Monday, December 28, 2015
Sometimes you build because it's what puts food on the table, and sometimes you build because your passion is hungry.
A million years ago I used to work at Kinko's.
When I would get my check, I would go buy punk records from Wax Trax, hit up the Century mall and try to meet girls, and go to a store called UNTITLED up the street.
UNTITLED would carry funky clothing brands like Stussy and Fuct, and whatever money I had left over from buying punk records, I would blow on clothing.
We're talking about the early 90's here. Being a kid and having a full time job with no real responsibilities, it didn't really get any better.
Fast forward to the present day, and about a year ago, someone tells me I should check out a store in Wicker Park called Mildblend Supply, because they sell the artisan type of clothing that I like.
I pay the store a visit one day, I'm poking around and I'm looking at this guy and thinking "I know this dude from somewhere", but I couldn't figure out where.
I left that day, and returned a few months later to get a pair of jeans hemmed.
The familiar man was there, seated at a Union Special sewing machine. I brought my jeans over to him to get hemmed and we started talking. Come to find out that he used to own Untitled back in the day, and it all came back to me.
We chatted about that era, the 90's, the people we knew, the time stamps of Chicago during that decade like Wax Trax records, and house dj's, the rave scene, and all the wonderful things the 90's had to offer.
Shortly after that, we built him a display table for his store.
Every time I walk in there, I'm treated like family by Luke, his wife, his daughter, and his staff. Max always comes with me, and he likes looking at all the waxed canvas backpacks and messenger bags, and I have to explain to him that I can't buy him a $500 backpack for his Ninja Turtles.
Anyway...we became friends and he recently asked for a display table to replace the stacked crates he had been using as a display table.
The first display table we built for him came out really cool, so I wanted to outshine that one.
This one is steel and some 100 year old wood from a deconstructed church. It was meant to have a smaller table that fit under the display table to hold stock. After I made the smaller table, I decided to put a back on it so that what ever is stored down there, wouldn't end up on the floor behind the table.
It's more than a retail display table to me and not just because it was built for a friend.
It's a representation of what me and Zack have created over the last year.
This piece IS the MAKERS.
It's a refined rustic piece, with a unparalleled attention to detail. That's what we do, that's who we are.
I always get a little emotional around the New Year. Partially because my son was born on New Years day.
New Years eve of 2009, I watched a woman endure 27 hours of excruciating pain. I watched as my son fought his way into this world.
That day back in 2009/2010, they gave their all, and since that day I've given my all.
Looking back on the last year, I want to thank some people for making this task of dream chasing a reality.
My family (all of you fucking weirdos), Zack...my business partner, friend, brother, and therapist, The LM group (Mary, Gabby, Tiffany, Stephan,Nicole), The Cacciatore family, Limitless, Luke and the Mildblend Supply family and staff, Marcus and Salvage One, 3sixteen, Andrew at Freenote Cloth, KOOTH BRAND, ZACEUSA, Keith and his REDTAIL HARDGOODS hooligans, Christophe Loiron and his staff at Mister Freedom, Manuel and the family at IMJIT35020, Alma at Gordon Brothers steel, Cory at LIPPS INC. and everyone who has come through the shop, hung out, bought shit, high fived us, and basically all the people who have been there for us.
I thank you, we thank you, ya'll have a good year.
Monday, December 21, 2015
When you do it a second time, there's much more finesse,
We did a rusted steel, bent ear desk for a client a few months back. It was all trial and error for that piece, and ended up being really cool, but the process cost us in blood and sweat.
For the new desk, instead of smashing the corners to bend the steel, I used a series of blocks and clamps.
While smashy-smashy may have been faster, the clamp method proved to be less taxing.
When we rusted the steel on the first piece, we weren't sure how our grocery store rusting concoction was going to work, and on this one, we had way more control of the rust. (controlling rust...fodder for a god complex).
People always say "learn from your mistakes", the thing is...we didn't make any mistakes on the first one, we just learned how to be better than we were before.
The last photo is the humble beginnings of a retail display table for my friend Luke at Mildblend supply.
We did a piece for his store back in the summer, and he asked about getting another piece.
What he doesn't know is that his piece will probably be the last build for 2015, and there will be some un expected bells and whistles on his piece as I quietly celebrate the end of the year in my head.
If you've been following my blog or read previous posts, then you know that I'm all about "time stamps".
Time stamps are little details on the pieces we build that help me remember when and where I was mentally or emotionally during that pieces creation.
When I get to see a piece in it's permanent home, I can look at it, and know exactly the state I was in when it was built.
It's more for me than it is for the customer, but the customer wins out in the end.
Unless your an asshole.
It's rare, but on occasion, we get the asshole customer.
Nice or not, our customers always get our best, but they don't always get "special".
Special is earned.
For Lukes table, I had a particular wood in mind.
After inspection of the wood I originally envisioned, I realized that it wasn't gonna work for his piece.
In the 11th hour I had to drive to bumfuckegypt and pay market price for some 91 year old wood from a demolished church.
It took a huge chunk out of the budget, but it was the right wood, for the right person, so you chuck whatever profit you might have made in the garbage and make the right piece.
Money is useless if I'm not making something I'm proud of.
I think this will be my final 2015 post.
It was a year to remember for sure.
Me and Zack have made it through our first year doing what we love everyday...barely, but we made it.
It's something to be proud of, for both of us.
We muscled through some shit that would have crippled other peoples dreams and sent us to working at Home Depot.
We spent the last year building some of the coolest shit on the market, moshing in the shop, afternoon coffee, foot massage Fridays, and spent the better part of the year laughing uncontrollably,
Our numbers might tell a different story, but fuck the numbers...we got 2016 to change all that.
See ya next year friends.
Monday, December 14, 2015
I freely admit that I don't get out very often, and it's mostly by choice. This visit out in the world was a confirmation that my hermit status has been verified.
On my way there I was really trying to get myself in the Christmas spirit. I had Christmas songs playing in the truck, a Christmas-ish beverage in hand, and a positive mental outlook...until I walked inside of a place that appeared to be the first level of hell from Dantes Inferno.
The sliding doors open and display a woman screaming in a crying childs face, I enter into the gates of hell and another woman is violently tugging at a stuck cart as she curses it's existence.
I grab my cart and proceed to the second level of hell.
It's a scene of mass chaos, and I'm tempted to vacate the inferno, but I have a list in my pocket and I can't come home empty handed.
I navigate the chaos and fill the cart with the listed items. I reach the check out lines, which rivals any amusement park roller coaster line. I'm standing there...staring in my cart...it's contents are shit.
Pure plastic shit. Future garbage.
I know the temporary joy this future garbage will bring my son, but something is wrong with all of this.
I am a student of quality. From my clothing, to my work, to my food, to my personal relationships, I demand quality. Why haven't I been able to pass this affinity for quality down to my son?
Then, the voice in my head says "because he's 5 you dumb ass."
I had fully intended on enjoying this whole experience, but left feeling sick to my stomach.
I wake up this morning to write this post, and as I load up these photos, I feel a little better.
Zack knocked out a bad ass bench from a live edge slab that he bought from a yard sale. I watched him spend an hour, rummaging through all of our scrap steel in order to come up with a base for it.
Zack is a real quiet mother fucker, I mean it takes some work to pull information about what he's doing. I don't even bother anymore, I've learned that his best work is when he's the most perplexed.
I knocked out a welded chain coat rack that someone is getting for Christmas. I doubt that they need a coat rack, but I don't NEED socks and underwear either and I still use em'.
After Zack finished the bench, he joined in the gift making with the Whiskey art.
Gifts come from the heart.
Plastic bullshit, hand made stuff, as long as it comes from love.
If you feel obligated to get a gift for someone, ya probably shouldn't.
People get their mail delivery person gifts...I don't know shit about my mail delivery person. For all I know, they could fuck kids or have a head in their freezer. I'm not getting someone a gift for doing a sub par job that they get paid to do, bah-humbug.
The people in my life whom I love and appreciate, I do my best.
It's not always the best for them, but it's MY best.
The Holidays are when you spend time with the ones who really mean something to you and it's a chance to show your appreciation for the roles they play in your life. The Holidays are not about how much shit you can cram into a cart, or all the great deals you got.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Monday, December 7, 2015
It's the only time of year that it's totally fine to ultimately lie to your kids on a daily basis.
I'm fine with keeping the Santa lie going for as long as possible, but now I'm forced to perpetuate some brand new bullshit with this whole "elf on a shelf" thing.
The concept is brilliant in order to keep these little fuckers on their best behavior for a good month. You see, apparently this little elf is supposed to keep an eye on yer kid and report back to the fat man on a nightly basis.
I pride myself on the fact that I've always been brutally honest with my son. I never baby talked him, rarely sugar coated harsh truths, and ultimately spoken to him as if he were an adult. That's why this 5 year old has a firm grip on language and can hold or gracefully bow out of a conversation with any adult.
Now...everyday...for over a month, I have to fucking lie to him. It kills me. It makes me hate Christmas and I generally love Christmas.
The day is gonna come where he is going to arrive at the reality that his old man was totally full of shit, and the damage control will go on for years, because now, he's going to think that everything I've told him is bullshit...Thanks a lot Christmas.
Every year around this time, I get into building small, extremely heavy items that I envision as a great gift idea.
It's a tough market, and I don't usually partake in the gift market, but I do like the holidays and usually produce a couple of small things, just in case.
We did a couple of different coat rack pieces with the whole railroad thing. Me nor Zack remotely care about trains, but railroad hardware is as tough as it gets and nothing screams Americana like rusty, heavy steel.
The last photo is a gift for a friend.
It's another chain lamp. I keep working these chain lamps in the hopes that I'll get the right jig set up to make them faster and straighter.
I fought with this one. After it was all welded up, I had to beat it straight on the concrete floor with a 3lb. sledge.
I mortised in the bullet casing on the base. They serve no purpose other than adding a little shine and detail.
I decided to add the steel letters on the back of the lamp base, just for the purpose of making the piece more personal. After all, it's a gift...it's supposed to be personal.
We don't have a CNC machine, nor do we have a plasma cutter, so I cut these letters out of 3/16" thick steel with a regular 4 1/2" grinder, then I used a hand file to clean the cuts.
After all the work that went into cutting those letters, I mounted them on the lamp, stood back, and said "1988 Madonna belt buckle", shut the lights off in the shop and went home for the weekend.
What was just a gift, a lamp, a token of gratitude, became something else. It became a beacon of the art of "trying". Try this jig, try these bullets, try cutting these letters.
To me...THAT'S a gift.
Monday, November 30, 2015
You all know the place. It's where you go when you need toilet paper and end up spending $200 and you sit in the front set of your vehicle before you exit the parking lot, scratching your head, muttering softly to yourself, "how the fuck did THAT happen?".
Anyway...my girl dragged me over to the furniture area and proceeded to attempt to sell me on a hutch.
I could've avoided an argument by simply stating "I'll make you one.", but instead, I went on a tirade about cardboard furniture made in China, and how it's offensive to me that she would lust after a piece of shit, and a huge belittling speech that in the end, was completely unnecessary.
We don't argue very often, but when we do, the gloves come off and it's a barrage of hurtful things that are usually completely unrelated to the original argument.
The next morning I ordered up some steel with the evil intention of making the heaviest hutch on the planet.
"I'll show you"....hmmmm, well that's a mind set that can really backfire. In the end, once I make this beast, I'm going to have to actually MOVE it in order to "show you".
I'm a man. As hard as I try to keep a level head, there are going to be times where I ultimately fuck myself to prove a point. It's abstract thinking at it's finest.
Zack helped me move it into the house, and she was very pleased with my peace offering.
These damn chain lamps...people like em'. Trying to figure out a way to make them more affordable, that's the hard part.
The time that goes into them is the killer. There is a value to ones time, and sure, we all make concessions on that number that we've assigned to our time, but I can't lower mine to the equivalent of a Walmart Greeter's pay rate in order to sell these to the public yet.
There are 3 of my chain lamps in existence...I, of course, own one. Keith from Redtail Hard goods, owns one, and some lucky bastard that bought the very first one I made from Salvage One.
This last one I made with more of a wood base, was built solely because I wanted to try out these bullet casings for dowels.
Usually, when we use screws on a piece that might be visible, we counter sink the screw, insert a wood dowel, and sand flush.
Now, we use spent bullet casing instead of the wood dowel, which you can't see in the photo, but trust me, it's there.
The Holidays are upon us, and as much as I really hope everyone is able to enjoy friends and family, and create awesome memories for any and all children involved, I beg of you to shop small.
Shopping small can change the lives of individuals. When you shop with the big box stores, that just means that an over paid CEO is getting a bigger bonus then his average giant bonus.
Trust me, I know it's hard. Just keep the little guys in mind.
None of my friends make Ninja Turtles, so I'm gonna have to hit up a big box store, but there are more people on my list, and I plan on shopping small.
The gifts are usually way better, and my money helps a small business keep the dream alive a little longer.
Just keep it in mind.
Monday, November 16, 2015
My response is usually along the lines of " that's great, I want to shoot lasers from my eyeballs".
My intention is not to shit upon ones dreams, quite the contrary, I want you to be awesome.
My advice is this...before you go dropping thousands of dollars on tools, a workspace, and materials, you need to hone your skills in the art of "critical thinking" otherwise known as "making shit work'. Once you have mastered that skill, you need to know "material management", which is also known as "making the shit you have in front of you work"
Take photo 1 for example.
It's a rolling bar made from a door that my partner Zack found next to his garbage can in his alley.
He looked at that crappy door, and loaded it into his truck before even thinking about what it could be. (excellent display of critical thinking).
We buy our steel in 24' lengths because it's cheaper to buy it in the lengths our supplier has it delivered to them, and there's always something left over after a project (material management), so the frame of the bar is made from left over steel.
The side cladding are the cut offs from a cladding job.
Do you see the trend here?
Always think about your next move.
That's about the only advice that's worth anything that I can give.
I love building chairs because I honestly can't afford the vintage industrial chairs from the 30's and 40's.
I look at vintage chairs on the internet like women look at shoes.
I've built quite a few now, and slowly but surely, they're getting better and closer to the look I want for my kitchen table.
Eventually I'll make one where I'm like "BAM...that's the one...now make 3 more".
I like the size and simplicity of the legs on this one. The stool round, I'm not so crazy about, it's just what we had in the shop. The chair back is getting there. For this chair back, I cut some left over sheet metal and proceeded to ram it into one of the giant beam columns in our shop to get a center crease, then I hammered the shit out of it on our concrete floor to get the contour. (make shit work).
We don't have an English wheel or a power hammer, or an anvil, or metal working hammers, or a brake, or a shear...but we do have critical thinking.
Time and time again at our shop, we find a way to make things work. We're never crippled by what we don't have. If there is a vision, there's a way. It's never the best way, or the easiest way, but we find a way.
The beauty of this craft lies not only in a piece created, it makes the craftsman aware of his shortcomings and guides his hand past them.
Friday night, I saw a post on Instagram that read "pray for Paris".
I don't watch the news, so I was clueless, but I jumped on the computer to see what happened.
Everyone has an opinion, and it seems that a lot of people jumped at the chance to preach a agenda.
My personal opinion is this....It doesn't matter what the attackers religious or political stance was.
It was a group of murderers who shot a bunch of regular people. Regular people with their own life struggles who just wanted to grab some Cambodian food or go see a rock show on a Friday night.
A country does not represent it's people.
All Americans aren't rednecks, all French aren't rude, all Irish aren't drunks, all English aren't uptight, all Middle Easterners aren't AK-47 wielding terrorists.
The murderers target of choice completely erased whatever plight they're fighting for.
It would be like me getting into an argument with my girl, then going across the street and punching the 86 year old woman sweeping leaves from her porch, in the face.
I see a lot of post bashing Muslims. I have a friend who's an artist, who's studio is right next to our shop.
He goes by 720 (Tony) and he is a Muslim. I don't know him as a Muslim, I know him as one of the kindest, friendliest, most positive attitude having people I've ever met.
My point is this...Whoever takes an innocent life is a murderer. Not a Muslim, not a Jihadist, not a Syrian rebel, not a Taliban, not ISIS, they're just a band of murderers. That's the only title they get. Any other title relates them to a bigger issue or cause that is clamoring for some kind of attention.
Call a spade a spade.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
This time, it's Sunday evening, my 5 year old son is laying next to me watching some bullshit on Nickelodeon, while making mental notes from the commercials for his Christmas list.
The last couple of weeks have been slightly stressful.
We were trying to get a lease locked down for the shop, and although everything worked out, we were in the midst of some mental kung-fu.
Stay or go. We were torn.
In the end, it's our home.
It's the place where many hours have been spent laughing, rocking the fuck out, and building furniture as well as our dreams.
For me, it's hard to build if something is clouding my mind.
The first piece was a shelving unit built for a woman named Mary who does event sales in the building.
A lot of company's will do lunch meetings during the week, and Mary is notorious for bringing us the left over cookies and muffins.
Me and Zack are passionate about our snacks, so her frequent deliveries are a welcome perk.
Mary also has brought a slew of clients through our shop, and she is constantly pushing our services on her clients.
She wanted a piece for a Buddha she had blessed by the Dali Lama or someone else of some Buddhist importance, so it was our pleasure to knock out a simple piece for her relic.
A little extra goes into a piece built for those who show us kindness. It's sad that acts of kindness are so rare, that you're so taken aback by them, that you feel (or at least I feel) compelled to trump their kindness with more kindness.
It's a kindness fuck fest around here.
The next piece is a guacamole cart built for a catering company.
We were handed a drawing, with half of the specs missing, so we kind of wiped our ass with the drawing and built a guacamole tank.
I was kind of dreading the project because I don't really like guacamole. I also don't like building off of a crude drawing.
I always feel like, either give me a real drawing, or let me go ape shit with an idea.
My girls biggest complaint about my existence, is that I'm one extreme or the other, or I'm "all or nothing".
My rebuttal to that is "I've worked for the last 5 years at not being a jag off, so it might take another 5 years for me to fine tune the long list of my other faults". If things go according to schedule, I should be a perfect human specimen by the year 2020.
We have a couple of exciting projects coming up this winter which will have us using some different materials, and embracing some more design aspects.
There are a lot of other things on my mind that I planned on spewing forth, but my kid has Alvin and the Chipmunks on, and it's making my skin crawl. It looks like I'll be continuing my blog posts at 4am, when it's just me, coffee, and the homeless guy who I've see shitting against the electrical post on several occasions.
Monday, October 26, 2015
I've never met a wood worker who hasn't kept just about every scrap of wood, piece of steel, dull saw blade, or broken tool. We, ourselves were guilty of such a crime, and this was the week that we corrected our hoarding ways.
Dumpsters filled, walls ripped down, and in a matter of a couple days, we turned a scrap yard into a real functional work shop.
I've always loved the shop, even in it's chaotic state, but now...it's a real pleasure to build in.
This conference table was our first build in the new configuration.
It was very liberating to be able to flip a 12' piece of steel around and not take half of the shop down in the process.
I think that this table is defined by our new surroundings. Sleek and functional, clean but still rustic.
One of the cool features of this simple table is steel "L". Big fucking deal, right?
The "L" is for the company who we built the table for. They're business is based around innovation, so we had to do something innovative.
Here's where you're thinking "ok, the steel "L" is cool and all, but it's not really innovative in the least".
Right you are my friends...in and of itself, it is not remotely innovative.
The innovation part is how it's mounted on the table.
We could've mortised it in, welded bolts to the bottom, screwed it to the table and the weld over the screw heads...Nope to all of those methods.
We used magnets.
Lets say this company had a big client like NIKE coming in. They could very simply replace the "L" with a steel NIKE logo.
If I walked into a meeting, and someone had the MAKERS logo on their conference table, I would think "these mother fuckers baked us a cake....and I LOVE CAKE."
You see, building furniture is simple, but taking something simple and making it unique is the hard part.
Making something that no one else has is the daily challenge.
It's a giant world filled with smarter people then you or me, fortunately it's polluted with as many if not more dumb fucks.
The name of the game here is to try to out smart the smart people.
"TRY" is the operative word here.
As long as you try to stay ahead of the smart people, you've all ready surpassed the dumb fucks, so you're already ahead of the game.
I'm running late this morning, we were all sick this weekend.
It's one thing when your kid is sick and you feel fine, so playing nurse is pretty easy. When everyone has the bug, it's just that much more exhausting.
Stay healthy my friends.
Monday, October 19, 2015
It's not often that I get a chance to start off a blog post like that, but indeed, me and my little dude rode a camel.
Sunday we went to a pumpkin patch.
I gotta say, I don't get out in public very often, but the pumpkin patch is a yearly ritual that I truly enjoy.
It's amazing to me that my son can recall various pumpkin patch events from previous years. He'll recall stuff from when he was 2 or 3 and it just goes to show that you're doing a good job as a parent when these really great memories are able to stick in your kids brains.
This year was kinda monumental for him.
He went through the "haunted barn"...twice.
The first attempt, he bitched out right as we got to the entrance.
We didn't try to force him or convince him, we just chalked up a 30 minute wait in line to time wasted as we politely retracted through the line.
It bothered him that he bitched out. He stood there looking at that barn, stoic and defeated. We coaxed him away with the promise of trying again later.
As we walked through the rest of the attractions, he was proclaiming his determination to go through the barn. He couldn't really enjoy any of the other activities until we tried the haunted barn again.
This time, he and his mom waited in line while I quietly sat on a bench under a witch on a broom.
A little while later my son comes running up to me with pride beaming from his face. He did it...kind of.
Mom had to carrying him through, but he made it.
Immediately we went back to the haunted barn line, but this time it was my turn while mom sat under the witch.
We're standing in that line and he's rambling about what's to come for me, and I tell him "bro, I'm not gonna carry you through like momma...you're gonna walk."
I waited and expected some protest, but was given none...until it was our turn to enter.
As we entered the barn, I could feel the fear in my sons hand, and I had to give him a little tug to get his feet moving forward, but once we were in motion, he put on his bravest face for his old man and muscled through.
Fear will crush you.
Fear will cripple you.
Fear will rob you of your potential.
As you all know, I like to use wood and steel in the furniture making process.
The format is usually wood...with steel accents...repeat.
On this particular build, we decided that it was time for the wood to ride in the fucking back seat for a change.
We had to build an executive desk/work table for a client.
We had already built a ton of furniture for them, so I really wanted to switch it up.
We purchased a sheet of 11 gauge steel for another project, and one morning I had an idea for a rusted steel top.
I wanted the corners of the table to kinda waterfall, but we don't own a brake, or a power hammer, or an english wheel.
So I bolted a piece of pipe to the work table, clamped the sheet, and beat the shit out of the corners with a hammer until they did what I wanted them to do.
Next, we rusted the top. By "rusting the top" I mean spray a bunch of household products on it and then stare at a steel top for the next 2 hours as our rusting cocktail did it's magic.
When it came to the base, I wanted to go simple and clean so that the rusted top steals the show.
I'm always a little afraid to try something new.
My worst case in this situation was that I'd have to go buy another sheet of steel and make a wood top, whoop-di-fucking-doo.
If we never tried to make a top like this because we were afraid it wouldn't work or we'd fuck it up, well, how would anything ever get done or progress?
In the case of my son and the haunted barn, his worse case is that he shit his pants. hell, Zack is on the verge of shitting his pants everyday around 1pm.
My point is...if your worse case scenario is that your gonna fucking die...don't do it. If it doesn't involve dying...give it a whirl...you might learn something.
Monday, October 12, 2015
First up to bat is a kitchen table made completely from a demolished Chicago back porch.
If you're from Chicago, you'll have fond memories of scurrying up and down these structures as a kid.
Most of them were structural death traps coated with layer after layer of shitty gray paint.
They were a Chicago standard until some frat boys had a party and a bunch of people plummeted to their death in the mid to late 90's.
That's when the city went ape shit and made everyone tear those monsters down.
Apparently Zacks neighbor managed to dodge the wrath of the city inspectors until very recently.
Zack loaded up his truck with as much of the porch as he could. It didn't sit in the shop for very long before we dug into it.
The result of inhaling a lot of lead paint dust and shaping a lot of rotted wood was a clients kitchen table.
The next challenge was turning a piano into a Dj booth.
The client didn't have much of a budget, but we took it on because....well, we've never turned a piano into a Dj booth...imagine that.
We had to make a steel cradle to get it to a workable height for a DJ as well as make it more mobile because the original piano wheels sucked.
We removed the top of the piano, flipped it, and re attached it as a shelf to hold records, cocaine, drinks, etc.
We cut out the front of the piano to expose it's inner workings, and framed that out with this giant silver picture frame material.
Lastly...a 1/2" thick piece of tempered glass to hold the turntables and mixer.
Friday, I was taking Max to see his grandma.
On our way, I stopped at a friends store.
I was chatting with my friend for a moment when he sprung on me that he had visited a doctor and was diagnosed with depression.
I was taken aback by this news and it's been festering in my head all weekend.
This guy has a successful business, surrounded by family, and from the outside seems perfectly happy.
I don't know depression.
I'm probably a great candidate for depression, but no matter how shitty things get for me, I always feel....I always feel pretty fuckin' good.
I'm in a constant state of struggle, but in my mind, that struggle is what keeps my blood pumping.
I feel as if shit got real easy, THAT'S when I'd be depressed.
I'm no doctor, but my friends news prompted me to utilize GOOGLE, and to my discovery depression isn't always situational, it's often chemical.
I hate doctors, and I only visit them if I'm facing imminent death. From my experiences with them, they mostly just offer up a battery of pills.
If I was diagnosed with depression, I'm the type to try everything under the sun before I take a happy pill.
Diet, exercise, yoga, vacation, skydiving, jerk off more...whatever.
It bothered my that my friend was depressed. I wanted to rattle off a bunch of Dr. Brian remedies for his ailment, but I just listened to him.
I listened because I care. Sometimes people need to speak to get things off their mind more then they're looking for you to rattle off a bunch of hypothetical solutions to their problem.
Shortly after my son was born, I learned from him that life is precious and short. I also discovered that if I'm positive and generally happy, those around me have a better shot at happiness.
I can't fix my friend. That probably bothers me more than anything.
I am glad that he took a step at correcting something he knew wasn't right about himself. That takes guts to do and is probably the hardest part for most people.
If you're not "chemically" depressed, you have the power to make the changes necessary to dig yourself out of a funk. Chemically...I got nothing. I don't know how that shit works, but if you're in that boat, it's up to you to figure out how to row that motherfucker.
I know this is a long post, but most of you lucky bastards have the day off. Not me. We have a long list of builds we're tackling one at a time, so HI-HO, HI-HO, it's off to work I go.
A special apology to my brother Kevin McQuaid, as I promised to try to work the word "butt-plug" into todays post, I'll make it up to you another time with something equally, if not more offensive.
Monday, October 5, 2015
It ended up in my living room, where my girl took ownership of it, and I ended up back at my kitchen table office. How the fuck does that happen? I don't know, but what I do know is that the old saying "happy wife, happy life" reigns true.
At the same time I was building that standing desk, Zack had made a base for another style of standing desk. As things happen sometimes, you get caught up in the business at hand and things get left undone.
Well, fast forward to last week, when the guys from LIMITLESS came to our shop to check on the progress of their 6 backboard desks.
They saw the unfinished base, and inquired about what it was, and when we explained that it was a "standing desk" they were like "duuuude...we NEED one of those!".
It just so happened that Zack yanked a old fucked up oak top from the building dumpster a couple weeks ago, so once i scraped off all the disgusting gum from underneath the top, and refinished it...it was a very quick build.
The second photo is a picture of the 6 desks we built in record time for the same client.
I understand that producing multiple pieces is necessary if you need to do things like eat or drive a car or live in a house, but half way through this build, I was thinking to myself "man, I miss falling in love with a piece".
I love the feeling of those one-off pieces where they consume you. You stare, and pace, and do all these little details to make a piece really warm and unique, and when it's all said and done, you get this warm feeling in your belly and you quietly think to yourself "how in the fuck did I do that?"
Not a whole lot of that when you knock out 6 desks in 9 days.
We pride ourselves on our care. It's just a whole different mindset to a build. Deadlines and budget dictate how you're going to go about things, and those factors forbid you from finger banging a piece. No dinner and a movie, no backseat foreplay, you go straight to business.
It's cold and unfulfilling. like a one night stand.
The last photo is the crate nightstands.
We had done one for a client in NewYork, and I had posted a photo, to a very surprising response.
It's a re-creation of a vintage crate, except it's modified to be night stand height with a shelf.
Simple, affordable, and pretty cool.
I love old vintage crates, so the fun part for me was aging these to look vintage.
I never would have thought that we would get so many inquiries about something so simple.
We most likely will be making these in a standard size and adding them to the MAKERSCHICAGO etsy shop.
Here we are at another Monday, which is a good thing, because if you didn't make it to Monday, that would mean your dead, and it's really difficult to get things done when your dead.
As long as we're alive, we're in it together, so make it happen.
Monday, September 28, 2015
The customer for this desk had a budget that wouldn't even be able to fund my last pair of jeans, but there were circumstances that dictated that we take on this project.
Zack drew up the design for this piece, and he managed to procure the absolute shittiest wood remaining on the planet earth to facilitate this piece.
I like shitty wood, but there is shitty wood and there is really really shitty wood, and we got to play the hand dealt to us.
I'm not a "gloomy Gus", I usually maintain a pretty positive outlook even in the darkest of situations, but when Zack pulled this lumber out of the trash, I'm like "I don't know man...I don't know."
Shitty lumber is going to yield some really unique qualities. It can be challenging to work with, but the end results are usually pretty stunning. With this particular build, we went from being Craftsmen, to becoming Trauma ward surgeons.
This desk has been stitched up with various hardwood dovetails (oak, cherry, and walnut) on the visible sides, on the bottom it is secured with 3/16 steel gussets.
The desk, although was purchased for 1/4 of what it's actually worth, came out amazing.
It had to be amazing because even though we made a lousy deal, WE still made the deal at the end of the day, and if our name is gonna be branded on it, it's gotta be nothing short of amazing.
I will never make some bullshit just to get it out the door.
I'm obsessive compulsive when it comes to what we make, and there's no way I could sleep at night knowing that we sent some hacky shit out of our shop.
I used to get offended when people would approach us with a laughable budget, but I've become more compassionate because I've developed an understanding that some people are just fucking stupid.
Stupid is pretty harsh, I'd like to replace "stupid" with "clueless".
Most people have never had anything custom made.
Most people buy whatever television repeatedly crams down their throat.
They have zero concept of what is entailed in having something custom made and therefore they cannot attach a value to it.
When my son does something stupid, I don't yell at him, I explain to him why (whatever he did) was not a good decision. I only explain once, if he does it again, it's "out come the wolves".
I try to treat customers the same. I'll break down the process minute by minute and draw a lateral to the expenses involved. At that point I've given them enough information to where they get to make a decision.
They can make a good decision or a bad decision...like my 5 year old.
A good decision would be to accept my price, adjust their vision to match their budget, or to seek elsewhere.
A bad decision would be to devalue our time based on their wants.
Nobody wants to make a bad decision...that would be bad.
Anyway, the desk came out rad, and this jerk off didn't pick it up when he was supposed to, but that's all neither here nor there, because at the end of the day it's about our work. It's about us making things we are proud of regardless of all the weirdo personalities we have to deal with and I can attest that people are really fucking weird.
This lucky bastard got the deal of a lifetime and I'm pretty sure that he's absolutely clueless about that fact.
C'est la vie.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Not because we haven't built anything cool this week, on the contrary, we're building like maniacs.
Everything is in a state of partial completion, so I didn't think it was necessary to post photos of uncompleted work.
There is a funny story that prompted this post though.
The other day I was washing my sons feet in the shower. He's like a little hippy, he hates socks and hates shoes even more, so he always ends up with "bum feet".
He's sitting in the tub with the shower raining down on him as I scrub his gross little feet, and he starts tugging on his penis and stretching it into the collected water. I shoot him a puzzled look and he says to me "this thing is crazy".
I know the penis is "crazy", but I'm curious about his interpretation. He asks "this thing is just for peeing?" to which I reply "right now son...just for peeing."
The next day I'm telling Zack the story and he said "what you should've told him is right now it's just for peeing, but one day....it will take over your entire brain!"
Truer words have never been spoken, and as funny as that statement is, it made me think about how I have gotten to where I am.
Technically...my penis got me here. (Thanks for the ride...dick.)
My trusty penis helped make a beautiful baby boy who changed the entire course of my life.
I remember being confused and frightened when he was born, more importantly, I knew I had to step my game up.
For a father, the "baby years" suck. You spend your time working, cleaning shit and vomit and just keeping a tiny human alive.
Now though, now we're in the golden years. Now he's at a stage where he's learning from me as much as I'm learning from him.
Without him, there would be no Breclaimed or MAKERS.
All my life decisions revolve around what's best for him, so my son is essentially paving my destiny.
Lately, we have been discovering the city together.
Mom works weekend nights, so Max and I have been taking the subway and going on weekend explorations.
These little adventures are learning experiences for both of us that we will carry for the rest of our lives.
It's a great way for me to put my life into perspective after the hellish weeks me and Zack have endured lately.
I build to make my son proud.
There are times when people come to my house, and they'll be like "ohhhh, that is so coool" and Max will step up and say "my dad MADE that."
Is there a better feeling? No there is not.
There's a meaning and a reason behind all my success's and all my failures. The soul in the pieces that I create alone or collectively with Zack carry a piece of my son as well now.
That boy is my reason. He's my purpose. His heart moves my hand.
He has made me softer and kinder as well as stronger and slightly more forgiving, forgiving to myself mostly, but I tend to harbor less resentment these days.
So...Thanks penis! Ya finally done me right.
Monday, September 14, 2015
We don't just make furniture, although sometimes I wish we did.
This space was created for a marketing firm called LIMITLESS. From my understanding they are a sports related marketing firm, hence the backboard theme.
The mounting of these 200lb backboards required a lot of steel. We recently got a new steel supplier who are much closer to the shop. The downfall to this supplier is that they only sell in huge lengths that are either 20' or 25' depending on what steel you get. They'll be happy to cut it down for you...if you have 2 or 3 hours to kill and wanna spend more in cutting then you did in the actual steel.
We didn't have time to wait to have our order cut, so we basically dragged it all out into the middle of the street and cut it down by hand with a dull hack saw, on the hottest day of the year, next to a landfill that apparently only accepted rotten food and human remains as refuse.
We had less than a week to complete this project and it just so happened that we got commissioned to make a solid steel "martini tree" for the 3rd largest caterer in Chicago at the same time with an even shorter and more unrealistic time line.
The "Martini Tree" will be a whole new post in and of itself because we didn't even have time to snap photo's of it. In fact, we were doing paint touch ups in front of the caterer's office minutes before it had to be delivered.
I don't like to rush, or feel rushed, or be rushed.
Maybe it's my age?
When I build, I like to take my time. Back in the day, I used to spend hours staring at a block of wood, mapping out in my head how I was going to manipulate it into something.
These days, everyone is in such a big fucking hurry, and not just in having work done, but in every aspect of life. I can't tell you how many times I've almost beaten someone to death in the grocery store for ramming their cart into my son because they were in such a huge hurry.
Maybe I'm wrong (imagine that.) Maybe life is about cramming as much shit as you can into a day regardless of who it affects?
The other day I'm driving to work. It's early, tons of traffic, and my light turns green, but there are cars in the intersection so I have no place to go. The guy behind me is going into convulsions over the situation and speeds around me. Well, the lady blocking the intersection decided she would back up to give me room to pass through and slammed into the asshole going around me. 30 seconds...if that guy would have kept it together for 30 more seconds everyone would have been on their merry way. But now Mr. "in a big fuckin hurry" gets to spend about an hour or more dealing with cops and insurance companies as well as how many other people got delayed because of the situation.
I stand back and watch the chaos of life sometimes and wonder if they're putting cocaine in the water supply.
Zack put in hella extra hours on these 2 projects.
Me, I have school meetings, doctor appointments for my son, and me and my girl work opposite schedules so that our son is never in the care of strangers.
I would get to work early to attempt to wrap these projects up, only to find out that Zack stayed until 10pm to get shit done.
If I'm having something custom made, I don't want the artisan making it to feel rushed. In fact, I want them to be heart broken when they ship it out because they put so much thought, time and effort into creating a piece.
Our society says otherwise. Hurry-hurry-hurry, now-now-now.
I say "fuck society".
Monday, September 7, 2015
Photo 1 is...I'm not sure what the fuck photo 1 is.
I had a bug in my ass to carve something. I grabbed a block of wood and started hacking away. Part of it was a test for me on my control of a tool.
I had no idea what I was going to make out of it, and I didn't really care what it became.
It doesn't have to be preconceived, nor does it necessarily need to be uber functional when it's art. In the case for this particular piece, I'm gonna use art as my scapegoat.
The appearance of it is that of 2 heavy objects floating over a steel rectangle...this appearance was achieved completely by accident.
A few people have come through the shop and been like "oh, that's cool...what is it?" and my eloquent response has been "I don't fuckin' know."
Photo 2...There's no guess work in photo 2, it's a crate.
The back story to this crate is...a customer had seen a crate we had for sale on the makerschicago Etsy store and wanted 2 crates made as night stands. The goal was to create or should I say re create the crate posted on Etsy, only larger and with a shelf.
I have a gift. My particular gift is the ability to make things look old. I have honed this skill over the last 4 years without even knowing that I was honing a skill. Some people are good at aging pieces and some people are not so good. I lump myself in the group that does it well.
I've always been conscious of how things wear. Where are they being rubbed against, how are they being moved, how is a piece subjected to light, all these factors contribute to how a piece ages.
You can watch a million youtube videos on the subject but nobody touches on the thought process, they just display a technique. So, if you are going to age a piece, think and think deeply about how it would have existed 50 years ago.
Photo 3....This is a great idea that is tormenting me.
I had the brilliant idea to do hand carved and hand painted table numbers for events like weddings and shit.
I've seen so many creative ways that people do them, but they have all been very elementary. People do some cute stuff, but I wanted to make those simple tiny details an actual "piece".
Here's the problem...they're catching on...more people want them, and they're extremely laborious to make. The first 4 I did, man, that was fun. Brew up some coffee, crank up some Rancid and TOOL plop down at the work table and BE creative. After 5 hours of TOOL and Rancid it became not so fun.
People have said to me "why don't you just CNC them?" My answer is this...I'm not trying to sell cut out numbers on wood, I'm trying to sell hand carved, hand painted little pieces of art. The easy way is a lie, and I'm not trying to take credit for something a CNC programmer is doing. I'll take my lumps and hand carve each and every one no matter how much it sucks at this point. I made my bed and now I gotta lay in it.
Photo 4...This is another glass walled office that me and Zack are doing for a marketing company. The more we do, the better we get. Each glass wall project is getting progressively cleaner and more streamlined and that's what makes it more interesting for us.
Photo 5....That's Zack motherfuckin' Meyers world renowned Jean maker, rockin' a MAKERSXKOOTHBRAND shirt. It's nice to see someone who's craft you admire and respect rocking something that you had a hand in putting together.
Check him out at www.zaceusa.com.
Ya'll have a great labor day, me and Zack will be working, cause we have deadlines to meet and the shit ain't gonna make itself.
Monday, August 31, 2015
Once I finished the lamp, I put it on the floor for sale, and when I returned the following week, that little gem was gone.
I posted a photo of it on Pinterest and it's been re-pinned quite a few times.
Sometimes at work we get so caught up in paying projects that you thirst to do something creative like a junkie thirsts for a fix,
We had an empty day last week, so I decided to re visit the welded chain lamp.
The concept didn't change, but the quality sure did.
I've always been a sworn enemy of repetition, but the way I justified doing something I had already done, was by telling myself that I never got to spend any time with the first welded chain lamp.
When I put that lamp on the floor for sale, the fucking welds were still hot, and then it was gone.
This lamp is for me. I need another lamp like I need another pair of jeans, but it has a value to me that doesn't entail a dollar amount.
I will most likely make a couple more to put on our Etsy shop closer to the Holidays, and then turn the page.
The second photo was a job for a client that consisted of steel railings, glass and steel partitions, and rift cut red oak floor to ceiling balusters.
That project was a departure for us in the sense that we nailed the gap between rustic and modern.
The way me and Zack operate is like a game of chess. The goal is to stay one move ahead of the others, but the difference is that we're both going for the same kings throat.
We've created a comfort zone in reference to our style, and this project nudged us outside that zone.
When you build something in a more commercial setting, you may have hundreds if not thousands of people either walk by or utilize a space or a piece that you've created. Their time in the environment you created is limited. When you build in someones home, it's the same mother fuckers, day in and day out that are exposed to your work, so your shit has got to be tight.
There are only 2 simple factors that dictate the outcome of a project...time and money.
Unfortunately, these days, nobody wants to spend any money and they want their job done in a day.
It always blows my fucking mind where people want to cut corners.
Someone will go buy a $3000 computer, and want to set it up on a $400 desk. It doesn't make sense to me. Somewhere down the road of life, the lines between what you want vs. what you can afford have gotten blurred.
Recently, there was an event where someone wanted to use a bunch of our furniture, but here's the kicker...they thought they were so fucking important on the tree of life, that they shouldn't have to PAY us to use OUR furniture. Needless to say, they got nothing, but we deal with personalities like that almost daily.
Another good one is the people that want to know the material cost. Here's the deal....the material cost of a project doesn't mean shit to you. You could have a gigantic pile of wood and steel,but without us turning it into something beautiful, well, you'd be the proud owner of a pile of wood and steel.
I've never walked into Macy's to purchase a pair of pants and asked "how many yards of denim were used to make these, and how much was the denim per yard, and how much was the thread, and how much were the buttons and rivets, etc". That would just be ridiculous right?
Trust me, when you want something custom built, the math has been done for you. If we screw up the math, we eat shit, and we're not in the shit eating business.
I don't mean to come across as "dicky", but we're in this constant state of negotiation and price justification, and most of the time it's with people that have money to burn!
Photo 2....that guy...fucking regular working guy. He wanted something done, he had a vision, wanted us to do our thing, got a price, and didn't blink an eye. The only question he asked is "when can you start?"
Then, you get the guy who's company has 9 locations, 102 employees, drives to your meeting in a $150k car, and wants to kick you in the balls over $100.
Zack usually takes the lead in these negotiation situations. He is very professional in dealing with these types of clients where as I want to jump on the table and scream "FUCK YOU!!!!!" in their faces. There's been situations where Zack is thinking in his head "don't speak Brian, please don't speak, pleeeease do not say a word....please god, do not let this man say anything" and he's thinking it so strongly that I can hear him.
Whew! glad to get that off my chest.
It all boils down to needs vs. wants.
We don't provide people with anything they NEED in order to survive. We provide people with things they WANT.
My advice to customers of any kind is handle your needs and never make a concession on your wants.