How we Got Started
Clay and I had a back and forth beginning into the makers movement. We started with creating stuff in our garage as most people do. Clay began experimenting with small wood projects when we lived in Colorado and I started with making furniture pieces from cardboard.
Clay has always had an affinity for tools and all garage-like activities from working on cars to building chicken coops. I started playing around with cardboard simply because we had so much of it. We order on amazon A LOT, so there is always cardboard around our house and if you google cardboard art, there are some crazy amazing pieces out there. One of the first projects we worked on together was a cardboard table with hairpen legs that still sits in our foyer today. I glued about 10 layers of cardboard together and Clay cut the edges with a circular saw and added the legs. I painted it and voila, we had a cool piece to add to our décor and we loved it. We loved that we could create a piece that was just to our taste and would fit our space perfectly. We worked on many more projects and eventually we started getting the idea that maybe we could sell some of these pieces. However, cardboard wasn’t something either one of us could see being owned by anyone except us.
The Repurposing Craze
After this revelation, we knew we would have to create pieces with more interest. We started looking into the upcycle and repurpose craze that is sweeping the nation these days. We would get up early on the weekends and go to yard sales and flea markets. We’d spend most of these mornings looking for a diamond in the rough in the hopes that we could flip something for a profit.
We refinished a couple of chairs, dressers and several smaller items. We did manage to sell a few things, but overtime the search became more of a hassle to us. We loved the repurposing part, but to repurpose junk is such a huge part of the makers movement now that it’s hard to find pieces that are worth redoing and the market is extremely saturated with the shabby chic repurposed type of décor. It became clear that in order to thrive in today’s market we would have to create our own style of art and décor to stand out and compete.
Wood Working and Wood Burning
In the middle of all of our repurposing projects, Clay bought a hobby store wood burner at the first of the year in 2016. He wanted to burn a design into a piece that we were working on, but it didn’t work out, so the wood burner sat in the garage for several months untouched. One day I saw it in the garage and thought I would give it a try. I’ve been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember, so artistic activities aren’t new to me, however I had never tried wood burning before. I started with just burning in letters and a few freehand designs and it wasn’t long before I was completely hooked. I loved it. I love it so much more than I had ever enjoyed drawing or painting. It was like I had found the artistic outlet I had been waiting for my entire life and part of me was sad that it took 35 years to find it. I started burning on a daily basis and as cliché as it sounds, I knew that I had found something special.
A couple of months after I started burning, Clay asked me to make a plaque for a friend of his that was retiring from the Military. He told me what he wanted on the plaque: dates, quotes, name, and an eagle. I burned the art into the plaque and that was the beginning. Clay and I saw how it turned out and we both knew we were onto something. I soon upgraded to a professional burner brand, Colwood. This gave me more versatility as an artist and it speed up the process with it’s more powerful controller.
During the time that I was discovering pyrography, Clay was hard at work in the garage building new pieces. He made everything from coffee tables to coat racks for our house. He had started gathering pallets from anyone that was willing to give them away. He was able to pull them apart, re-plane the wood and make anything his tools would allow him to make.
By June of 2016, it was the perfect pairing. We knew together, Clay could create interesting pieces on his own and I could burn in artistic designs and portraits. We had a great idea to jump into the makers movement.
One of our favorite pieces is the coffee table. The majority of the table was built from pallet wood. However, we needed a solid piece in the top that I could burn, so he went to a hardware store and got poplar. It’s easy to burn and build with. Once he made the top, I burned in a wilderness scene and then we finished it with a piece of glass on top. It turned out to be a cabin style piece that would go flawlessly in someone’s home that had an outdoorsy style of décor.
Our Next Move
At this point, we were still in the infancy stages of this whole new segment in our lives. We didn’t know what it would become or what we were doing with it yet, but we were both so excited about the potential. I remember when we started talking about the endless possibilities from art to furniture to business signs, that we didn’t even have a name yet. We started brainstorming names and goals and directions we wanted to take. After hours of discussion and research we landed on Pyrocrafters. It says what we are doing and describes our work.
We had a name and we had ideas on what to create. We then started putting together marketing and branding plans. I happen to have a day job as a graphic/web designer and needless to say, my background there helped us put together a logo, a brand, a website and our marketing materials. We continued brainstorming for ideas and putting all of these pieces together. To solidify our direction with this new venture we decided to sign up for a local craft show.
We had approximately three months before the show after signing up, so we had time to start working on all of the marketing as well as finish the remaining pieces that we were going to need to display at the show. For the next three months, both of us were consumed with prepping for this show. I was working on business cards, the website, bags, getting a “Square” card reader, tables, table throws, etc. Meanwhile, Clay was cranking out canvas after canvas for me to burn, not to mention all of the display boards he built for our booth. He built the walls and a beautiful miter art table for us to use as a transaction stand.
After three months of busting our tails to get everything ready, it was time. It was a one day show and we were both nervous and excited. I set up a demo area in the booth so people could see me burn and we attracted a lot of attention. For the first time we were able to gather feedback and see the reactions people had to our work. We learned a lot about our booth display as far as what not to do and how to improve the next time. There is also a wrong and right type of show to go to and now we now know that our work really belongs in more of a fine art type of show as opposed to a craft show. We only sold three pieces that day, but we did receive several custom orders for portraits and other ideas, so for us it was a success. We learned so much and we got the chance to hear real thoughts about the work we do. It was definitely worth the three months we put into it. The experience gave us insight to our future and the direction we need to go in.
Next year we will explore larger shows that are more relevant to our work. We hope to get into a few juried shows that will examine our work and determine if we are a good fit. One of the shows we applied to is in Franklin, TN. It will be awhile before we hear about our acceptance, but we will definitely make an announcement if we get in.
Our Future in the Makers Movement
Our biggest hurdles for the future are managing this business with our jobs and finding the right markets and direction. We still struggle with direction sometimes. We both have a desire to create art that is considered to be fine art like the portraits and abstract pieces. However, we both still like to build and create craft pieces like the décor. It really comes down to our brand and figuring out the market. Overtime, I know we will be able to zero in on our signature pieces and what we do best.
Clay and I both have hopes that we will be able to one day quit our day jobs and be a part of the makers movement full time. We love it so much that it is a real struggle to focus at our jobs because we can’t stop thinking about Pyrocrafters. This is still new to us and we couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities of where it’s going to go. Only time will tell!
Written by: Aney Carver