I was planning to write a post about the differences between carving spoons on commission and carving spoon on spec to sell. But what I've really been thinking about is the long game, by which I mean where I want to be in five years. Because the best way to end up even close to where I want to end up is to have some clear idea of where that is and then reverse engineer what I need to get there.
Making a living carving spoons takes some ingenuity. While some live a nomadic life with few expenses, that is not me right now. I have two small kids and my wife is in school. Carving spoons is about a quarter of what I do, and probably half to two thirds of my time. I could increase that income by increasing my prices, but for a variety of reasons (partly philosophical, partly gut instinct, partly long game), I don't want to do that too much. So the actual selling of spoons I see as putting a floor under my income, a baseline that is entirely controlled by me.
But the long game is where I can make choices today that will have career impacts in five years. I can write this blog. I can carve spoons every single day (and align market forces to incentivize me to do so), getting good at what I am passionate about. I can teach. I can share my story and grow my reach through Instagram. I can make connections with fellow carvers.
In five years, I want to be making two or three times as much from spooncarving as I am today. I want to be writing more, and I have several book projects cooking. I want to be teaching at a number of venues and I want to have a shop at my home to facilitate teaching from home.
Spooncarving is not a scaleable thing, and that is part of it's attraction, to be honest. But if I balk at scaling the price (which would be the common way to increase income from a finite resource, turning it into an art form or high value item), then I will need to make smart moves to grow my income year over year. Unlike a farm or other business, I cannot simply hire others to carve spoons for me, because that would be antithetical to the whole point of this thing.
So a big part of scaling will be presenting my story and drawing income from other, more scaleable tangents to the actual carving. A number of other spooncarvers have already started doing various fascinating examples of this. Barn, with the Greenwood Guild subscription videos. Robin and Jojo, with the tools. Jarrod with the teaching. Barn and EJ with the books.
Of course, for this to work, you need to get at some underlying need you can bring value to. All of these examples so far are serving the community that wishes to start carving spoons themselves.
Where I see the biggest opportunity, though, is the community that actually buys way more wooden spoons than other spooncarvers, and that is cooks. Specifically, women that cook. Typically, someone wanting to learn to carve buys one spoon, maybe several. The people buying ten, twenty spoons are people who love to cook and love to be surrounded by beautiful, meaningful, well-designed objects. So the question is, what is their need that can be served beyond just providing them with spoons.
That is what I think on a lot. That is my long game.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.
One idea is as worthless as another until you actually do something about it, and then it is the action, not the word that matters. --Orson Scott Card