Tell us about your business.The business got started as a hobby when, one Saturday afternoon, I pulled out a piece of wood and a woodworking magazine and began making spoons in my garage. At that time, my tools consisted simply of a jigsaw, hand rasps and files, and a palm gouge. I enjoyed the process very much but didn’t realize the potential of it until I donated a spoon for a raffle at work, to raise money for a friend whose house had burned down. There was tremendous interest in the spoon from coworkers and I was able to sell what little stock I had. With the money from those sales, I was eventually able to purchase the equipment I needed to increase production capabilities. The business has evolved so far from hobby to selling at our local Saturday market, to selling year-round at markets, crafts shows, and online. Our success has allowed me to go from full-time to part-time work elsewhere, and I'm looking forward to devoting myself full-time to Wanna Spoon? come March 2015.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.The shop is a 480 square-foot garage located in Marcola, Oregon - a town of about 1,100 in Central Oregon’s Mohawk Valley. The equipment covers the essentials of the production process and is set up “station” style. First, a band saw is used to cut the shape and general profile of each spoon and utensil. Then the general shaping is done at a benchtop belt sander. Once that is complete, we move to the lathe with a drum sander attached where the initial sanding and finer shaping takes place. After that, a drill press removes the majority of the meat for the bowls on the spoons and utensils. A dremel-like tool is then used to give the bowls their shape, which is further refined with a bulb sander on the drill press and one more sanding with a barrel sander. The final sanding and shaping is done by hand on each piece. A foodgrade, non-toxic salad bowl or walnut oil finish is applied, depending on customer preference. Although the shop is small, it is big enough for a two-person operation.
What inspires you?My initial inspirations are my mother and father. My father was a musician and my mother did a lot of carving and woodworking in her younger days. When she visits, which is for about six months at a time, my mother spends a lot of time working with me in the shop. My other inspirations for this business are my immediate family. The moral support and encouragement of my wife, Puff, and her six daughters for me to have started this business was priceless. It helped me realize that I can do something I love and make a living. The creation process itself is inspiring to me. Being able to take a raw piece of wood, cut it into a block, draw a shape on it, and create an item that is artistic and functional, is a major inspiration.
What makes your business stand out?What really makes our business stand out - aside from a little humor in the name! - is the fact that we create functional art. Every piece from Wanna Spoon? is made to be used on a daily basis just as you would use any other utensil whether it’s plastic, stainless steel, or another wood product. We don’t believe there needs to be a distinction between utilitarian and artistic. We make it our goal to create a piece that is functional and stands up to every day cooking, yet beautiful enough to display in your home. We love that our products are not confined to strict interpretation. Selling at a community market, we have the amazing opportunity to talk with our customers and hear their feedback, so we know that people find all sorts of uses for our utensils above and beyond cooking and serving, such as pottery tools. Our unique ability is to transform the raw potential of wood into something simple, beautiful, functional, and made to last a lifetime.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?Absolutely just go for it. Take whatever talent you have or think you might have and refine it, work at it, create, and don’t be afraid to get out there and put your product out there. Give it a shot! Research your options for venues to distribute your product whether it be internet sales, storefronts, or arts and crafts shows. Have confidence that you have something that people want and need. Show people why you’re great, why you’re unique, why they want what you can offer. Whether it’s goods or a service, you have something to provide, believe in that. Keep exploring your options for exposure. There are so many types of markets and avenues for businesses, and sometimes it just takes a little bit to start the snowball effect. Above all, believe in yourself and keep working at what you want to do.
What does American Made mean to you?American Made means quality, integrity, and pride. American Made products have a history as being the best of the best because of the quality of the materials and the workmanship. The outstanding quality of an American made product is what gives it integrity; American Made means the product will perform and last. I think the designation “American Made” means a lot both to Americans and to everyone around the world. It conveys a history and an ideal. American workers are innovative, industrious, determined, but also idealistic. The pride of American Made comes from this combination of work ethic and optimism. These qualities give rise to a community of inventors, refiners, dreamers, and makers. The existence of such opportunities as the Martha Stewart American Made Awards is a testament to the spirit of American Made: it is our history, our living present, and our future.
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