Saturday, May 24, 2008
What I'm Working On
It has often been the case that this time of year I am designing and building furniture. Much of the rest of the year is taken up with on-site repairs, restorations, inspections for moving companies, etc. There are weeks when I barely see the inside of my shop.
That is part of what makes this time of year, and its coincidental shop-based activities, so unusual and enervating. The shop windows are opened, the birds are singing and occasionally flying into my shop (no screens). Fresh-mown grass, horses grazing in the fields behind the shop. Out in the country. Some would actually call it the American Dream.
It's pretty close. If one can look past tight budgets and tax deadlines, this is a nice gig to have. I don't think I'd be easily able to do anything else. There is the occasional client one wants to do in, but otherwise--and waiting for the mail to come to see if a check arrived--a nice gig indeed. If you like your paychecks arriving with punctuality, find something else to do. Work for the state.
There is an art to being self-employed, and an art to learning how to love it. One tends to crave routine, since it signifies productivity without complications. But routine rarely comes, and so the mind seems always on a quest involving details, details, details. I've been in a place where the details overwhelmed and exhausted me. That isn't such a nice gig. Part of the secret, I've noticed, is a trust in the system one evolves for running the business. That trust is something that for me has taken many years to acquire. Time may be its most important function. Time and good habits and observing what happens throughout the year.
Here is a pattern that has developed over thirty years of my very small, one-person business: every four years or so there is a leap upward in gross income. The one time I can account for this is a year back in '89 when I restored all of the pews of a large and ancient Episcopal church. I expected my income the next year to retire to its previous level. However, it stayed at the new level and did not revert. Four or five years later, it happened again. Yeah, I keep raising my prices like everyone else, but not in increments that parallel the income jumps.
So: What I'm working on. I've designed and am building the reception office for a chiropractor. Initial pics below somewhere. For reasons that are too complicated to go into, the entire structure had to be designed to be disassembled reasonably easily, so I used steel bed rail hardware to assemble the wall units. The woods are native cherry, southern yellow poplar (I am SO risque!), Brazilian Cherry, and Purple Heart. It looks nice., I think The rest of the decor is Arts and Crafts style, so I followed along. Installation next week, which should be interesting.
Taking an idea from conception to reality is quite a thrill, either one of elation or dejection. I've had both experiences. HOW COULD I HAVE MISMEASURED BY THAT MUCH???? I mean, an inch??
We craftspeople have a saying: The True Test of a skilled craftsman is repairing his own mistakes.
There are other challenges: miscommunication between the carpenters and the woodworker. Being the last one in on a project usually means that whatever miscalculations the previous guys (framers, drywallers, etc) made are now your problem.
The flip side: it is really a gas to drop a new cabinet into a tight space and have it fit ...just...right! I've--often, fortunately-- also had that experience.
I'll post again on this once the project is completed.