Sunday, December 26, 2010

Crafting / Working wood - Gifts to yourself?

Gifts to yourself from crafting/making things -

     An Artfire forum thread asking the question "Do you love what you do" gave me pause to think about the fact that I do enjoy working with wood. I also thought perhaps in this season of giving we might pause to reflect of the gifts our craft returns to us.....moments, new freinds, ....a time and maybe even place where we find ourselves, and sometimes we even surprise ourselves.

Here is my reply to the question posted:

     Absolutely, I enjoy completely dropping a dead/dying tree that might even be dangerous to someone, and then making that first cut along the length of one side. It is like a christmas one has ever seen what God and mother nature have inside there, and it is very exciting to see gorgeous grain and color after the sawdust is wiped away. Getting a few blocks and slabs home and then waiting until they are stable enough to work gives me a chance to imagine what they will be, a bench, candle/holder, bowl, shelf is kinda cool.

     I often find there is some imperfection that was part of the life of the tree. A knot, unseen tension from holding the weight in the wind, rain, cold and heat. The wood moves - it presents problems that need to be solved in order to finish whatever I am making, and sometimes it just fails, or I fail to notice something that makes it come apart. I have had a few that simply blew up in the lathe, or cracked the length of the work, because I cut through a place that had this tension or a weak spot deep inside. I don't particularly love it when flying pieces are passing my head, or bouncing off the shop walls, or when I have to consign a partially finished item to the firewood pile. But, When I get those little surprises from a chunk that won't split right or a section left behind by the firewood cutters, I get one back in return, so it's all good.

    Then (often much later) when the making it is done, and I hold the finished piece in my hand and see all the grain and color, smoothed, enhanced by stain and finish, the warmth and beauty of the wood shows through and I get to realize all over agian that nobody has ever seen this thing before. Nobody has ever seen it hidden inside the previously living tree that looks just like all the others around but yet is different. It is comletely one of a kind because of the experiance of the life of the item it was made from.  The weather year to year, damage, attack form pests, and the struggle to repair itself and live all contribute to those little lines, rays and other subtle coloring and marks that make wood look like wood. It's kind like inside out people - the lines on our hands, face, and heart are from everything life has thrown at us and it is that that can reflect our character and experiance. Getting to turn that out for all to enjoy is a wonderful thing - and I do love to do it.

Thanks for asking...


    I did not really have space, nor would it have been appropraite to lauch ever further into the metaphysical in the tread. But in reality, we all get gifts back from what we do to make, or find, items to sell here. The handmade sellers get to look for supplies and imagine what to make or paint, potters get to feel the clay and the reward when it emerges from the kiln and is not broken...little surprises that are gifts from above...given because we are creating - not destroying.

    The vintage sellers also partake in getting these gifts. A surprise find at an auction where by chance one life has ended and the things they kept around them are now for sale. There ...perhaps ...might be found "one of those" ....why I have not seen "one of those" in a dogs age..the momentarily stunned vintage seller might say. This too is a gift, a recollection perhaps brought to mind....a moment you did not have to pay for, it was given because you are not simply walking in this auction to get anymore, you're there sharing because we all have things that not only bring memory of the item, but of the times and people that maybe time has stolen from us.

     How could you not love to make or find objects that other people will get to look at  and enjoy or even purchase, it is the first job of the artisan.....and a connection to the metaphysical, the enjoyment of beauty, design, and function.  Art imitates times. Asked the question what is art - I would have to reply that art is anything that connects you to something else....a painting that captures the lines that life has left on an old man's face....or an abstract sculpture that may be differing things to differing people...but yet each connects to it though the sharing of a thought or experience. Seeing the world though the eyes (and perhaps the heart) of the artist connects us with the thoughts of another and maybe we are all not so far apart as we imagine.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Trust and the Micro marketplace

Too many people lookin back (Bob Seager) -

OR maybe not - a little web crawling revealed this bit of history...

"Etsy is a good example of an emergent business network that creates trust within a specific market. That trust enlarges the market by enabling transactions to happen. Then more suppliers come into the network to meet growing demand and the range and quality of products improve; and so the consumer demand improves and so on….

Just don’t try shoving mass-produced junk through these networks. It won’t work. These networks have a very good junk filter!"

Written by Bernard Lunn / February 27, 2008 1:42 AM pulled from

Wriiten while Etsy and sites like 1000Markets were the new "happenin" thing. I don't think the author had any idea how big it might get, or that it might have similar problems other sites have had once they are infiltrated by the mass marketers, and beholden to investors....

So in the harsh light of today, does this rose colored glass view of the future - posted long ago - hold true? How does it relate to the several marketplaces like 1000Markets/Bixbe, Neerg, the newly emergent Cargoh?

The article written in the year 2008 still reflected a strong economy, excitement over anything web like, Ebay was flying high and everyone was in love with the new economy. Reading the article is both inspiring and perplexing, what happened. As the statements concerning the purpose of this site imply, sites like this and our shops would be or are the drivers of the NEW - new economy. But this has been both incredibly succesful for some - but not clearly understood by others. It all seemed a grand dream - this market transformation prior to 9/11 and the housing/banking mess of a recession, but is it slow to happen, or are we slow to actually buy into it? Or did something that happened in between alter the path of everything? Reading that old blog (from when blogs were not flippin' everywhere) the sense of unlimited possibilities and exuberance seems almost otherworldly in retrospect.

I think it still has relevance in historical context specifically the bit about trust expanding the it just the economy that raises some of the questions in my list of posts above? Or is eroding trust eroding all the markets (Macro and Micro) where is the lack of trust coming from? The world in general being less trusting and trustworthy (BP, Government in general, business models we were all tought in college) Did the new wear off this NEW -new economy too fast? Or is it all pent up in some holding pattern waiting for the breakthrough?

The web is prevalent in most all of the world markets and allows even micro business like our shop to have the global reach of the larger global corporations with the cost structure and lightning fast customer service and response time of smaller more adaptable business. So why are we not experiancing enormous growth percentages in our shops. Some are doing OK I imagine, but for others it is fleeting and a struggle with the zietgiest of Macro-econ pressure, and as Cargoh has illustrated, the lure and fikle nature of the poparazzi affected buyer.

Have we come as far as we thought with the web-enabled, wold market theory and it is just the Macro-mistrust that affects our sales numbers and revenue generation?

Or is it something else?

Are buyers just so saturated with professional photos of the items in web catalogs that our products pale in comparison?

Are there trust issues related to experiance from more mature sites like Ebay where those out to make a quick buck are selling items made in third-world sweat shops for pennies over cost and making it on volume with absolutely no customer service etc.?

Will the world choose to shop at a web enabled- global equivilent of Wal-Mart over the resurgent sole-proprieter workshop our shops replicate that existed since the dawn of towns and cities, historical American and European mainstreet, and now in the global market of the web?

Time may tell, I hope we have the time to make it work.

To purchase from The Wolf Creek Millworks:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Artfire - small business or artisan business - pricing stuff...

The point:

My supplies are inexpensive (not cheap -which implies less then stellar quality) because most folks don't really seem to know where things come from anymore. I can pick them up and sometimes even charge folks to have me take it away. Wood come from trees - but folks leave them laying all over the place.

Meat comes from animals - I have never seen a field of nicely wrapped pork chops in Styrofoam plates..but let the supper market disappear and I'll show you a mess of folks that will be looking for 'em.

I think folks are spoiled by the availability of things produced in the "lowest cost supply chain" and don't really plan on having heirloom items, or worry much about actual quality. Thinking instead about the fact that they can simply throw it out when they are done or bored with it, and get a new one at next to nothing in cost. They don't realize how much it actually costs - I.E> them buying items over and over again, the extra load on resources and places to put all the throw aways.

I shop at wally world. I can get consumable items (food, trash bags, etc) there for cheap. I have also purchased tools from high-end wood working tool stores.

Here's the deal... I can get a plane that works -OK, for a little while but requires a lot of tuning and re-sharpening, from the big box store for 32.99. I have also seen planes at the high end store (and as soon as I can afford one I'll buy it) that are made from much higher grade materials to really tight tolerances and they will last forever,and work hard with less maintenance, and they cost 320.00 (a price factor of ten). The high-end plane is desired because I can get more done over time with a tool I can keep forever and get very used to the feel of, that works better. That is value and worth the 10x greater price.

Relating that to Artfire:

     My items are made from what some think is junk - but the truth is most trees that are taken down around here are older then the trees in the commercial forest and have a much more interesting tale in the grain then the stuff (that is still too expensive) that they call fine wood at the big box stores.  I turn, plane, and mess with the wood. I cut it not for the best profit margin, but for the showy grain. It is the production vs. crafted difference that makes these items have more value to the people who own them.

I think there are thousands of other Artfire sellers that think the same way about whatever it is they make/assemble/print/throw/turn/embellish/sew/knit/ .... insert your thing here...........and need to price accordingly without a fear of having to compete w/cheap supply chain stores.

Then there are folks that just do stuff they like with whatever they do ... and they sell at cost or below only to support doing more and not have stacks of 'em all over the house... OK - but my guess is they will not have the investment in machines and else that I do, and unless they are buying the wood from me (or specialty wood stores) - they won't see the same grain cuts etc. So I actually don't compete with them either...

Neither equates to "garage sale" - and neither should price that way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

  We beleive that using resources wisely is part of making the planet better for all.  We are glad to provide the following link to others that share our passion for making use of the trees in our urban, suburban, and rural areas (not just our forests). 

See more at

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Recycling wood found in my area.

  At Wolf Creek Millworks we are concerned with environmental issues.  To us it makes no sense to purchase wood cut from living and healthy trees when there is an abundance of it laying around in the local suburbs and semi-rural areas of Michigan.  We mill this "found" wood into slabs /blocks etc which can be used to make beautiful objects.
  The invasive species EAB (Emerald Ash Borer) is killing ash trees by the millions in Southeast Michigan.  Wasting this timber in landfills makes an environmental problem a waste problem as well.  We never move timber into currently uneffected areas.  If we are cutting far from home we will mill locally and transport only clear lumber from the area. This is true for firewood too.  If you are going camping please buy your wood locally close to the area in which you camp.  More information can be had at

Visit our website at  to see our process and link to our Etsy shop for beautiful wood turnings, shelves and oil-candles.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New item soon to come - Etsy

OK, we found a couple of windows.  Yep, windows that is what I said.  Old storm windows make a cool canvas for my paintings.  I paint on the back -you view from the front. 
Admittedly this can be ....difficult.  One must paint in reverse order and backward to the image view left/right, but I discovered I can do

I will be posting the result late this week on my Etsy shop.  In the meanwhile visit my shop to see items I have made from "found" wood laying all around my local area.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

So why do you do what you do - (Art wise)

All of us have something we do. Or actually several something(s) we do. There is the everyday thing -like work- which we may or may not love (or like even). There are the things we do because they simply must be done which are often called chores, and there is what we do because - well - sometimes just because. Last year at this time, I was doing that work thing, and thinking and preparing to do the "because" thing at some undetermined future date. Work however , decided to upset my apple cart and leave me with nothing to work on. Lay-off - one word, made from two, which can make you totally freak.

So now I look for a replacement "job" which will be the thing I may do but do not really love, while I work on making my little business start-up become my job. I have always loved wood, loved its grain, texture, multiple colors, feel, and working with it. I loved printmaking once too (Thanks Bob Dufort - 1983-84), I loved working on my car, but time and availability of materials and a press slowly distracted me from printmaking. Owning one for more than a few years stole the "fun" from car repair. So as I grew, my interest and my "because" thing I do, changed with me. I still however had things I just plain enjoyed; wood grain, and drawing /painting, and music. I had started to collect tools to work with wood before the lay-off. I collected more when they told us the plant would be closing. I chose to make one of the "because" things my work thing so that I could be doing something I love, and add more "because" things later.

I wonder if this will become the future?

Will many of the people either on the unemployment lines, or past the point of eligibility for it, find that they have time, and then maybe even need, to turn the "because" into the "full-time"? Will they in the process create a new world where there is less of the stuff the multi-national corporate giants tell us to buy, and more of the things we want to buy because we love them. Will the magic of the web allow us to have the reach of global corporate giants, with the responsive and amazing customer service and product diversity of the local sole-proprietor?

Time will tell, but I am banking that doing what I love will be more rewarding eventually then was all the time I spent working at something I tolerated.  See and purchase items made by me at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Crafting - Supplies cost/savings

I read a very interesting article today.

I wonder how many of these things we really thought about? Especially concerning: affording supplies, networking, promoting and business acumen. It is a wonderfull gift to be creative no doubt, unfortunately unless you are very successful and possess name recognition and can price based on that most of us cannot afford to hire someone to do the business processes and leave the art to ourselves.

Getting supplies for nothing (or next to nothing) is covered in the "15 things.." article linked above. I have invested several thousand dollars in making sure I can get my media - specifically dead and down/"waste" timber available locally. I also ran out of paper or canvas and I do like to paint as well...the need drove the solution....recycle old windows and paint on the glass. The glass is suffeciently large, smooth and blank. Finding paint that not only sticks but allows the effects I wanted was trail and error, but in the end worth it. I now have two media that cost very little or nothing. The little box pictured in this post was made from "free" supplies. It only took a little research to find the equipment necessary to harvest the local wood that would otherwise have been left to rot, and a little desperation led to the window idea.

Challenge yourself - maybe you can reduce the cost of your supplies, maybe even find alternative supplies that cost nothing because you'r recovering them from what would other be waste?