>> Sunday, December 7, 2008
i come across so many wonderful Etsy creators - and i have had the absolutely HONOUR to meet the wonderful SmileMoon in person! i also stole some of his precious woodworking time to do a quick and dirty interview... so here are the thoughts of the "Poor Woodsman"!
1. Tell us a little bit about who you are and your life up to this point in time.
This is going to be a light little interview - I can tell! Okay, in a nutshell, I'm a hobby woodworker who's been turning wood into sawdust on and off for the past 18 or more years. I've kinda lost track of exactly when I got into it. During daylight hours, I sell machinery for cutting, grinding and polishing gem and industrial grade diamond. With the economy in the state it's been in lately, though, you can probably guess how THAT'S been going lately.The woodworking satisfies a need for a creative outlet, and serves a useful function too, since it's been earning my family some badly needed income this year.
2. Outside of your creative life, what else are you up to?
Besides my day job (which entails a lot of travel, by the way), I'm a husband and father to a ridiculous number of children. That, of course, means there's the usual assorted activities, like scouts, soccer, college, plays, kiddie concerts, drama, etc. Once in a great while, I like to go out to the used book stores with my wife and peruse the stacks looking for old zeppelin memorabilia. I also hunt down obscure electronic music online and in used CD shops when I can. I'm also the family photographer. The digital revolution has made it so much easier to take a crapload of photos and sort through what you want to keep after the fact. It's so much easier to store them all on a hard drive, too. The only problem is actually getting around to printing them off to stick them in the family scrapbooks. I need to do a better job of keeping up with that.
3. What made you first want to create art?
Way back in college, I had a starter stereo setup and a growing collection of LPs without much to keep it all organized. I decided when I left school that I'd build a really nice cabinet to keep it all in, but my pragmatic side said I should take on a few smaller projects to ramp up to the skill level required for something of that scale. Good idea, right?After this many years of taking on the "smaller projects," including the crafty types of things seen in my Etsy.com shop, artist easels, a cradle, a kitchen's worth of cabinets, and bookcases galore, I STILL have yet to make that stereo cabinet. At least I got around to buying a lot of the wood for it last summer!
4. What do you offer in your shop?
As it says on my business cards, "creative woodcraft." Currently, that'd be balancing wine bottle holders, wooden 3-D puzzles, tea light candle holders, wooden snowflake ornaments, wood slab photo frames, and my most popular item by far: toy swords. I've been taking on custom requests for as long as I've been on Etsy, since my start in woodworking was in custom work.
5. Without giving away any of your trade secrets, what is your creative process?
Hee hee! No trade secrets here. I don't honestly believe there's much new under the sun where wood crafts are concerned - just different skillsets and experience levels at play. There's room for all of us to do what we're doing. As far as a creative process, I guess there's two avenues I go down: I'll either get a brainstorm or see something that inspires an idea to try out, like the tea light candle holders I listed a couple days ago; or I'll respond to a request for a custom woodworking project that allows me to collaborate with other creative individuals. They're both valid methods, but it sometimes takes a lot longer for me to feel that an original idea of mine's been validated, depending on how long it takes to sell!
6. Where do you create?
The ideas (the "creation" part of it) come to me just about anywhere! I just make sure to have some scrap paper nearby so I don't lose them! The woodworking itself takes place in my workshop. Currently, that's my garage, but it's also been the dirt-floored basements of apartments I used to live in, and in one apartment where there was no basement, I actually rented one of those public self-storage places to work.
7. If you listen to music while you make your creations, what is the soundtrack?
Because my workshop tends to be on the extremely dusty side when I'm working, I can't risk cassettes or CDs, so I usually just turn on the radio to the local alt rock station and crank it up! Given my druthers, though, I'd listen to 70s and 80s era electronic space music. Someday I'll get an MP3 player and hook it up to some speakers out in the shop.
8. What are your crafting goals for the next twelve months?
I plan to roll out some of the ideas I've had in the course of the past few months but have been simply too busy keeping up production for "the usual" items in my shop to deal with. That'll not only bulk up my somewhat limited listings, but will also help me work out a few things that'll improve processes down the road. I'd also like to plan for a few craft shows during the more successful Christmas season next year. This year saw me barely break even at a series of springtime shows, which left me feeling disgusted enough to consider staying away from them alltogether. I've since had some encouraging words from several crafters, though, so I think I'll plan ahead for next fall.
9. How do you promote your Etsy shop?
I'm still learning my way around the whole promotions thing, so my stabs at it are pretty basic. I carry business cards with me and take the opportunity to steer conversations toward woodcrafting when appropriate. I spend time in Etsy forums every day where I split my time between some of the games in the Etc. section and trying to be Mr Helpful, answering questions that seem to come up in all the other forums.I try to buy Showcase spaces when they look pretty promising for what I'm making, and I'll advertise on the Heart-O-Matic pages at craftcult.com from time to time, too.I've tried using craft shows to help build a following, but I think I picked the wrong time of year (spring) to try that. I'll probably try again next fall.I just this past week figured out how to upload my listings to google base, which allows you to track hits to individual listings and see where they come from, so we'll see how much that helps.
10. What is your most favorite handmade item that you have made?
Right now, I'd say it's a toss-up between a prayerbox I made as a custom commisson (photos of which can be seen on my blog at http://smilemoonwoodworks.blogspot.com/2008/09/missed-party-but-its-more-fun-at-home.html) and a pillbox I made on commission this past spring (http://www.etsy.com/view_transaction.php?transaction_id=8424856 ). But, as in a family, I'm not supposed to play favorites, so the correct answer should be "my current project is my favorite one!" ;-)
(i bought this for my brother-in-law for his christmas present - oh i can't WAIT to give it to him!)
11. What is your most favorite handmade item that someone else has made?
That's a tough one, because I'd hate to make anybody feel left out! That said, I've had my eye on some granite cups made by TwoBeans on Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=10121481 ) for almost as long as I've been selling on Etsy! I've been dropping Christmas hints on my lovely bride, so we'll see what shows up in my stocking!
12. What was your best handcrafted "moment"?
There've been a few, actually. I think every Etsian remembers where they were when they made their first sale! For me, it was only a day and a half after my first listing - which was way cool! Getting a shot at a commission job for a company in New York was even better than that, but the best so far would be meeting fellow Etsy seller Muffin Top on a recent trip to her hometown (see Question 2)!
13. Top 5 list – list your top 5 favorite movies, books, bands, and foods.
The Road Warrior
It's a Wonderful Life
Jean Michel Jarre
The Road Warrior
It's a Wonderful Life
Jean Michel Jarre
14. What advice would you like to give to others on trying to sell their handmade goods?
Keep at it, and listen to the advice of sellers with more experience. Good photography will help get you featured in the treasuries and gift guides. Being helpful in the forums will get you noticed by everybody else.
15. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years, we'll be down to just two kids at home if all goes according to plan. Hopefully there'll be a bit more time available to devote to crafting and marketing it properly. If it becomes successful between now and then, I'd love for it to be my only job, but there's a lot of college tuition payments to help make in the meantime!
16. If you could describe yourself in 5 words, what would they be?
amused, busy, creative, distracted, eccentric...
thanks, smilemoon!!!! and thanks for being so fabulous!!!!!!!!!