Turning Wood For a Living
A year ago I retired at sixty six from a long and successful term in a management position. I have retirement funds and my Canadian pension to keep the expenses at bay. I had in my mind that I would increase my income by turning wood. Turning wooden salad bowls and boxes for a living would also keep me occupied outside of other interests.
I started turning wooden bowls as a hobby about fifteen years ago and it has kept me fascinated ever since. Although there were time constraints when working at a full time job I worked many hours over those years learning the techniques needed to produce a good product. During that time I also branched out into box turning and have slowly been making better creations. I believe I now have the skill and knowledge to be considered a competent turner and that the items I produce can be sold successfully while doing what I enjoy. I had to determine what to sell at what price and how to go about making those sales.
One of the first things I found out is I need wood. As a hobby my wood collection could be a bit hit and miss. Now I need a great deal more. I have also become a bit picky about the wood species and prefer those that are harder like Maple, Birch and Ash for the long levity of a bowl after sale. I look for wood with great colour and grain pattern like Black Walnut as I feel these will sell better right from the start. All these reasons have made it dificult to keep my small operation supplied. I stop at tree removal operations I see when driving with some success. I have feelers out with friends who may know of tree removal and I have approached at least one commercial operator but they want money. The wood supply situation has become my first hurdle.
I had built up quite an inventory of bowls and boxes so my first attempt was to try art galleries. A local gallery gladly took a number of pieces on consignment. Remember the gallery wants 50% of the sale. I thought I was on my way! After a long period of the work being displayed there was not one sale. I did think the work was poorly displayed but aside from that what was wrong? Customers that did look had little interest in pieces that I thought were good price sensitive items. I had fruitful conversations with the gallery owner and was given guidance on what might sell. I made some bowls from this information with dark dyed decoration and two large high priced items sold but I had no other large bowls in the production pipeline so could not produce more. This is a lesson! What you as a turner make may not sell. Research in advance may help but the timeline from start to a finished bowl is long so you still may not have the right product. None of the other items sold in the next months of display so I reluctantly removed the items from the gallery with the idea of looking for other options. I have approached stores the sell craft items with no success. In one case it was a store specializing in handmade wood products so I thought it a shoe in but was turned down.
I am personally not interested in attending craft shows or farmers markets. It is not something I could do well and it’s time consuming. So what next? An obvious answer may be a store front website. That has been a huge learning curve for me and I have had help along the way. The first thing is to acquire the right address. Seems simple but it is not. Research was done on what address could get noticed. Addresses you think are great turn out to be duds. Really good dot com addresses are taken. Even when you think you have the right address you will only know after it is out there. You then set up a site. You have lots of items to be addressed like payment, shipping, tax and photographs. This site is the second attempt and is fairly basic but you have only just started. Having a site won’t get you found in the internet. You need content that will get you noticed like this post. Frankly this storefront is in its infancy. I am still working (with help) on getting it noticed. It has not yet produced a sale but with more work it will.