Category Archives: about me

Buying American Made Industrial Furniture

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India bar stool.jpg
I was recently contacted by an Indian company asking if I was interested in buying their furniture. The minimum order was a 20 foot container load. So I took at look at their catalog and was amazed at the prices. $100 for an end table that would take me a week to make. $225 for a dresser that would take me 2 weeks to make. I thought to myself, “holy shit, I should buy a container load and sell this stuff for dirt cheap!” I could even mark it up 300-500% and probably still sell it. But after some contemplation, I realized what a stupid idea it was. Over buying imported products has taken it’s toll on this country, as well as others. Some kid in India is probably working for $1 a day to make this stuff. And it’s fairly dangerous work too. I almost cut off my pinkie the other day. And I am very careful, poorer countries are far from that in my experience. And if I was to be selling this stuff, I’d be taking jobs away from other Americans like myself. I’ve been to just about all of the local industrial style furniture shops around town and many of them are selling these imports. And it looks pretty decent, but feels cheap to me, probably because they use thinner materials. A lot of the online retailers are doing the same thing. Hudson Goods is selling a cart that has the same picture from the Indian catalog. They use reclaimed wood too, but do I care if an India made table is made using reclaimed wood?

Kind of Ironically, I ended up hiring a European immigrant to help me out. He does great work, understands me, and the money stays in this country. Hey, it stays in this state! So if you care, you might ask the store “where does this come from?” Because odds are they took off the “Made in India / Thailand / Mexico / Indonesia / China” sticker. This might be my first political post, at least on this blog.

Help! I’m too busy!

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For the past few months, I have been trying to catch up with orders. And I went from a few weeks orders to fulfill, to now 6-7 weeks. Every time I finish one order, I get two more. Working 6-7 days a week hasn’t helped either. But a few days ago I found a helper! And he’s from Europe so he understands my style. We will be making about 5 media consoles in the next month, and they will be slightly different from each other. So I hope to be catching up because every month my lead time increases. And I probably lose sales that way.

In the back of my mind I know I could open up a shop with a few employees and crank out tons of my designs. And I could get my prices down with the volume I’d do. The part of this business I love the most is the design and prototype process. Which leads me to a fork in the road about 6 months ahead. My wife is also a designer, but of couture bridal gowns (SJ Couture). It’s a new company that will be marketing it’s first collection in a couple months. I’ll be helping her in any way that I can: meetings with buyers, photo shoots in May, Fashion Week, interviewing models (I hope), trips to Los Angeles, NY, France, etc.

So my furniture business may go bye-bye, or I may sell it, or I may open up a shop with employees and just do design, and be a boss. I know it doesn’t make sense to close a business that is successful and growing like a weed in the rainy season. So I am considering my options.

And I am doing my first public show at The Willows First Friday sale here in Phoenix on 4/2 from 10am – 2pm. Woohoo!! They sell some beautiful industrial furniture and have expressed an interest in my goods, along with a couple other shops all curiously just a few miles down the road from me.

About Me and My Designs

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My Story:
Recently my wife said she needed a table for the 2 chairs she got for her birthday. Sitting at a desk all day, I missed working with my hands, so I got to work. My wife liked what I made (she has impeccable taste), but I knew I could improve on it. So I made another table for our backyard. Then after visiting several shabby chic furniture stores, and 100s of similar vintage websites, I came up with some designs that I really love. Each piece I’ve made is an improvement on the last design.

My Style:
I prefer designs with an industrial flair. Especially the mid-century French industrial era. My wife calls it industrial cottage. It may look like a vintage piece from Maine or Europe. I do love the east coast look which you don’t see much here in Phoenix. My style is evolving with each piece I make.

The Furniture:
I craft every furniture piece by hand and each is unique.  Some of the pieces use reclaimed barn wood or metal, and others are distressed. One of my pet peeves is distressed furniture that was done poorly. So I go through a lot of effort to make my work look vintage (not old and beat up), yet keep it functional and eye catching. And it’s built to last and remain in style. As it ages and wears, it looks better.  All metal and wood is sealed unless otherwise noted.  The iron (new and recycled) was purchased at a local salvage yard here in Phoenix and all of the lumber is locally bought. Even the 100 year old barn wood is from this state.

Why Am I Doing This?:
Well I love what I do. I put my blood, sweat and tears into my work (well I haven’t cried yet at work but it’ll probably happen sometime soon). Working with iron is awesome. Maybe it’s a primal thing, but shaping metal with a hammer, heat and fire makes my day.  I tell my wife all the time that during a good day, something catches on fire. Sometimes it’s me, but that’s part of the excitement. I probably should stop wearing flip flops while welding and wear my boots. I also get to play around with various chemical reactions for the metal and wood finishes.  Maybe I sound like a kid at play, that’s how it feels to me. I was always fascinated with the old time blacksmiths when I was younger.

My First Big Project

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The first big project I took on was building an offroad truck. And maybe I’d do some desert racing with it. This took a lot of research. I mean I had just bought a welder having never welded before. With a quick lesson from a friend and a bit of self-study, I felt ready. I also didn’t understand roll cage design which I needed to know well since it may save my life if I crashed. ┬áSo I asked a lot of questions, came up with a design, showed it to some people in the business, and just did it. There were always people telling me I was going to fail along the way. But they seemed to disappear as my project came closer to completion.

And after I completed it, well I was quite pleased. I had several people in the industry look it over too. Many wanted to own it. I had a racer in a trophy truck (the top racing class) tell me to race it this weekend! But I decided after all my work, I didn’t want to beat it up in a race. I was really happy with my design. It performed great offroad, was street legal, had a usable bed which was very unusual, and looked fairly stock except for the big tires and extended fenders. It was a lot of fun on the road too. You could hit curbs at 60mph and you barely felt them. And landing a 5 foot high jump was smooth as butter.
Interior Cage
Bed Cage
Jump Testing