This week I think ten people asked how much my oak clocks cost. I think that eight would have bought one for £120 each. Four people asked how much the chairs cost and I think two people would have bought one, two or a set of six. People ask these questions all the time but we actually stopped selling because of time constraints. The important element people fail to connect with is that I have always allowed people to come visit my creative workspace, to ask questions and to see for the very first times in all their lives someone working with their hands to make what they make. This makes such a difference that in all our situations through the last three decades of entertaining and educating we have had about an 80% sale rate on small goods ranging from walking canes to hand carved spoons, inlaid pieces and such and then an unquantifiable amount of customers buying custom-made hand built furniture when people discovered for the first time that we were furniture making craftsmen.
I think in the space of a week or two two men purporting to be or have been full-time craftsmen told me that you can’t make it making furniture by hand,which to them meant machines. Of course you do have to get real. Combining hand and machine methods for me makes a huge difference in terms of speed, efficient use of time and so on, but I do have it down now. Relying on machine-only woodworking is not necessarily always as fast as people think but not many people, especially professional woodworkers, realise that being good with a hand plane and scraper cuts sanding down by 80%. I doubt that from here on in my life, having never been drawn into using a router to cut dovetails or dadoes, that I would resort to such a thing. I find them highly invasive and overly demanding for what is so very much a simple hand work task IF you have disciplined yourself to master skill.
The fact is you must set up to make your workshop a place of interest that’s accessible without allowing people to invade the actual workspace because this can be highly distracting and prevent you from working. In your workspace you have the opportunity to help visitors to better understand what lifestyle craftwork is all about. It’s not something qualified by an arts degree or an opting out of something you reject from the industrial and now technological world but walking out a decision to take total responsibility for a life as a living craftsman or craftswoman. Politicians and economists work and walk hand in hand in controlling different worlds according to their political agenda. They work through the control of educationalists who set the curriculum for schools to guarantee that they have the ability to prepare a future workforce. Of course it’s mostly unpredictable but they try to predict how life is going to play out for the masses and the workforce are the ones paying them and paying the price for poor decisions. Most politicians in our country are professional politicians who distance themselves from the populace and rely on on staff to feed them statistics throughout the day to make their arguments with. As a lifestyle woodworker I withdraw from this as much as its possible and of course that is limited, but for the past decider three I feel I have had some control. Of course too, there is the control of people who are not politicians and that’s why I wrote the blog a few days ago to reduce the risk of being controlled by people with money and who care only to have something welded and hand made that they can’t get from usual sources. You, if you hand make, do not have competition. Looking around me here in North Wales there are no furniture makers doing what I do and I never meet them if they are out there in the hills somewhere. I have no competition except low prices offered by big box stores and dealers of furniture, which is no competition at all. I make my stuff and people would like buying it if I would start selling it and taking orders for custom pieces. In my life, my workshop, my studio, I can pass out information and talk to people about a chosen lifestyle. People, albeit a smaller segment of community, listen to me. When I am finished they understand and want to support me. I mean they want, and I do mean WANT, to support creative lifestyle artisans if they can find them and if they understand what’s being made. This needs to be in your psyche. All you do is show and tell. That’s enough for them to slide your business info into their pocket and save it for when they decide on what they want. The tool chest we made a couple of years ago on woodworkingmasterclasses was meant for woodworking tools. A lady came in and asked me to sell a second one I was building. I told her it was £2,500 and she said she wanted one for her craft supplies and calligraphy. She was a professional hand calligrapher. She needed no educating because she saw my work and where i worked and how I worked.
To be perfectly frank, I don’t know people like me any more and so I wondered at one time if I was a dying breed. I teach mostly for that reason. When I arrived in the USA in 1987 people asked me to teach them. I said no, that I was maker not a teacher. One day after much persistence from Americans I said OK. What I experienced there was a unique situation I had never realised existed. Americans LOVE crafts and they love had work like mine and they are prepared to invest in it with their time and effort. They didn’t want rinky-dink stuff nor really machine only stuff, they wanted the real deal. Now, because we have shown an alternative reality online and in real life and in classes for over 5,500 individuals, people are able to master the same skills I have all around the world. I never thought that we would reach one million every month of the year. I am so encouraged by you and your inspiring correspondence expressing hope to one day become lifestyle woodworkers. I say it again and again. Naysayers are mostly those who never took risks and never would. Naysayers have established a lifestyle surrounding income alone and have created a an acceptable comfort zone to provide for their families and you know something, that’s what we do for seasons in order to provide for our families. I know that. But at one point the scales began to tip because I was determined. Yes, I worked jobs outside of woodworking on and off in different years, not usually because there was no work as a woodworker but because of temporary circumstances.