This post was inspired by an e-mail I received from Ed, complimenting me on this website I maintain. He is impressed with my “passion for woodworking” and reflected on how he wishes that he had followed his dream of woodworking earlier on, as I have. So thank you, Ed, for the e-mail.
The biggest recent news came November 2008. That’s the date when I officially registered my business, Flair Woodworks. I have printed business cards and have been passing them out. I have purchased the domain name http://www.flairwoodworks.com – now I just need to complete building the website. Despite the state of the economy, I have not been out of work. In fact, I can be choosy in the jobs I take. Initially, I started out with the intention of building mostly custom furniture, but since have realized that custom furniture generally limits my artistic flair which I enjoy so much. Without it, the same level of interest is just not there.
So now, I am leaning towards building studio furniture. And by studio furniture, I mean furniture which I design and build as I see fit. That way, I have total control over the end product. One big plus is that I will have already build the piece, so when someone asks for me to build one, I will already know exactly how long it took to build and how much materials were needed, so figuring out the pricing is relatively simple. If there was one thing I was not prepared for when starting my business, it was pricing. Figuring out materials is simple – most woodworkers start a project with a cut list. Estimating the amount of time required to complete a project is the hardest part. Then you have to figure out your overhead as well as your mark up. Yikes. I lost sleep over this, and I almost always sleep easily and well.
I still work at Lee Valley Tools in the Coquitlam store. I work three days doing receiving, which keeps me in contact with the woodworking community and also maintains a steady income. But there are more benefits to keeping my day job. On those three days, I can pick up supplies on the way to, from, or at work without having to make a special trip. Of course, I get a discount as well. But most importantly, I get referrals for small jobs from the staff at the front counter. I have discovered what I call “associated trust”. I am not just Chris at Flair Woodworks, I am Chris at Flair Woodworks, who also works at Lee Valley Tools. So in a sense, I feel that because I am an employee of Lee Valley, Flair Woodworks gets the same trust and credibility. Now, with trust comes responsibility…
I enjoy woodworking, and am dedicated to making my business work. In high school, I took a couple classes in business, but for the most part, I’ve been learning as I go along. I am trying to pace myself so as not to overwhelm myself with all the paperwork and associated business tasks. Though I don’t fully believe it, I like the saying that failure is for quitters.
One of the guys at work told me that he’d be “scared sh*tless” if he were to start a business now, with regards to the economy. I took that and put a spin on it. If I can make it through this, I can make it through anything. Which brings me to the definition of success.
There are many ways to define success, but my favourite comes in the form of a quote which my friend Klaus passed on to me the day he retired. Actually, it was given to him that same day, and he shared it with me. It goes like this: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer. That quote will be familiar to any participants to Fine Woodworking’s Knots forum, which I frequent. That quote is part of my signature and I hope that it has helped others realize how to achieve success. It makes it seem oh-so-simple, and I try to keep it that way.
On the forum, I have an opportunity to share my knowledge as well as learn from other woodworkers. There is a wealth of knowledge out there – you just need to be able to sort out the facts from the myths. As I like to say, I keep my salt shaker close at hand. You know – take it with a grain of salt.
Sam Maloof once talked about how expensive schooling is and how the cost of an education could be spent equipping a shop where one could learn hands on. That’s the route he went, and that’s the route I’m taking.
Inside Passage was the school I wanted to go to most, followed by the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), College of the Redwoods, and BCIT. I didn’t explore any other further options. Inside Passage offers a course they call the Craftsman Program. It costs $14,000.
I have spent less than that in my shop over the past five years (hard to believe) and my shop is well equipped, though I do have my sights on a SawStop Cabinet Saw and a 18″ bandsaw.
I was really on the fence about attending Inside Passage, mostly because it is a big step and a big chunk of change. I made up my mind talking to a student of the school during the opening of an exhibition which my friend Conrad Sarzynick had a workpiece in. I presented him with my dilemma, and he told me that if I was a great fan of James Krenov’s work, then that was the school for me. If not, then maybe I should look elsewhere. As a woodworker, I certainly respect his work. But I do not particularly like the style.
So I elected to continue equipping my shop and discontinue my formal education. Currently, I have no plans to go back to school.