I’ve spent the last three days in my workshop building another doggone chair. The second of two chairs I’ve built in the last four weeks. That makes six so far. It’s sort of like my church. I get lost in it and find myself completely relaxed, even though the work is hard. I seem to learn something new each and every time I build one, and each chair is unique, despite the fact that they are all made from the same pattern.
Lord knows I don’t need any more chairs. It really doesn’t matter. I’ll keep building them because something tells me I’m not finished building them. Lots of well-meaning people, with plenty of advice, eagerly nudge me to sell them and perhaps generate some revenue.
If I tally up the materials and the time and factor in a small profit, my chairs would retail for about $800. Ask me; they are worth it. Each board starts out as rough-cut lumber and is planed to the perfect thickness. Each piece has edges that are “hand-sanded” and the screws are all “hand-turned.”
I avoid power tools whenever possible. I do things by hand because “touch” gets me closer to the wood. I have this belief that the closer I am to the wood the more magic and eccentricity flows into the final product.
Each chair gets four coats of boat varnish, in precise mixtures and formulas, with a “hand-sand” between each coat. It takes five days just to varnish a chair. My chairs cannot be found anywhere else in the country. My pattern is unique and I have custom tailored it to my tastes and needs.
I could economize on materials and create an assembly line process to cut time and material costs but rob the chair of the love and attention to detail. You can get those chairs at the big box stores for $199. There are many buyers of chairs at $199. There are few buyers at $800.
I can easily justify why my chairs are worth $800. I just can’t make my process pencil out to a price anyone would reasonable spend. I suppose, if someone really took an interest in my chair and loved it for what it was and just had to have one, I would let it go for $199, but I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I am in the business of chair building and not in the business of chair selling.
Everything has a price and everyone has an opinion on what something is worth. The question is; what is something worth to you? For my sanity and well-being, I know that I cannot compromise on my building processes, therefore, if I choose to sell a chair, it is because it met my emotional needs to do so. I have profited from my pleasure.
I’ve chosen to let my heart lead me in my craft. I may end up looking like a kooky old man with 53 chairs in his backyard. On the other hand, the process of discovery may take me in new directions. Who knows? That is the magic of it all, isn’t it?
Some people may think I’m wasting my time. Loosing money. I’m not looking back on any decisions I’ve made. I’m just doing what feels right and I’m pretty doggone happy about the path I’m on. If other folks delight in my journey, they are free “pull up a chair”.
I am convinced that the greatest artistic creation comes from a drive and an idea that I am passionate about. Right now it’s chairs. If someone wanted me to build a cabinet or a ladder, I could do it, but it won’t have the magic the chair has. I may someday spin into other areas. I’ll just wait and see what speaks to me.