Today marks 4 years since I founded Greco Woodcrafting. What started out as a toy company has certainly taken some twists and turns. Woodworker David Marks once said in an interview that you never really know where woodworking will take you. At the time, with my company being just a few months old, I laughed at that. I was doing exactly what I had been dreaming of doing for the past nearly 20 years, why on Earth would I change?
But new Federal regulations forced me to re-think what I would make in my shop. After trying to lobby as a Board member for a non-profit trade group, a year and a half after getting started, I started to look into what I could make instead of toys. And that was a bit of a mistake.
What I should have been thinking of was what other things do I enjoy that I could make? Hindsight is 20/20, and I doubt things would have been any different had somebody suggested that thought to me. It was really one of those journeys you need to take and see where it leads you. To find out first hand that yes, I could make lots of different things that many people would be willing to buy. But in the end the things I make need to be more than that. They need to be more than just things I make. Don’t get me wrong, I love how happy people were with my work, whether it was a clock or a fiber tool. But it wasn’t as satisfying for me personally as I knew it could be, and should be.
Wade, a friend of mine, had been talking to me about pen making. I was reluctant to try it for a few reasons, initially because of needing to buy some very specific tools. I’m more of a calculated risk taker, so the thought of spending money for tools to make items I might not really enjoy was a bit of an obstacle for me. I was also concerned about the quality of the pens I would make. As a sort of amateur pen collector myself, I didn’t want to make something that was junk. Handcrafted pens have components that need to be purchased, and at the end of the day if something goes wrong with the pen it is my name attached to that piece.
Reluctantly I finally gave in. I plunked down the money for the tools and supplies then sat there staring at it for about a month. After finally giving it a try I knew 1 thing: I was hooked.
It was just over a year ago when I made that first pen. I’ve learned a lot and feel my skills are really shining in the pieces I make (and also feel like learning to use a lathe back in college is finally paying off!). The shop is now more of a studio. Pen making is very much an art, and if you were to ask 3 pen makers how they did something you would probably get 3 different answers.
I have been fortunate enough to have a line of my pens carried by a museum and have gotten a nice amount of local publicity (an interesting feeling being at a craft fair and having a stranger walk up to you and say, “Hey! You’re that guy from the newspaper!”). And there’s even more good news to tout in the weeks ahead.
But today on the 4 year mark for Greco Woodcrafting, it’s interesting to look back. To see what I’ve done and just how ‘write’ David Marks was. And Wade, for that matter. I’ve found that very special balance of being able to make what I love and have others who are willing to pay me for it. No, Greco Woodcrafting doesn’t have a 401(k). But that’s OK. I plan on doing this for the rest of my life, day in and day out. And you know what? I’m going to love every minute of it.