Monday, March 30, 2015
I went and looked back on all my old blog posts.
I've never done that before because the point of my blog had always been to just unload my brain of all the junk that was on my mind.
Write it, publish it, move along and don't look back.
I looked back for no particular reason, but in looking back, I discovered 2 things about myself.
1. I can be a real potty mouthed asshole
2. All the lamps that I've made eerily signify some kind of transition in my life.
A first year therapist would cum in their pants for the chance to dig around in my skull to place a meaning behind this pattern.
There is transition in my life at this moment, but there was a thought behind this lamp that wasn't intentionally related to my current life changes.
I had been feeling very structured and methodical in my craft lately, and I just wanted to let my hands go out and dance.
I basically just grabbed a chunk of wood, and then scoured through scrap steel in the shop, and see what would transpire.
It wasn't about design or lighting. It was about getting off the reservation.
It's funny because customers will ask how much a particular kind of wood will cost, and I look at them, scratching my head because I rarely purchase material.
For the most part, everything I build with is found, given, or acquired.
I'm not some crazy environmentalist bent on saving the planet one coffee table at a time, it's just so happened to work out like this for me.
The lamp is in our bedroom now.
Flat Stanley books will be read to my son by it's glow, it will wrap it's light around my family on cold winter nights, it will witness love making, and fighting, and tears. It will hear the speak of people with hopes and dreams, it will know the future plans for our son, and it will speak not a word of these events to any living soul.
I post on Mondays because Mondays fucking suck...for most.
For me Monday is a new beginning, and religion holds the deed on Sundays.
Mondays are when I go back into the trenches, when I'm given expectations and the opportunity to crush those expectations.
Change your perspective and your life will follow suit.
Lamps, tables, chairs...who gives a fuck? They're just things.
It's never about what I make. It's how I get there. It's what I learn, it's what I feel, it's who I am and what I'm becoming.
My true hope for mankind is that one day people will stop going through the motions of life and just fucking do something.
Stop bitching, stop complaining, stop fighting each other over nonsense and create.
Your dreams don't belong in your head, and Mondays aren't a death sentence.
Monday, March 23, 2015
The client came to the shop to discuss the payment terms. In that conversation, we also had been asked to give a timeline for completion...all standard procedure.
The client came in on a Tuesday morning, and I told the client that his pieces would be ready by the following Monday. If any of you have ever had anything custom made, you know that you're looking at 4 to 6 weeks no matter what, in this case, I gave a 4 working day timeline.
My timeline was given the ol' stank eye complete with raised eyebrows and a short speech on how, if I say it's gonna be done by Monday, it better be done by Monday.
At first I was kind of offended, and the old me would have gone on a tirade like an old lady at the deli who's turkey wasn't cut thin enough, but the new me just kind of smirked, and let the man "school" me on ethics. I get it. He doesn't KNOW me, I have to give him a pass for that, because let's be honest...most people are full of shit.
Truth be told, I've never had to make 3 desks, but I do know how long it takes me to make one desk, so the equation that I used to calculate this customers timeline goes something like this...
1 desk build plus 2 =3, then we bring a second craftsman into the equation and our sum of 3 becomes 1.5, then I take that 1.5 and add .5 for incidentals which puts me up to 2 of which I subtract 50% to accommodate for the bad ass motherfuckers quotient. To sum it all up so no one has to bust out their abacus...I can build 3 desks in the time it takes to build one.
When we were discussing how all this would go down, we informed the client that we would need a deposit in order to commence. The client stated that his assistant would bring a check that afternoon to which I replied that I would purchase the material in the meantime because I had a deadline to meet.
I purchased the material and the deposit came a day late.
We met (in fact we crushed) the Monday deadline, and ya know what....a week later and the desks are still sitting in the shop.
My point is....my word is pure fucking gold.
My son has made damn sure that I always honor my word. If I tell that boy something is going down, he will hold me to it with every ounce of his being.
We can all learn a lot from 5 year olds.
I put zero stock in anyones word with the hope that I'll be pleasantly surprised,
It's really a sad state of affairs. I mean do we really have to walk through life assuming that everyone is full of shit? Yes we do. Unless you're a huge fan of being constantly disappointed.
You could honestly suck at absolutely everything, but if you only keep your word, then you're at least one up on 90% of the population.
I have suffered from not telling people what they want to hear.
If Levis's called me today and said they needed 1000 denim hangers by May 1st. I would say "impossible" and they would walk. I would never agree to something knowing that I would fail.
The moral of the story is, if you are going to expect others to keep their word, you damn sure better be able to keep yours.
Monday, March 16, 2015
For now, I am back with this little gem.
Marcus from Salvage one has titled this piece a "station table" which I thought was brilliant.
What I had in mind when I was building it was a "leather makers table".
Marcus's title opened it up to a much larger market, while my title limits it to the 3 leather makers that I know, none of whom are in the market for purchasing a "leather makers table".
I like the idea of a non leather maker purchasing this table and using it for anything other than it's intended use. When it's in my hands, it's one thing and when it moves to your hand, it's another.
While I imagined someone sitting at this table, finger tips numb, hand stitching a piece of leather with heavy waxed thread, someone else sees a hostess standing behind it asking "do you have a reservation? What's the last name?".
The other day, someone had plopped down a catalog of some furniture company on our desk at work. As i was eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I was thumbing through it. I had the same feeling flipping through that catalog as I do when I see those commercials for some organization that wants you to adopt a dog. You know the ones where they show all those sad faced dogs in cages, and you struggle to find the remote control to change the channel so you don't have to see that last dog, you know, the abused beagle with one eye.
People have said that my furniture is expensive, and after looking through that catalog, I can easily deny those accusations.
$795 for a gold tree stump. Aside from all their furniture being utterly soulless and equally overpriced, I found that gold tree stump offensive. It was as if they were mocking the consumer.
Here's where I'm going with this...I no longer have a 9 to 5 and then build my pieces on lunch breaks and weekends. I no longer get a pay check, i have to create a pay check.
After 3 years of doing things that way, the gods have smiled upon me and with the help of Zack Knowles, THIS is what I do to keep the lights on.
Breclaimed is still just me and my one off pieces, but there are now 50 plus hours a week allocated to building bad ass shit for the masses.
It's kind of crazy how it all worked out, but it's working out and that's all that matters.
No more framing walls or fixing broken shit. Our work is dedicated to creative pieces and creating cool environments.
Zack and myself were equally worried if we would be able to sustain, but everyday someone is coming in our shop and asking for 3 of these or 10 of those or 50 of these....shit is crazy.
This blog will now include some of those builds as well as my one off pieces.
Will my one off pieces suffer due to this life change? I don't know.
I doubt it. You can't halt passion. I can't halt the urge to do better. The only uncontrollable factor in this equation is time, but luckily I'm a pro at time management.
So all of you who read this blog, hop in the car cause we're going for a ride. I'm not sure where we're going but we'll find out when we get there...together.
Monday, March 9, 2015
I run a small durable goods company called Lion & Anvil. And that sentence itself would have blown me away five years ago. But over the last year of this business, my introverted self has reached out to some of them “strangers”, and wouldn't ya know it...they're not half bad.
I have become acquainted with quite a few of the guys (and a few gals) in the handmade/craftsman world and they are some very generous people. Generous with their encouragement, generous with their advice, and generous with their information. For me, none have been more so than our guy, Breclaimed. We recently exchanged some goods, and here is what I had to say on Instagram about the railroad spike hangers he made me:
Even when you have never met a man face to face, when you meet his work, in a sense, you meet him. I'm not talking about what he might have to do to pay the bills. I'm talking about what he does because it's what's in him. It's what you meet because he just shared part of himself...showed you a glimpse of what's inside.
When I opened up a package this morning and found these railroad spike hangers from @breclaimed, I smiled and took a good long look at them. I just let them linger and speak to me. The thoughts and questions they offered...where did these spikes come from?...what's his thought process as he created these?...what did he have to overcome that day in the whirlwind of life to push through and make these happen?...does he know I will cherish these the rest of my life?
You see, these spikes will never just be hangers to me. They are legacy pieces. Hopefully, one day I will be able to tell my grandkids about them. Carefully explain to them the backstory. And I don't just want them to hear the story, I want them to feel the story. Why? Because this token of friendship has gained entrance into my story and will forever remind me of the best of what life's journey has to offer. Thank you, Brian Mcquaid.
I could go on and on about the great things Brian creates, but that's not the point I'm trying to make. My point is to highlight the stuff he does besides creating...stuff that he doesn’t have to do. The first time I reached out to him, I sent him an email asking his feedback about our brand. And he responded. More than that though, it wasn’t some weak email just so he could say he responded. He put effort into it and gave some valuable feedback. I still go back and look at it from time-to-time when I’m re-evaluating Lion & Anvil and what it is we are wanting to offer our tribe. He earned my respect that day and has continued to do so ever since. Not always by doing things as significant as the spike hangers. It may be input on how to build a belt rack or as simple as a quick comment or like on Instagram.
The bottom line is, I know the dude cares. And because of that I’m sitting here doing the finger-peck-shuffle instead of sitting on my bum watching Wheel of Fortune (no, I don’t really watch Wheel of Fortune). And that is how I think it should work. People looking out for one another, even if you don't know them all that well, yet. Sometimes that means taking a chance on a stranger who could end up being a real piece of work. And if they are, so be it. Move on to another stranger. It’s not always going to be rosy or reciprocated, but the new friends you make will far outweigh the jerks.
With all the distractions of living in the Information Age, it's pretty sweet to be able to reach out to another maker across the country, or even the world, and connect with them. The safer route is to stay in our own little worlds, keeping busy and building boxes to put ourselves into. As for this Texas boy, I'm hooked. I'm going to keep engaging the community out there and see how many strangers...I can turn into friends. There are a lot of reasons to start a business, but the most fulfilling part for me has also been the most unexpected.
Monday, March 2, 2015
It's hard for me to believe that it's taken me this long to finally get around to making one...or two.
There was a time a couple of years ago that I really needed a shop stool, but ended up finding a really cool tractor seat one that I bought because the math was right.
Last week at work was hectic but kinda mundane, so when Friday came around, I needed to take a day where I just create something.
We're going to designate a creative day at work because in the end, everybody wins.
Clients get better work, our souls feel better, and it all around puts your head in a better place. Every work place should designate a creative day, then Suzy would get a chance to finally "bedazzle" the water cooler and maybe accounts payable will finally get their shit together.
This stool was inspired by my guy Zack. The other day I stood there and watched him standing over a barrel top as he wood burned an intricate logo on to it....for hours. It looked awkward and uncomfortable and it would've been a much more pleasurable experience had he been able to SIT down with it.
For this stool I had to disassemble a few useless steel structures that were laying around just taking up space. Once I had some good straight stock....I winged it. No idea, no concept, just work with the garbage around you and see how shiny you can polish a turd.
I went with a 3 leg design solely because I planned on making 2 stools and I wouldn't have enough stock if I was going to follow that wacky 4 leg concept that all the kids are raving about.
Once I got the legs cut and welded up, I placed the seat to discover that I fucked up. I had welded the legs so that the long point of the 15 degree angle pointed out instead of forward.
As I stood in front of this mistake, screaming "FUCK" at it, (which never seems to help things along, but does make you feel a little better) Zack quietly walks over, completely wordless, and slides the seat round all the way to the back of the leg structure as opposed to center, and then levitates away from the piece like some kind of Jedi.
Brilliant. Crisis adverted.
I burned in a "B" and we went to lunch.
When we got back, I cut up some more steel to make a stool for Zack.
Now, after lunch at our shop is a weird time.
It seems like after lunch is when all the other trades working in the building come down to our haven and attempt to bestow THEIR problems upon us, or tenants come down to toss ideas, or people come just to vent.
The other day this lady walks in to the shop and says the hood of her car was stuck and she needed a jump. It was one of those days that it was 10 below out and I figured she was a tenant which translates to potential customer, so I figured I get some karmic brownie points and give her a hand.
I followed her outside to the parking lot and we're walking when she explains her car is across the street...at the free clinic. How did she wander from there to our shop? I do not know, but to add insult to injury she had asked if Zack was my son! I know I'm old but not THAT old! I'm thinking "lady, you're about to address your car hood problem by your damn self". That's like asking a fat lady in an elevator when she's due.
Anyway....back to the second stool....while I'm welding the legs for Zacks stool, this giant Romanian guy who is working in the building is standing over my shoulder. Now I'm paranoid about this guy going blind, and I'm sure he's just interested in welding, but in my head I'm screaming "get the fuck away from me". It gets to the point where he's physically knocking into me and I gotta finally say "bro, come on now" and he slithers off.
Upon assembly of Zacks stool, I discover that the front leg is a little off. Not off to where it's not functional, but off to where I notice it and it will eat away at my brain until I correct it.
I'm going to bring on guest bloggers.
I'd like to do it once a month or whenever I can convince someone to write something.
They'll be people related to the art of hand crafting, and it will be a good way for my readers to discover new artists or old ones that they just didn't know about.
First up is going to be Keith from a company called Lion and Anvil who make hand crafted leather goods.
I'm all about sharing the love and really building a community of craftsman. People who work hard and have something beautiful to offer. I'd really like to see a day when the Artisan takes back the market place. A day when people will understand that they're better than mass produced garbage.
As Christophe from Mister Freedom says "pay more and own less".