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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m enjoying a couple extra days off…use’em or lose’em!

I was thinking on another comment by James Krenov and it got me to thinking about doing what you love, pursing your passion, etc…

http://tinyurl.com/kflg7qb – Krenov Comments

For those of you (like me some days!) who dream of leaving the security of a full-time job to pursue the life of an artist/designer/craftsman…what does that dream look like for you?

Is it the “find a need and fill it” philosophy (often what pays the bills) or is it a dream of letting your creative nature flow unchecked?

It seems like most of the greats just jumped in doing what they loved and wanted to do from the start…scary in this economic time and certainly with a family to feed…but always at the edge of my own thoughts.

For those of you actually out there doing it…how much of your effort is a marketing/sales machine to keep the “business” going and how much is the true artistic pursuit you dream about? I’m not foolish enough to think that one cannot exist without the other, in some form…just mulling a lot over lately, and curious about what folks are really doing.
 

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where's my table saw?
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they always say do what you love

I'm thinking whether it's guitar bodies, rustic furniture, live edge slabs, the Jarvis Bench type stuff, Mission Style, Treasure shests, cabinets, dressers, tallboys etc... what ever floats you boat. :boat:

You will get better at the craft the execution and therefore the finished product. Lola Ranch here has developed his own style of furniture and has a unique method of construction for some of the joinery. It's the love of the work, the materials, the processes and seeing the joy of the recipient/purchaser in some cases.

What do you really think is cool? That maybe your answer.... I donno?
 
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Old School
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For those of you (like me some days!) who dream of leaving the security of a full-time job to pursue the life of an artist/designer/craftsman…what does that dream look like for you?

Is it the “find a need and fill it” philosophy (often what pays the bills) or is it a dream of letting your creative nature flow unchecked?

It seems like most of the greats just jumped in doing what they loved and wanted to do from the start…scary in this economic time and certainly with a family to feed…but always at the edge of my own thoughts.

For those of you actually out there doing it…how much of your effort is a marketing/sales machine to keep the “business” going and how much is the true artistic pursuit you dream about? I’m not foolish enough to think that one cannot exist without the other, in some form…just mulling a lot over lately, and curious about what folks are really doing.
Your question is a good one for those that made a profession from a hobby. Or, for those that went through the rigors of making a living from their work. A hobbyist making certain items could turn it into a business. For others like myself, it was never a hobby, but an effort from the start to make it a business.

It might be easier to have some experience in making a product as a hobby. In my case I had no samples. The work came from bidding jobs, and figuring out how to do them. The work is difficult physically, and demanding. It is a constant effort to perform the work, and run a business. There is the constant effort to seek out sources.

It took about 10 years to establish a reputation and develop a working relationship with designers and architects. The shop had to look like it could handle the high end. The 'dream' was always to get a larger shop. Well, when that dream came true, it was more like be careful what you ask for. The cost to run a large shop is mind boggling. Physically it is demanding. And yes, it's a constant marketing/sales along with doing the work.






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I would suspect that in a larger shop the owner/manager would devote more time to sales/marketing than anything else.

George
 

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Well now this stirs up a lot of things in my tiny brain.

I need to qualify my status by mentioning that I do not currently make a living as a woodworker. I did for many years as a cabinet maker, carpenter, builder.

Living the dream.........well the life of a successful pro woodworker in reality is a lot of hard work. It is totally unrealistic to believe you can just work by yourself and produce art furniture to make a decent living.

Mr Krenov was a fine craftsman and a kind gentleman who I had the pleasure of meeting once. His furniture was a labor of love. He did not, however, make a living by producing and selling his furniture. He made his way by teaching, talking and writing about his furniture. He was not a production guy but was a master of marketing the dream. That being said I still remain a big fan and admire the man greatly.

In my opinion to become a successful woodworker requires total emersion. You have to eat, live and breathe woodworking 24/7. At least that is how it worked for me in the beginning days of my cabinet shop. It worked, people beat a path to my shop door. But then I had to produce and had to work hard and long hours, hiring employees and buy tools and equipment.

I think a better example of how to make a living as a woodworker/artist might be found in Sam Maloof, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting. I'm sure we all admire Sam's work but greater than his work, I admired the man. Sam had strong powerful arms that handled wood with a force of will that impressed me to no end. The man could produce! He made a good living selling his furniture. But he was not an instant success. He built it up over time.

I took a run at trying to reestablish myself as an artist/craftsman furniture maker. But if I am to be honest with myself I simply was not willing to work hard enough to make it happen. So, now woodworking for me is a very rewarding hobby, creative outlet. What I have discovered is how satisfying it is to give your work a way which enriches me more than selling it ever did.

Funny thing is now that I have committed myself to retirement I have to turn away more and more people that want to hire me to make things. People always want what they can't have.

Sweet dreams, Bret
 

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I used to make and repair furniture for a few rich old ladies in town when I was younger. They would pay me and bring me cookies in a tin. I found out back then I would hate to be in the woodworking business. I was already into another business that made money in a much easier fashion. Doing the mini biz in wood for the ladies was all I needed.

Al

Nails only hold themselves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Such fantastic discussion! Thanks gang! As I think about "the dream" I have to confess that I look at guys like Krenov and Maloof (and many others) seeing the unique perspective they've brought to woodworking and furniture making, and can easily daydream about being able to find those unique designs within myself. I completely get the hard work required to achieve that level of performance and freedom. I've worked my way up in my career, through various industries, in the course of over 25 years. I make a good living, supporting my family, and do enjoy what I do. Over the past few years though, I've really wanted to explore the world more artistically...specifically with woodworking. The kicker seems to be time...balancing work and family and a growing passion.

Bret, how great to have met Krenov and Maloof! Very cool!
 

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Cabinet Man and Lalo Ranch and pretty much summed it up. Both hit the nail dead center on the head. I would love to respond to your question just like others have, but I would be repeating exactly what those two gents have already stated.

I will repeat this part, because it really is important. You really do need to fully immerse yourself into your business. Notice I said business not work. You have to work hard at the woodworking part, and just as hard, if not harder at the business end. If you don't do it that way, there won't be any woodwork to do.

Also, if you do not truly love wood working you will not succeed. You will need that love of it to get you through the hard times, and trust me, you will have them. The hard times come in all kinds of forms. My favorite part and I would bet this will always be my favorite part is seeing the acceptance in the customers face during delivery.

Mike Darr
 

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Let me take this in a different direction for a minute or two.

As a young guy I found that I really loved driving. It was one of those things that I enjoyed doing and was extremely good at.

The Army sent me to Germany after I finished two combat tours in Vietnam. That is where I learned about driving a rig all over the country and really fell in love with the idea of climbing in a rig and heading off for some far away place in a distant state.

I came home, was discharged and promptly found a driving job. What absolute bliss! New York today, Boston tomorrow, and headed for LA the day after. Man it was great and this was way before the Interstate system was anywhere near completed!

Then I got a wild hair stuck between the crack, bought my own rig and started hauling my own loads. Sure the money was better than I was making as just a driver, but I had to buy all my own fuel, pay for any repairs that I could not do myself, and even if I could do the work, I had to buy the parts. Finding loads became a major hassle often costing me sleep as I searched for the next load that never was sitting around waiting for me to pick it up and deliver it.

The driving part was still fun, but all the added things that needed to get done everyday turned the dream into a nightmare real fast. Then I bought a second truck and hired a driver. Now I not only had all the problems for myself, but for another truck also, and an employee who expected a pay check even if he did not haul a single load all week.

The point is, don't let your dreams become nightmares. If you absolutely must try to make money from your hobby, make a few things to sell at craft fairs and flea markets and see how that works out. Then you can decide if you really want the added responsibility of using woodworking to make your living.
 

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The "Dream". I think every ones dream is a little or a lot different. Only within the past couple years or so can I say that I am actually living my "dream". It has nothing to do with woodworking though.

Since I was an adult I have either worked in industrial maintenance or worked as a diesel tech. I was never happy and I'm going to be brutally honest. I was fed up with working under people that were dumber than I was yet could screw me and others over very easily when it suited them. I was tired of having my every move monitored and watched on cameras all day <<very stressful. I was tired of rules like no radios, cumbersome uniforms, 15 minute lunches, no breaks, management turn overs, dwindling benefits, and changing hours. The wear on my family life and health were really showing.

My "dream" was simply to be my own boss. For many years I had designed web sites for others as a small side income. Nothing major, just small time stuff. I had designed web sites for many people starting their own home based small businesses and wished that I had an idea or product that I could sell like the folks I was making web sites for. I understood how to find niches in markets and how to sell things I knew almost nothing about. I decided to perfect a little side project I had been working on for several years. It involves travel trailers, mobile homes, and RV's. I found a way to easily manufacture a small and simple product at home. Making it quickly meant I could have a good profit margin. It's small it doesn't use much material and I can ship it free almost anywhere for little impact on my profit. That's what I do now.

I don't make multi millions. I make enough to get by. The good part for me is that I don't answer to anyone. I feel free for the first time in my life. I usually work about 6 hours a day 5 to 6 days a week. I have the ability to work ahead and have time off later. I can start working when my head is clear and ready. I can eat lunch when I want for as long as I want. I don't have the stress of my every movement being monitored. For me that is the "dream".

The downside...

I stress about shipping out some bad parts and getting a bad rep. I literally have bad dreams about that. I no longer have retirement benefits, health care plans (life, dental, optical), paid holidays, and 5 weeks paid vacation.

I have design so many web sites for others small businesses from selling bird feed, wedding stuff, home brew beer, snow removal...you name it. The internet is world wide...if you can easily provide a product that has a niche in the market, you can make a living. It took too many years of doing that for others before it clicked that I could do it for myself. For example, I maintain a web site for someone that makes 3d printer patterns. I don't know what the overhead is but the income is well into 6 figures. I also don't know if that's the only family income or not.

My dream was to stop working for someone else and if you can find a niche that is not totally saturated, it can be a reality.

I also know more than one machinist that has gotten their own equipment, quit their job, and began contracting to local industries.
 

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My favorite part and I would bet this will always be my favorite part is seeing the acceptance in the customers face during delivery.

Mike Darr
When that happens it is a good feeling. Then there are those that have little emotion other than trying to find something wrong with the work.






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For me living the "dream" is following a profession that allows the affordability and time for great hobbies and times. Woodworking is one of them.

Would I want to do this full time professionally? First it would spoil the fun, second I could not afford to, third it will probably strip time and funds killing all my other great hobbies, sports and fun.

Making is easy, selling is not. Unfortunately due to the economic world we live in today, there are folks as good or even better than the best of us, overseas, doing this every day for around $1 per working hour. They prototype and their work is later upscaled for mass production.

My dad was a smart man, had a woodworking factory with about 350 employees and in the early 80's he saw the signs and switched the business to mass steel production. Made furniture at home as a hobby and sold his steel company as a very successful business when he retired.
 
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Been there, done that

Like many, I too wanted to live the dream, be my own boss and make a great living for my wife and kids....it's easy; all you have to do is work 1/2 days, seven days a week; the hard part is trying to decide whether you want to work the first 12 or the second 12 hours of the day, seven days a week! Had a decent job teaching school, enjoyed it and could work on my woodworking in the evenings etc., but wanted to go at it full time. Started a business with virtually no capital and no business experience...13 years of hell!! Thank God my wife had a good full time job because I was never home. That was 18 years ago and I have never regreated advancing back to amateur status. I have been back in teaching for the last 18 years and am looking forward to retirement next year (66 years old) and going out to my shop and working as much as I want but not having to pay any bills from my income.

If you want to go out on your own, go for it, give it a try and never regret it. But do yourself a favor and get some business courses under your belt first, you will be money ahead if you do. It's not hard to make money if you put out a good product; the biggest problem I had was getting people to pay! (that's where some business courses would have come in very handy).

Best of luck in you future,
Bandman
 

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Here is a perspective to consider, I'm at the other end of the "dream". It's not easy to give advice since we all are so different. It's also not possible to know what the future may bring. I think you should plan on a long future, with luck, you'll have a good one. So, where do you want to be when you're in your 60's? What's the plan? Like a piece of woodwork, you have a plan, even if it's only a picture in your mind, you break it down to parts, pieces and processes. This is how you should approach your goal of being a full time woodworker. What does it take.

There are a lot of things to look at in making a life or business plan. Too many, from finances to personal relationships to write about or for you to know about. Be smart. Keep your job and do your dream on the side. Get some experience. If you can't be successful as a side enterprise, you don't stand a chance full time. I'll bet all the pros that have responded cut their teeth working years for others, learning, practicing becoming competent and most likely, working on the side. It's the best way to get a full taste of what it's really about without sacrificing what you currently have. No other way to say it, quitting your job, thinking that you'll have all your time to devote to your dream is delusional, no offense. Learn to swim before jumping in the deep end, you'll have a much better chance of surviving.
 

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Making is easy, selling is not. Unfortunately due to the economic world we live in today, there are folks as good or even better than the best of us, overseas, doing this every day for around $1 per working hour. They prototype and their work is later upscaled for mass production.
Willem,

Your work is stunning. Knowing that there might be someone out there that could do the same thing for $1 per hour does not diminish my appreciation. I can think of several projects where I made less than that. Part of the learning curve.

Bret
 

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I "lived the dream" for the past 22 years or so by owning an electronics shop. But over the years the dream and love foe it slowly faded away. The tedium and headaches of the business end of it gradually sucked the fum and motivation right out of it. This past April 1st was the store/shop's last official day in business. And I've been living the dream ever since. Only this dream is one free of the headaches and stress of dealing with broken electronics and a showroom of new merchandise that isn't selling fast enough to pay the bills. Now, I HATE working on anything electronic. Even my motivation to design and build cool electronic things has been deflated. I'm tired of it.

My new dream is living the 'retired' life and being able to build cool stuff when and how I want to. No customers breathing down my neck and bitching at me because the manufacturers don't hardly make parts available for their TVs and other equipment anymore. They love to shoot the messenger.

To me, the dream is simply being happy and content with whatever it is that you do in life. I always dreamed of having the means and time to do woodworking as a hobby. And I've been doing so for about 3 years now. And I'm also slowly building up a stock of wooden objects to, eventually, go out and try to sell at craft and woodworking shows (oh yeah, and at our woodcarving show in a few months).

I hope you find your dream as well.
 

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Sawdust Maker
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When that happens it is a good feeling. Then there are those that have little emotion other than trying to find something wrong with the work.











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You're not kidding. I'll never understand the ones that tell you in the beginning that they can't afford much and want to go the cheap route, and do everything they can to squeeze you as much as possible. In some cases I don't mind giving a little discount. The problem is, they are the ones that like to try real hard to find something wrong, and like you said, show no other emotion. The saying that you can't make everybody happy, isn't a joke.

Mike Darr
 
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