Wednesday, December 8, 2010


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.

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