It’s finally time to book lessons for the summer and fall. I’ve been doing more teaching this year and I have to admit that I love it. Nothing is better than reliving those early moments of inspiration by helping others discover their own ability.
So if your interested, hop over to the “Lessons and Teaching” tab and read all about it. Get in touch and lets learn together.
I spend a lot of time figuring out how to sell things. Like I’ve said before, going into business for yourself isn’t always easy and it takes a very diverse skill set to learn how to succeed doing your craft. By default, I need to study the psychology of sales in one way or another.
Maybe it’s where I live, or the people I associate with, or any number of other factors, but it seems that there is frequently a great deal of confusion when it comes to realizing the value of things. I see it in myself and in other people too.
I’ll walk around the market on any given Saturday and look at all kind of goods, all of it handcrafted, and most of it of very good quality. I see a mug that I absolutely love for $42. I’ve bought her work before and every time I look at it in my home, I feel good. But I can’t justify that purchase at the moment. However, later that day I take my family out for one dinner and the bill is about $45. It was a good meal, but the benefits of it only lasted a few hours. The mug would have lasted as long as I had chosen to take care of it.
The same thing with tools. That $125 bowl gouge that my son could pass on to his son after I have used it for the rest of my career seems much less expensive when I consider that $125 is only a few good meals.
So ,what is value? And, how can we help create a world where more people feel that there’s value in making purchases that support local infrastructure, artisans, and craftsmen?
I don’t know, but I do think that it has a lot to do with the human desire for instant gratification. I would bet anything that if that $42 mug came filled with a “free” cup of coffee, that she’d sell a whole lot more of them.
Not to assume that this is how all people think or act. On the contrary, I am well supported by people who feel that there’s value in something that was made by hand, using only traditional tools. Kind of a, “I’m glad that someone is doing this still” mentality. That is often how value is assigned to my work.
I think that it really comes down to emotions. “How does this work make the person feel?” The gratification of going for that very temporary meal somehow has managed to surpass the value of a lifetime of visual and functional enjoyment, why?
Because I love to feel taken care of.
I love when someone comes to me, takes my order and delivers. It satisfies some need in me that I value more than lasting tangible objects, sometimes.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, its just food for thought. I will continue to eat out, support the service industry in my town and love a good meal prepared by experts.
I just find it interesting that I value that experience so much differently than goods, especially when I spend my life producing fine craft goods.
As a younger man, I did a lot of traveling and searching. I sought the knowledge of such lofty ideals as: truth, god, wisdom, etc. I’m not really sure I even want to think about any of these anymore, but this isn’t about that search. It’s about finding the real treasure of our existence. The one that surrounds us every day and is so blatantly obvious that we tend to ignore it.
When we drop something, it falls.
When we listen, we hear.
When we apply force to the wedge, it splits the wood down the path of the grain.
When we craft something with attention to detail and quality, we get quality results.
The beauty of the obvious is that it can be universally shared. The physical properties of our world are an inherent experience and are not open to subjective interpretation. They are not limited by belief, doctrine or dogma. They are foundational, elemental, perhaps the only “truth.”
Often, when we journey into this world seeking to find some enlightening “truth” it becomes far too easy to ignore what is right before us at all times. The elements of iron, wood, water, whatever, are right before us sharing their wisdom every single moment. Are we even willing to observe and gather this information?
This may seem silly to many of you, but the reason I feel inspired to write about this is because many of us have a tendency to distort, ignore or minimize these simple truths.
It is easy to get caught up in our ideas, thoughts, philosophies, institutions, you name it. But, I find it helpful to remember that these ever-changing and adapting intellectual paradigms are founded on the backs of very simple, every-day truths. Water erodes things, wood rots, hot steel bends easily, so many more. I want to work with and to know these unchanging principles. I want to find out how those absolutes move within me and effect me on every level. With that kind of knowledge, maybe I’ll be able to take a stab at interpreting some of the more complex information that the world of human affairs has to offer.
Learning to be a production carver is interesting. There’s really no one around here that I can turn to for advice. The best I can do is take cues from those that have done it before me. Even when Instagram and Facebook seem full of others doing the same thing, It’s not the same as having an apprenticeship like a plumber or an electrician.
Right now, I need to make inventory for the Country Fair. For those of you who are not yet familiar, the Country Fair is a long running tradition here in Oregon. It’s a juried craft show that’s notoriously picky and a hippy stand-out as a very different kind of festival.
I’ve been moving lately and haven’t been carving much at all. So, when I went to finish carve today, I was clumsy and trying too hard. I can get into this mode. I try and try, but the work isn’t coming out to the highest standard. Basically, I’m working too hard and not feeling enough.
My best work comes from feeling relaxed, centered and sure of my concept of the piece, every time. I wasn’t there this morning, so hence this blog post.
I wonder how I can best cultivate that kind of relaxed centeredness more in my work. It always gives the best result and I’m tired of doing inferior work and pretending I can somehow make it better later.
So I guess this post is just a little reminder to me to find something better to do when I’m not in the zone. Work only when you’re ready to do the best work, settling for less would just cheat me and my customers. Huh…
I present my work at a weekly market, this is obviously much different than just getting to stay home and sell on Etsy or selling on commission at a brick and mortar shop. With this method of sales, I get to interact with all manner of people on a regular basis. My market has taught me about selling, psychology, building a following, and really all sorts of great stuff to learn as a craft artist.
It also means that I have to hear the same comments and questions all the time. A few of these I really love (depending on my mood) and a few I can’t stand.
Here’s a sampling of the most common, paraphrased in my own words:
“You must love what you do.”
This is one of the better ones, it’s more creative and heartfelt of a comment than most people can manage.
“Do you do all this?”
This one’s not bad either, it gives my ego a little boost, especially when I really like the body of work I have on the table.
Thank you very much for your appreciation, I realize this is your way of paying me without buying my work. Thank you.
“Do you have any good spanking spoons?”
This one comes in many different forms, but the joke is always the same. Sometimes I respond, sometimes I just smile, I usually tell them how many people have made that joke today (usually around 3-5).
“What kind of wood is this?”
Of all these, the person who asks this question is most likely to be a customer. It shows curiosity about the work, not about me or the presentation.
There’s so many more common questions and comments.
there’s one with which I have a hangup:
“You are so talented.”
Every time I hear this, and people say ita lot, I become resistant to just accepting the praise and go into my “dutiful educator mode.” Ask my family about it, I’m terrible.
I think that too many people have it in their head that you’re either born with some magical ability or your just like everyone else. I think that my only real special ability, not that I’m really that advanced in my craft yet, is that I practice, research and try new things.
Talent means nothing, there are a great number of very talented people that for some reason are not manifesting their desires, it’s only practice and time that amount to good work and presentation.
So, maybe some day I’ll learn to simply smile and say “thank you” when the good people of the Saturday Market compliment the “talent” that I don’t feel I really have. But, I’m not ready for that. Instead, I’ll continue do my best to inspire them and you to simply keep working on whatever you want to learn. With time and curiosity you’ll find that your mind will see the lines, your body will get stronger and you will do better and better work.
Here’s to practice and giving yourself more credit than just “talent.”
I’m now in my second year of being a full time craft artist and I have lots of thoughts I need to share.
First off, many great things have happened in my life for which I feel grateful: I will once again be at the Oregon Country Fair, a large financial and cultural engine in our community. I’ve become a reserve vendor at the Eugene Saturday Market (booth 323). And, I recently moved into a great new home/workshop that has everything our family needs in a great location. People continue to support my work and my work continues to improve and test me.
After all that, there’s just so much more. Running the business, doing the books, learning how to better use the internet, being a designer (booths, cards, tags, items), financial planning, so much. I don’t want to be misinterpreted here as complaining, quite the opposite. I love challenges. I love to look at a large task, hone in to how I intend to accomplish it, and in the end come out on top. I do it all the time and love the feeling I get when things come together. But, the recipe for success isn’t always simple and, in my case, there are few people in my life who can offer a lot of trade specific help. As a relatively new craft artist seeking to make my way by using old techniques and tools, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make it, but I’m hungry for more.
My situation is unique in that I have a local, weekly marketplace that only allows handcrafted goods. This gives me a regular venue to display and sell my work, and often I have very successful and lucrative days there. And sometimes I don’t.
That’s really the most challenging thing for me, the uncertainty. Having a weekly market like this means that I’m less motivated to develop new avenues for sales and marketing. I haven’t been seeking out galleries and having them feature my work. I haven’t been researching other craft shows and traveling more, and most importantly, I haven’t been using the internet to my full advantage. It’s like I’ve been putting all of my eggs in one basket.
I want to change that now, and I’m hoping that this blog post is a start.
Right now specifically, I need your support. The market has been slow and I have upfront expenses for summer shows that I need to cover. If you’ve thought about buying a spoon, now would be the most helpful time for me. I appreciate your support deeply and hope to inspire you and the wider world into an understanding of the goodness that comes from simple work with simple materials and tools.
For you support I happily and truly thank you.
In other news/upcoming stuff:
I have a lot of ideas about how I want to restructure my business coming up and most of them are worthy of their own blog post, but here’s a little run down:
In two to three years, I’d like to open another traditional craft school/store here on the west coast, there’s actually not that many venues that attract the big teachers out here and I’d like to change that.
I want to start a regular philanthropic giving system. I want to research non-profits that directly benefit my community and feature one of them at the market every week. 10% of gross sales will be donated to the featured charity. This could perhaps be my way of tithing.
I want to develop a greater internet presence and be more regular with facebook and instagram
I’ll be featuring my work in a few specific galleries around town.
It’s a new year. That means that the holidays are over and I once again have time to pour effort into things other than spoons. Soon, I’ll be building a pole lathe, forging some hook tools and carving bowls.
Now’s a great time to get lessons and to give me commission work. I have the time to focus on that sort of thing.
Among my goals in the first part of the year:
Develop standard models of eating and serving spoons. Each piece will still be hand done from start to finish, but these will be done from a pattern. In time, I hope to find an apprentice to help me do this work.
Create new stuff. I hope to do more bowls, kuksas, and other stuff this year. I felt like I could never get comfortably ahead of the curve enough to have time for larger projects this last year, so I’m going to use this time to do some of those things hopefully.
Start writing a curriculum. Eventually, I’d like to write a book, but for now I think a small scale pamphlet is realistic.
Make carving tools. I’ll be diving into this soon and I’m lucky to have lots of help. Look for knives to be available soon.
So anyway, the gist is that I have time to put towards the other parts of my business that I tend to neglect when I get busy.
If any of you want lessons, now is the time. Let me know and we’ll schedule something.
I also just launched “The Commission Game” in the shop on this site. Check it out.
Hey Everyone, I’ve been wanting to put together a video about my process for a while now. Turns out, our little video camera has this option where it will automatically make a montage of several videos. So, here it is, set to the music of Elgar. Enjoy.