Wednesday, February 25, 2009

First Monday, part three

Only one more day until we go to Weatherford for First Monday Trade Days. Events have conspired to prevent me from producing as many pieces as I would have liked, but I'll still be taking over 100 candle holders and bookends to the sale. Just over, but still...

I was able to take ten mesquite candle holders all the way through the finishing process in one day today. That is not generally thought of as a good idea, but it was just sunny and warm enough to pull it off, without being too warm. Tomorrow I will complete the finish on some curly maple candle holders and I'll be done with the manufacturing for this show.

I have one more sign to design, and I have to affix two signs to a small billboard I built a couple of days ago. After that I only have to pick up a table we're renting and load the truck and we'll be ready to go. I will post the concluding chapter of this little saga, along with photos from the show, after our return Saturday evening... and by "after" I probably mean Sunday or Monday. Right now I need to rehab my knee. I tripped over a box of candle holders here in my office earlier and landed on my right knee. It's swollen and it hurts, but I'll recover fast.

Monday, February 23, 2009

You, Too, Can Be Self-Employed, version 2009

Every year my beautiful wife, Debra, takes me to school to present a talk to her reading classes at Alvarado Junior High. This talk began, in 2004, with me telling the kids all about being a graphic artist and how important reading is in that job. Since I began doing this I have stopped being a graphic artist and started being a woodworker. So, last year, I changed the talk, splitting the time between one job and the other.

Since last year my business started taking off, so this year I limited the graphic artist portion of the talk to about 10 or 12 minutes, spending the rest of the time talking about making sawdust. And I even included a video slideshow I made for Design Style Guide, the team I'm on which serves to promote over 900 artists and designers worldwide to interior designers looking for something unique with which to decorate a project. I think it went well.

I conducted this little talk by introducing the kids to the world of the graphic artist. I told them about designing logos, dealing with clients, typesetting documents, brochures and magazines. I showed them several slides detailing some of my actual jobs. And after about 15 minutes or so I was ready to move on to the next chapter in my life as a self-employed man-about-town.

The kids were interested in both jobs, but I think I grabbed them with the woodworking more than graphic arts. Of course, this probably happened because I like it better, too.

I showed them my shop, my power tools, the bench I designed and built myself. I showed them several examples of the candle holders and bookends, bookcases and wine rests that I have built in the past couple of years. I showed them the pair of cabinets I built for Clay Roberts, the art teacher at the Junior High School. And I saw their eyes light up as they became more and more interested, sometimes in spite of themselves.

After we went through all the slides I played the video slide show I produced for Design Style Guide a couple of months ago. That really caught their attention. They saw how different people doing completely different jobs could work together to reach a common goal. And the boys got to whistle at Martine Petra, a photographer in DSG who is frequently the model in her own photographs.

And after the video they got to pass around some samples of my work. I let them handle several candle holders made of different kinds of wood, along with some samples of wood that were unfinished so they could see the difference which, in many cases, is dramatic. They saw cherry, pine, red heart, and cedar in the finished state, and cherry and curly maple unfinished.

In years past I know I have inspired a couple of kids to pursue art as a career. One in particular is planning to go to art school after graduation and then go to work for his uncle, who is also a very talented graphic artist working in Dallas. I'd love to find out one or two of these kids decided to make sawdust for a living after college.

Some of these kids might be inspired to become woodworkers later in life. Many of them can take wood shop as an elective when they get to Alvarado High School. Mr. Ransom is a wonderful teacher, as my son has learned over the last two years. He is also able to inspire kids to do more than they thought they could do.

Next year I will cut the graphic art portion of the talk back a bit more because I will have so much more to tell them about woodworking. The classes are 45 - 50 minutes long, so there's very little wiggle room. When the kids start asking questions I frequently get rushed toward the end. I'll fix that problem by talking more about this job I love so much. And next year will be even more successful.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First Monday, part two

I now have 90 pieces ready to go to Weatherford for First Monday Trade Days. I should have at least 50 more ready by February 27 & 28.

I'm also working on signage for the event. And I need an 8 foot table. I may have to rent the table. I could build one but it would be difficult to transport to the site.

I'm getting a trailer soon, and that will make things much easier, but right now I don't have it so I need to figure out a work-around.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My First Monday

There's this thing we have around north Texas. Various cities have Trade Days. "First Monday...", "Second Monday...", "Fifth President's Day...", whatever it is, they have them. I'm sure this isn't unique to north Texas.

Some members of Etsy Texas Crafters have proposed getting several booths in the same area at the First Monday Trade Days in Weatherford, Texas. The price for a booth is very reasonable, so I'm planning to go. This means I have about two weeks left to prepare.

I wish I could round up some members of Design Style Guide to go with me, but we're spread all over the globe. There are several of us in Texas, though, so maybe I can arrange something for the following month. It has been my experience that DSG members are both willing and able to help with just about any project.

Generally speaking, when I build items to sell at Etsy I can get away with producing four or five of a single design. When I sell out I can either produce more or design something new. The only real exceptions to that are bookends and wine rests; I have a large number of both of them in stock. So now I have to stock up for a big show, and I must build multiple numbers of several designs. With all the other things I have to do I'd better get my butt in gear.

I found a short length of Alowood Cherry and decided to make a few candle holders out of it. Alowood is a partially engineered product. They take some wood (Pine? Maple? Chinaberry? Who knows?) and run it through a process that both colors the wood whatever color they want so it looks like something more expensive and hardens it, making it more stable. It works like a softer maple, the color goes all the way through and the company claims they are preserving our hardwood forests by making this out of some unidentified lesser wood that is not in short supply. All I know is this chunk of wood looks good, didn't cost much, and it yielded six beautiful candle holders.

I came up with a different design for these. There are no feet on the bottom.  Instead, there is a single short pedestal positioned at a 45ยบ angle across the bottom of each fake cherry candle holder. I like this design because it takes less time to build and I can clamp up a whole bunch of them at the same time by securing them to the top of my bench. With the other design the four feet have to be clamped separately and I run out of clamps in a hurry.

I like this design so much I built ten more candle holders out of some scrap pine I had in the shop. They'll look great when I stain and finish them. My wife likes this design because she thinks it has a bit more elegance to it than the four-legged variety. She may be right. It will be interesting to see which design sells best when the customers can see them side-by-side.

Additionally, I have built ten new cherry candle holders and ten cedar candle holders in the regular style. I have a short piece of red heart I can use to make a couple more candles holders and a longer chunk of mesquite with which to do the same.

The majority of the pieces I take to this show will be made of pine. I can sell them for less than most hardwoods and they still look wonderful, so the customers should scoop them up in a hurry. I'd better stop typing and start making sawdust.