March 21, 2013
I think most will understand the tongue and cheek title. The reason why I’m writing this is because I haven’t posted about furniture work in progress for awhile. Have I stopped making furniture? No, there just hasn’t been any new commissions until recently so I’ve been working on small items such as cutting boards, candle holders, cheese presses, along with other small projects. There is a somewhat large cabinet commission that has been on hold while the slab Walnut top settles down a bit more. Aside from that, not much in the way of furniture. There are shows coming up but budget has not allowed me to build new pieces.
Why am I bring this out in the open? Simple answer is because most self employed furniture makers and wood workers will face similar at one time or another. Some see it through and others give up and find full-time employment. We all have dreams of becoming the next James Krenov, George Nakashima or Sam Maloof. Clients calling, selling out at every show, cost is no object commissions, dovetails and unicorns fill our days. Truth is, this doesn’t happen for many of us so we need to do what works for us as craftsmen.
For me, I’d rather continue to work from a small studio doing what I love even if it means building candle holders and butter presses. Sure, its simple work and can be done with basic skills but it is wood working and I’m making money from it. I admit, not a lot of money but it does provide an income. With this I can invest in materials to build more pieces for shows and pay bills. I have heard from other woodworkers that feel they will not compromise and do the small craft type items because they have a high skill level and only want to build high-end pieces for high income folks and make high dollar income themselves. These seem to be the least happy of the woodworkers I know. Others tend to work for pennies on the dollar just so they have work. I have done this myself and at times it paid off because I received more or higher paying work but more often than not I developed a clientele that wanted high quality work for cheap.
For those who decide to do this full-time I’d like to hear from you as well on this topic. I’m not much of a writer and only had limited time to write this post so I’m sure I missed a few things. I”ll re-visit this topic soon in another post, perhaps with input from other self-employed furniture makers and woodworkers.