Monday, May 25, 2015

MAY I HELP YOU?






Last week was a busy one.
 The first photo is a gigantic kitchen table for a client.
They have a beautiful space, and currently are using an Ikea table as a kitchen table, and to me, that's the equivalent of having a tattoo of Abraham Lincoln on a big beautiful ass.
 The bench that you see, actually doesn't come with the table.
I wanted to see how bench seating would look with this particular style of table, so we grabbed the most fucked up beam we could find and turned it into something useful.
 All the following photos are items that we will be producing for our "coming soon" Etsy shop.
Truth be told, the Etsy shop idea came about when we were discussing our need for a website.
 Neither of us has the time to allocate to building a website, and Etsy would be a great way to introduce us to the world beyond our shop.
 The idea is to make small, affordable, handmade items, that are easy to ship.
In addition to the small regular items, we would offer "one off" designs for sale as well, like the last photo of Zacks blown transmission/squirrel cage lamp.
 One of my personal goals is to offer fast shipping/lead times, which all stem from a situation that I'm currently experiencing.
 Allow me to vent....
I inquired about ordering a fairly expensive handmade item back in March. I had sent a email inquiring about production time and was told 4 to 5 weeks.
 4 to 5 weeks...I was given the opportunity to decide if I was willing to wait that long and I decided that yes...I'm a patient man, I can wait.
 Going on 9 weeks now, which is double the time originally given to me, and nada.
Nobody understands handmade like me. So for someone to play the "it's handmade" card with me is futile. In fact I could go as far as send them photos of everything that I've made by hand in the last 9 weeks.
 That's all neither here nor there though. If I was told from the very start that the lead time was 9 or 10 weeks, I most likely would have still ordered the product.
 I'm one to learn from experience, and I can confirm that my disdain for my current purchase has only benefited future MAKERS customers.
 If we say your shit will be shipped in a week....you can bet your sweet ass that within 7 days you'll be staring at a tracking number in your email box.
 I've learned from my buddy Zack Meyers, who goes as far as to call each and every customer, that you have to go a little bit further.
 We have become a population that are so used to being treated like shit in the market place, that when someone actually does attempt to help us find that Bacon that was on sale, we're taken aback. We tell stories to our friends and family of the amazing service we received. How backwards is that?
 In a day when brick and mortar operations are fighting for survival, and you, as a consumer, have the option to have anything in the world delivered to your porch with a simple "click", you would think retailers would train their people to be...FUCKING NICE.
 You can be as dumb as the Arizona day is long, but if you're at the very fucking least nice...I'd feel satisfied as a customer. Dumb fucks gotta eat too, I get it.
 Isn't it sad that when you go out, you just expect to be treated like a piece of shit? Who came up with that brilliant marketing strategy?
 Recently, I was hungry. I drove past an establishment that had a giant sign that simply stated "HOT DOGS". My stomach informed me that such a place would be ideal to purchase a "HOT DOG".
 I walk inside, wait my turn to place my order, and the wonderful human behind the cash register (which is used for housing my money) greets me with "whatchoowant". "Whatcoowant" enters my brain, and for a brief moment my brain dissects the phrase and for some strange reason, I am able to decipher that though "whatchoowant" isn't actually a word, it's meaning resonates that this person is inquiring, what I would like to purchase.
 Just after she rolls her eyes at me due to my short pause while I was digesting her butchering of the english language, I replied "ya know what I want? I want a fucking hot dog, and fries." to which she replied "you ain't gotta get all nasty..."
 She was right. I didn't have to "get all nasty". What I should have done is walked right out with zero exchange and rolled over to one of the other zillion hot dog stands in Chicago until someone would simply say "may I help you?"

Monday, May 18, 2015

DO ME GOOD AND I'LL DO YOU BETTER


This past Christmas my girl made her best attempt at getting me something that she thought I would really like.
 She went to a store called Mildblend Supply in Chicago and had bought me a pair of selvedge denim jeans.
 I am a self proclaimed denim collector, and in her defense, she did her research.
On Christmas morning I tear into the package and unveil the fruits of her labor.
 They were a beautiful pair of finely crafted Shockoe Denim jeans from Virginia, in which I could not fit both of my legs into at the same time, which is crucial when you are attempting to wear...pants.
A couple of weeks later me and Max went to Mildblend to make an exchange.
 I was taken aback by how my son and I had been treated like long lost family members by the staff there. Mind you, I had never been to the store until that day.
 I spent the better part of my exchange talking about vintage workwear and Japanese denim, until my sons patience could bear no more.
 I returned a few months later to have some jeans chainstitch hemmed, and relived my first experience, which goes to show me that they are just THOSE kind of people.
 The next time I returned to have another pair of jeans hemmed, I brought the owner (Luke) one of my denim hangers, for nothing more then to show my gratitude for our shopping experiences.
 I have to be honest, I don't usually shop at a brick and mortar, I mostly shop online due to a long history of lousy customer service.
 I brought ANOTHER pair of jeans to be hemmed and this time I got to talking with Luke, the owner, and he had mentioned how he might be interested in a reclaimed style table.
 He gave me no direction, we didn't sign any agreements, he didn't even really officially commission me to build a table...I just did it.
 Everything, well, 97% of this table was made from reclaimed materials. The top was made from a barn door that someone before us had nailed to some saw horses and used as a work table. It was in such horrible condition that I didn't even think it was usable.
 I worked that top and cursed at it for hours. I got to that fight or flight stage with it. Either I went all the way with it, or it gets chucked in a dumpster...I fought, I won.
 I didn't have much out of pocket expense, seeing as most of the components of this table were from various materials left throughout the shop. I spent a couple grand in man hours, but if you love what you do...who gives a shit about the time spent.
 Me and Zack were talking about work boots at lunch, and seeing how his big toe was about to make it's debut through his current pair, a thought came to mind.
 I emailed Luke a picture of his table in progress, and said "let's make a trade." Luke agreed, and this table was made for a pair of boots, and 2 pairs of jeans.
 Zack now has a pair of boots that will keep his piggies safe for the next 20 years, my girl has her first pair of raw denim, and I walked away with some EAT DUST jeans from Belgium.
 Because Luke and his staff treated me like family, I in turn treated MY family.
There's more to life than money, and there's more to business than money.
 Luke had to buy those items he traded and my time is just as valuable, but it felt really good to not even speak of money in this situation.
 It was all done out of faith and appreciation.
Imagine that?
 There are morals and integrity left in humanity. They're there, but they're rare. When you come across them, keep them close.
 Do me good and I'll do you better....treat my family like your own....and there's nothing I won't do for you.
 So, today happens to be my Birthday, and I'd like to send a special thanks to all the people that have effected my life in a positive way throughout this past year...Zack Knowles (MAKERS), Joey Cacciatore, Otis and crew (GERTRUDE), Zach Meyers (ZACEUSA), Keith (LION AND ANVIL), Johnney Reynolds (J10 CUSTOMS) Collin, Marcus, and Linda (SALVAGE ONE) Davide Nanni, Christophe Loiron (MISTER FREEDOM), Cory (LIPPS INC.), Ben Weasel (SCREECHING WEASEL) and Luke (MILDBLEND SUPPLY).
 What a difference a year makes.

Monday, May 11, 2015

PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE HIPSTERS




Friday night we did our first POP-UP shop.
 Apparently, POP-UP's are all the rage now.
We worked our asses off, building more inventory, and more importantly...cleaning the shop.
 We allocated a lot of time building smaller, more cash and carry type of things, like the coat rack pictured above.
 Cory from LIPPS INC. came all the way from Cincinnati to attend, and instantly became a member of the MAKERS family. He even brought us a cool light fixture made from a flame thrower.
 My buddy Jim Bigwood brought his wife and also brought me an amazing Diego Rivera piece out of a publication from the 1930's.
 My family came as well which is a really cool thing, because they got a chance to see what we build in real life as opposed to pictures on my phone. They also got to see where I spend 60 hours a week.
 Cory actually told me after the event that my son had made him feel like he's been a part of the family forever, which is why he is now considered "family". Children can read people, and obviously Cory was a good read.
 I got to meet my partner Zack's wife, which was highly overdue, as well as he got to meet the inhabitants of the commune that I call home.
 I got extremely drunk within the first 2 hours.
I'll have a beer, maybe once or twice a year, and after all the work we put in, the Irish in me took over.
 There were some heavy hitters that came through. We scored some contract work for VH1, but for the most part, our event was attended by broke hipsters who came to pilfer our free beer and whiskey.
 I have never attended a POP-UP event, nor had I ever hosted one, so I wasn't really sure what to expect.
 It's borderline painful for me to be nice to strangers for extended periods of time, so I'm not in a huge rush to get things crackin' for our NEXT POP-UP event, which is slated for...never.
 The way I see it, I'm not going to liquor up a bunch of bearded freeloaders just to shuck my wares.
I kinda had a little speech in regards to what we do and what we make and a quick synopsis of our ethic and philosophy, but the drunker I got, and the more linted pockets that came through, my speech turned into "we make cool shit, the beer's over there."
 The ratio of people who are genuinely interested in what we do and how we do it, to the people who came for free booze was slightly sickening.
 At one point, there was a hipster complimenting me on our whiskey selection as he was leaning his bed bug ridden ass on our $2000 hand fucking crafted desk. So as he's bestowing his Whiskey knowledge upon me, in my head, I'm removing all the bones of his skeleton through his fucking mouth, and smiling and nodding all the meanwhile.
 Saturday morning, as I was navigating a hangover, Zack was climbing aboard a sailboat on a cold and rainy Lake Michigan to celebrate his one year anniversary with his wife. I laid on the couch, clutching my head, thinking about how not so long ago, I was making furniture outside my kitchen window with a circular saw and a grinder, and how now, I'm in a shop, with a great partner, making cool shit on our own terms, making deals with VH1, and even hosting our own POP-UP event...not too shabby of a go at a dream...not too shabby at all.

Monday, May 4, 2015

PROTECT YOUR NUTS


"Follow your dreams" and "do what you love" are some very inspiring words that I like to repeat over and over again, but the words that go along with those statements should be "be prepared for disappointment" and "save your money for when times are hard" and "this will be the hardest thing you ever fucking do".
 It's gonna take a special kind of crazy to chase a dream, and if you have thin skin...say it with me now..."would you like fries with that?" Because that's the end result.
 We've had kind of a rough month.
A lot of quotes, a lot of interest, a lot of people wanting a lot of things, but not a lot of checks being cut.
 You always think you're prepared, and I'm a stubborn, the glass is half full, do or die kind of guy, but there are some days where you're like "fuck this, I'm going to go make the easy money."
 Here's the kicker....nobody and I mean NOBODY chases a dream without getting kicked in the balls (or vagina) every now and then. I can't think of one single fight that I've ever been in, where I've been kicked in the balls and not come back to win.
 All I'm saying is be prepared and weather the storm, cause the storm will come.
With all that being said, tough times can produce a lot of plan B's, and our plan B is going after a rental market.
 Our first rental piece is this Barrel table/rolling bar.
It's a little "prop-ish" for my personal taste, but as a rental piece...it's brilliant. It only has to be cool for like 4 hours at a time.
 Functional, well constructed and visually appealing. Those are the ingredients.
We had actually started on this really cool chair earlier in the week.
 It was a fun process designing it, but when it came to constructing it...it was a little too laborious to attempt to mass produce. We walked away from it as a production piece and will complete it as a one off, but we turned our attention to something that we could complete.
 Zack has been eating his lunch on that barrel for the last 6 months.
If you go on pinterest and type in "barrel bar" you'll see some pretty boring shit.
 Nobody wants to push the boundaries, it's easier to replicate others ideas.
Not us. We'll flip the script every time.
 A barrel carries a funky shape, and it's designed to do just one thing.
We didn't want to try to make it be something it's not, but instead let it speak of what it is. It became an advertisement for what it's application represents.
 Zack and I don't discuss design for more then 5 minutes.
If one of us has an idea and they're passionate about it...it goes into production. Someone is gonna lead and someone is gonna assist, and that's how shit gets done.
 Someone recently made a comment about our last 2 desks. They asked "who won the competition?".
Me and Zack had no idea what they were talking about, and pressed to discover that they were referring to those desks.
 There is no competition. I'm fucking 43 years old, I don't compete. I definitely don't compete with my partner. We have mastered the art of cooperation not competition.
 I was slightly offended, but that's just part of humanity. Everyone thinks life is a race or a competition.
 I wouldn't go into a cage to fight against my brother for the title of "winner", but I would go into the cage and fight WITH my brother against any opponent...any time.
 This isn't a sport.
In a sport, you have to accept the possibility of failure.
 This is business. Losing isn't an option.