It’s been three years now that I started my professional venture into woodworking. What was once a hobby is now my full time job and so far it’s paying the bills. The goal was to sell small runs of custom furniture, not one-offs, but limited editions. For the area I live I don’t feel there is the customer base for bespoke pieces designed and created for one customer alone. I do think there is room for small runs, enabling me to make jigs in order to speed up the production process but not making such huge numbers that it becomes mind numbing.
Where am I going with all this? Good question. When I started I decided the best route to get me to my furniture goals was to start with small items, cutting boards, bird houses, wood toys, etc. These items can be fun to design and make, and selling them at craft shows definitely spreads the word about who I am and what I do. I also ended up in many shops selling my products wholesale. This was even better as the sales were guaranteed and much less time me being a salesman (something I hate) and more time me actually making things (something I love).
The only issue is you end up making what you make. By this I mean if you always make cutting boards, you’re always going to make cutting boards. Sometimes you need to throw yourself out there and start new projects, projects that might not pay, might not work, but new things. Making salad servers or iPad stands is a good way to help pay the bills, but I can’t say I’m fulfilled at the end of a day making these items.
To this end I’ve not signed up for any craft shows this year. I’m doing one last big show in Toronto (One of a Kind) and that’s it. I’ll still work on wholesaling to shops, custom canoe paddles, and I might try an art show in the fall, but for now I’m going to take some time, time where I won’t be making money, and start building the furniture in my many notebooks. I have a lot of designs that have never left the pages of my books, and it’s about time I get started on them. Will they sell? Who knows, but they definitely won’t if I don’t make them!
Every fall, there is an artist’s studio tour in my area. Artists open their studios for all to see how they work, and to show off (and hopefully sell) some of their latest art. There is an application process and those who are accepted get published in a booklet that is given out around town and receive quite a bit of exposure. I find the biggest barrier to sales is people not knowing I exist, so any publicity greatly helps the cause.
Over the last two years, it’s been suggested by many of my friends (some of whom are artists taking part in the studio tour) that I should apply. They say I am a shoe in, and I will get a spot no problem. I get compliments on my work and they tell me the great benefits of this tour. The only thing is I’ve never applied. Am I worried about getting in? No, what I have trouble with is the term “artist”.
You see, I don’t feel as if I’m an artist. I guess it all boils down to how you define an artist. My wife is a pastry chef, and most of what she makes could be considered art… it also tastes good. I feel an artist is someone who makes bespoke one of pieces that were inspired in some way. I don’t really do that, at least not the stuff I sell. I’ve made one off things for myself or family, but generally what I produce in my studio is production work. I create a design, then I maximize the efficiency in making it. Some items I make only one of because I can’t make it efficiently enough to be able to profit from selling it. So I feel I’m more of a designer, but one who makes the items as well.
So another year has gone by and I’ve let the deadline slip by without applying. While I’d love the exposure, the artist label is one that is hard for me to accept.
A goal of mine this year is to make some things for our use. While I sold many cutting boards, salad servers and spoons last year, we use plastic junk versions ourselves. I much prefer mine, but at the end of the day, I’d rather sell something I made than keep it for myself. This attitude unfortunately means although I’m a furniture maker, our house is rather sparse in the furniture department, beds without frames, etc. etc. Below is a pic of our current coat rack situation. It’s basically a collection of hooks I had lying around that was added on to this piece of pine the previous owner had used as a coat rack. surprisingly it was only held onto the wall with a few brad nails…
yes, that’s a saw… doesn’t everyone keep a saw on their coat rack? So I had an idea for an antler coat rack, without having to take out a few Bambis…. I designed a new rack using a walnut back with 4 baltic birch “antlers”.
The finish is simple boiled linseed oil on the oil, and a few coats of polyurethane on the baltic birch.
The “antlers” are attached by a mortise and tenon joint, but I used epoxy to glue them in. Finally, the whole thing was attached to the wall using some keyhole hangers with screws attached to studs. Likely a better attachment than the old coat hanger… I might put up a few of these on Etsy in the future, time will tell.
Cutsom stock #2 is now finished and off to a happy customer. This one was also made of walnut but had a slightly different design as requested by the client. Once again I’m really happy with the finish on these rifles and will use it more often on my other work.
Now that these two are done I can get to work on my backlog of projects! It’s great to be busy but it would be nice if my list would get shorter and not longer once in awhile…
I was approached by a local restaurant to create a pastry display case to fit with the decor of the restaurant. The restaurant is located in a 100 year old former train station, so lots of darker wood, and nothing … Continue reading →