Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I realized the other day that it's been almost a month since I'd put anything up. Part of that is because I've been focusing more on my kitchen blog, simply because it's easier to cook up a bowl of spaghetti and take pictures than it is to cook up a really nice looking slab table. Quicker, too. And easy victories are rewarding in their own way.

I've been busy, and making slow but steady progress. Work is coming in, and I haven't wanted to jinx anything by jumping up and down and shouting it from the mountain top... or at least... from the lap top. But suffice to say, things are looking up. I took a deposit on a small job last week, and there are more in the works, and other shop work is slowly arriving.

I'm taking today to write about life in general, my life in specific, and to muse a bit on my life right now. I hope you'll indulge me.

Now that it's been almost two months, I feel remiss in neglecting to announce that on 10/10/10, I was married to Ariel Leora Persing. It was a wonderful day. Some of the photos may be found here, on the blog of our photog for the day, Todd Matarazzo. I can't speak highly enough about his work, and his work ethic. Todd is very easygoing and personable, and he makes high energy look very low-key. He was constantly, but unobtrusively everywhere. And while he never conveyed the impression that he was in a hurry, he moves quickly.

Since then, I've had time to relax (sort of) and take a look around. Getting married was a major victory, and it really allowed me to move into a different head-space. It led to the Basic Assumptions entry, and to a lot of thinking about life, and work, and what's been driving me. I won't go into the process in detail, but I will say that I've come to realize just how much my fears and insecurities have been derailing productivity. Taking the time to dig through my preconceptions of what small business would be like, in any economy, has helped me figure out a lot more about what I want, don't want, and where I want the process to take me in the future. I've also had to examine just what I want to say, and how I want to say it. This blog has crossed the 2000 page view mark, and it's being read regularly in a number of unexpected places. Despite the fact that I haven't written in a month, I've had over 300 visitors in that time. It makes me wonder what people like about the blog, and what they'd like to hear more of. (I'm not kidding... please feel free to comment.)

When this started out, I meant for it to be a professional, 'come, check out my stuff,' kind of blog. What it's turned into is a sporadic window into my struggles with the shop, and with small business, and with myself. I still need to put together a new website. But I think that when that happens, I may have to start up a whole new promotional blog... this one feels too personal, in a way, and it may not be what people want to read about if they're interested in my furniture. Or, maybe it is... I have no idea.

Either way, thanks for reading, and bearing witness to all of this so far.


It's been an interesting month.

Since the last entry, I've met with an interior designer, and it looks like there's the potential for work there.I'm currently working on projects for friends and friends of friends, which is fine. Work is work.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I've been going through a lot of mental changes, which are being reflected in the physical layout of the shop. In essence, I'm still struggling with how to work most efficiently, and how to reduce the level of clutter. And I'm trying to be brutally honest about just what kind of work I'll probably be doing. I'd love to be an ongoing laboratory dedicated to evolving styles of work. And I'd love to really sink my teeth into hand tool skill development. But a small business needs money to survive. And that means being able to produce.

I'll get into the physical details of the alterations later. But for now, the spiritual adjustments are taking the most effort, I think. I've been spending a lot of time digging through old notes, and remembering how I envisioned the business when I first got set up. It's pretty funny in retrospect... I was terrified from the start. I would spend days reading and studying organization techniques, and time management, and so on. I'd spend half of a Sunday sitting in a black recliner writing up outlines of all of the things I wanted to do, and how I was going to get them all done, and organizing my efforts to get organized... and making a lot of work that kept me doing just about anything but work. I think I knew, even then, that I wasn't really ready. That was back when I was still working in Medford.

Since moving to Lawrence, I've been grappling with how to chase the dream. I've spent a lot of time outside of the shop at other jobs, working in various composite materials, while I got used to the idea of doing business. And this morning I was clearing out and organizing the piles of lumber in the racks to make it all more accessible, and I noticed something.

Up on the top shelf, I'm storing a lot of the 'interesting' lumber. I have a slab and a bunch of shorter pieces of brown bird's eye maple, all cut from the same tree. I have a few pieces of tap-hole maple. (Maple, tapped for syrup. The boards have holes in them.) I have Cocobolo boards I've been carrying around since the summer of 2004. There's some pieces of quarter-sawn oak. And a small pile of Hawaiian Koa, most of which is 3-4 feet in length, that I picked up for a song. And then there's the big and tall section, populated by beams and planks of 3-4" thick stuff. And so on. Most of the lumber I picked up at a pretty decent discount, too. The problem is, I have ideas for all of it, but no solid plans.

As a woodworker, I know I'm not alone. As a businessman, I'm ashamed. I have a pile of inventory that has been mentally labeled 'to be used... but not now.' It's not that I can't come up with ideas or designs for these pieces of lumber. It's simply that I'm intimidated.

I got into woodworking because it inspired me. I wanted to be creative and productive, and make really cool things. But as soon as I hung the 'business' label on all of it, it strangled me.

I feel like I've been carrying around a huge debt, owed to potential that has yet to be realized. I'm finally learning to put that down and just do the work. And I'm trying to set up the space in a way that is more about what works, and less about how it should work. I'd like to get my head wrapped around doing the work I want to do, without beating myself up about how it's supposed to look.

Basic Assumptions was the beginning of a lot of soul-searching for me, around woodworking, business, life in general, and being tired of living in almost constant fear of my own decisions, and whether they (or I) would measure up. Since then I've come to realize that I still own a shop. I'm still a small businessman. I'm scared out of my mind about all of that sometimes. But it's a whole different world and way of viewing things that I never would have had the chance to see. The land of small business is not for the small of the weak or the fearful, and it's been a brutal couple of years while I've tried to catch up and grow into the role I aspire to have. And while I'm still shoveling my way through the shifting sands of my own insecurities,  I remembered something important about all of it this morning.

Regardless of how intimidated I am sometimes, I'm very, very grateful to be here.