot of time inside my head. Yesterday, I was the third studio mate to a couple of friends of mine who have aquired a huge space to live in and work in. I didn't live there, of course, but I brought all my tools and worked there rent free, of course, because I was inside my head, and also because I have a LOT of tools and the were so greatful that they could use them. It was awesome. It was nice to work with other people again, just like when I was in school...simultaneously working together on different projects while listening to headphones in my own little universe among friends and ghosts.
Last night, while I was vacuuming the school, I gave a 3 hour class on building furniture. I had about a dozen students and they were very polite and absolutely riveted. I spoke of the importance of mechanical drawings, "Your drawing is your map. Without it, how will you know how to get to your destination? If you take the time to do a good drawing with dimensions, the rest is easy...all the answers are right there. You must have a detailed mechanical drawing by our next class, or don't bother coming, because without it you will be lost and I won't be able to help you." From there we discussed the parts list, rough chop list, and the proper way to mill lumber. They learned a lot last night...I even handed out clip boards at one point, so they could be organized like me.
Then reality came slamming back into me and started asking me where this class would be, and would I be liable if someone chopped off a finger? So then I decided I probably could give this class online. Folks could watch the presentation and then use the shop at school to build their furniture. And it would be great, because they could take a break whenever they wanted to, and replay parts until it made sense, reference other parts if they needed to...awesome.
I was trying to explain all this to my husband, but he fell asleep and had the nerve to snore while I was talking. I think head time is essential for growing. It allows us to see what is possible. That being said, I need to get to work. There are tools and ghosts waiting for me. Dave Matthews will probably show up with his guitar again...talking about dreams and digging ditches. I've got places to go and I'm carrying my map.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rule #1 Stay Visible

My work is expensive, and the economy is in the pooper. It isn't fair to myself to price the work lower than my fellow craftspeople in hopes to stay afloat. That just brings everyone's value down. Plus, it makes me look like an amateur. I am a well educated woman and a fine crafter. My furniture is made well and made smartly, I definitely should not sell myself short.

So, what to do while we wait for the economy to "bounce back"? Will it ever bounce back? My most profitable year was 2003. Back then, I was a fiber artist, making colorful framed collages. Everytime I sold one, I bought a powertool. Believe it or not, I had a complete woodworking shop after 18 months. But I also had small children...which made using the shop darn near impossible. Seven years later, I am making the best work of my life, with the smallest profit ever.

I caught myself fantasizing about owning a food truck. How awesome and simple would it be to sell a $2 cup of lemonade? Or a $3 chocolate eclair using my grandma's recipe? A gourmet food truck where when parked in the right location you could make $1000 in a weekend! It just sounds so lovely...and easy.

When I turn the volume down on all these crazy ideas, I step back and ask myself, "How do I make this business work when folks just can't buy?" Stay visible. Be Seen. Let people know that you own a legitimate business. That you can design, and construct something beautiful that you can't just run to Pottery Barn and get on sale! That you have credentials. Toot your own horn-no one is going to do that for you! And be smart. Have a small ticket item to sell in the local craft shows, something that doesn't take 40 hours to make, but rather you could make 40 in a week! And show the lovely furniture beside it...

Stay visible. I could apply to as many shows as I can afford. I could accept any invitation to show anywhere even it is totally unrelated...like a hair salon. Just to stay visible. I can blog until my fingers cramp up, and become a facebook junkie, and maybe even tweet. I will not stop working towards kicking 2003 in the butt.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fine Furnishings Show Recap

I took the summer off. I spent my summer with my kids, enjoying hot days at the pool, trips to the zoo, and a whole lot of nothing. It has been 3 months of producing nothing and having no worries...but that doesn't mean I wasn't anxious to get back into the shop.
September 1st came and I was eager to get back to the shop. So many ideas over the long break were swirling around inside my head. I cranked out 4 pedestals in 4 weeks for the Fine Furnishings Show which took place this past weekend.
Square One Design had our own booth at the show amongst some incredible craftspeople. For 2 1/2 days we were surrounded by amazing furniture, beautiful displays, and a flurry of creative energy. It was fantasticly inspiring. Although there were not many sales, not just in our booth, but in general, it was great exposure and we will do it again.
Ryan was amazing to have along. This was the first show we have done together. When people inquired about the work, he was so quick to direct them to me. It was kind of sad that even though we were standing side by side, 99% of folks would direct their questions to Ryan, assuming the work was his alone. He was fast to correct them, letting them know that I was actually the designer and woodworker, and that his job was sanding and finishing.
I was told (and I don't know for sure if this is 100% true) that I was one of only two women woodworkers in the show. Apparently we are a very rare breed. I met, and liked very much, my woodworking sister, Dolly, from Chicago. I plan to pick her ear about what her career has been like for her as a woman in a field so obviously dominated by men. She brought it up briefly when we first met. We swapped stories about what it was like to visit a lumber yard and have to convince the whole crew of men working there, that you do, in fact, know what you are doing.
I left the show feeling proud of what I have accomplished in my first year out of the gates. I feel so fortunate to have a husband who is supportive and educated and awesome. I am inspired to try some new things and to not worry too much about making pieces that can be easily reproduced, but rather to keep making pieces that are intriguing and fresh.
A big thank you to all who came out to the show! An even bigger thank you to my new virtual buddy, Joe, (legend) who critiqued a pedestal of mine and got me thinking full circle again! Thanks to Dick Ivens for his words of encouragement, Jeff Miller for the reading assignment, Brent Budsberg for being the nicest guy we've ever met, Bruce for following our blog, and Martin for his willingness to head to the pub whenever we ask!