I very much enjoyed reading your responses to my blog yesterday. You all brought up some excellent points that I want to respond to and I hope you don’t mind if I continue the discussion here. There were many good points made and I would love to talk about some of them.
As Tom said – balancing the old practical with the new technical is something to think about, and has raised several questions around here since I have been here. A couple of months ago, the discussion was brought up as to things made with a CNC were considered ‘hand made’. It seems to me that there is an ever changing fine line as to what is considered hand crafted and what is not. Many people see CNC projects as manufactured type items because of the tools involved in their creation. But where then do we draw the line?
Do we consider Jordan’s beautiful war shirt as being ‘manufactured’ because he uses a Dremel to create it? Or Martyn’s impossible boxes manufactured because he uses power tools? Even my own scroll sawn items are created with a saw that is powered by electricity and a motor. Is it considered more hand creafted if I used a pedal saw? What criteria dictates where we draw the line between ‘hand made’ and ‘manufactured’?
Woodworkers use jigs all the time for a variety of purposes. Does the use of the jig to help them make more precise work make things less ‘hand made’ than if someone used hand tools and no jigs to create them? Again – where is the boundary?
In answer to Martyns question regarding demographics of scroll sawyers, I don’t have exact figures, but I believe the last time I saw some numbers it appears that the vast majority of scroll sawyers are males over 50 years old. Considering my customer base, I feel that it is a pretty accurate figure. I have seen confirmation of this both in the shows that I have attended in the past and also from my own customer base, as well as with speaking to others in the industry. Although it is not the main driving force, I try to consider this when both designing my patterns, and pricing them. Many scroll sawyers are retired and on fixed incomes.
I believe that one of the reasons scroll sawing appeals to many people is because as far as woodworking goes, it is a relatively inexpensive hobby to have, as all you really need is a scroll saw and a drill or drill press. Most of you know that I do the majority of my scroll work right in my kitchen. You can make a project start to finish with these tools and not need to invest a fortune or have a large area set aside for a shop. It is a great way to be involved in woodworking without have to make a huge investment.
I find my own customer base to be a bit more diversified than the previously mentioned figures. I see both women and men as customers, as well as many younger people. This group includes women who enjoy painting and want to cut their own wood, younger men who work and want a Saturday hobby, and also some hard-core woodworkers of both sexes who are looking for ways to embellish their other projects or just expand their knowledge. If I choose to look at things in a positive manner, I look at this with hope that more people are looking to go back to their creative roots and that scroll sawing and woodworking in general is on the rise for these younger age groups and also for women.
You need to understand though that my customer base is mainly made up of a focused, although growing group. Nearly all of my retail sales consist of sales through my site and the internet. That factor alone filters the results severely. While many more seniors and elderly people are now owning computers and ordering online, I still find that there are a great many more that don’t. I have several customers who don’t feel comfortable ordering online and I am happy to call them on the phone for orders. Does this necessarily have to do with their age? Perhaps not, but I do think that older folks are more leery of ordering online and the internet in general. These are in no way scientific findings, but they are only my own personal observation from my own experiences with my customers and speaking with others from other areas in the industry. I am sure I will have a better answer after I return from the show in March and am able to see the demographics of the attendees first hand.
On a final thought for today, I agree with the need for constantly updating a business to keep up with the times. Things change so fast in our world, and with the goal of any business being able to appeal to the masses, it is very important no matter what your business is to be able to adapt and change along with it. Although people find comfort and security in nostalgia, the lure of technology and innovation seems to win out every time. Businesses that are unwilling or incapable of being fluid and flexible soon become stagnant and die.
I am somewhat surprised that some of the magazines haven’t put forth more of an effort to develop websites and internet sales. Personally, I would think that it would be the next step in their growth and sustainability. Although I must say, the painting magazine that just failed did offer online subscriptions to an online version of the magazine. A virtual magazine if you will. However (and I may be wrong) the cost for the online issue was the same as the paper issues, or very close. And I wonder what those virtual subscribers will have to show for it now? How would you use your virtual magazines for reference if they no longer exist? I don’t know if the issues were able to download on their own computers. Certainly there are still flaws in that system that need to be worked out. What troubled me also was when I went to their site after hearing of their closing, they were still accepting subscriptions. You would think that would be one of the first things they would have disabled on their site.
There is a lot to think about regarding the future of any business. I truly enjoy hearing all of your opinions and thoughts on these issues. It is great to hear the many different opinions and observations you all have from your experiences. I very much appreciate your input.
I hope you all have a wonderful and productive Monday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"