Greenwood Certificate Course, and beyond

At the end of the Greenwood Certificate course, Maurice (www.woodsmithexperience.co.uk) wanted to know what each of us planned to do next.  My thoughts were basically just more of the same:  Carving spoons, trying different products, carving more spoons, doing markets etc.  As I recall, he commented that a self-taught apprenticeship could work for spoons – or something along those lines.

So that’s what I’ve done.  I’ve watched YouTube videos of people carving, I’ve carved alongside others, and I’ve followed people on social media.  During this time I’ve had periods of intense carving, when I’ve really been aware of step changes in the speed and quality of what I’m producing.  I’ve also had times of intense frustration – particularly with the pole lathe, when I’ve made the same mistakes again and again.  When I’ve been desperate for an experienced mentor to help me to work out what I’m doing wrong.

My skills have grown during this time – as you’d hope!  But has my business?  Not really.  I enjoy being at markets, and connecting with people there.  But I’m not so great at building opportunities that aren’t face-to-face;  I’m starting to get a little tired of explaining that the business is “slow”, when asked about it by friends.  I’m starting to feel that maybe I need a bit of a help with the non-carving side of things.

Virtual Apprenticeship Challenge

So when Emmet van Driesche (www.emmetvandriesche.com), who’s a guy I’ve been following on social media, asked if anyone would be interested in joining up for a “Virtual Apprenticeship Challenge”.  He described the challenge as:

“It’s self-motivated.  It’s community.  It’s a week by week challenge designed to push you to take the steps you need to take to start pulling together the pieces that will allow you to start selling your work and making a living at this.”

I leapt at it!

Day one of challenge

Day one of challenge

Week 1:  Carve Every Day

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?  Obviously, the more you do something, the better you get at it.  Obviously, if something is important to you, you commit to it.  Obviously, this is possible.

At the beginning of the week, I’d already reconciled myself to not being able to carve much.  It was half-term holiday, so my son was at home; and I had a friend visiting from Germany, so I had hosting responsibilities.  But I’d signed up to this challenge, and I had to believe it was possible.  And it was!

I learnt:

  • Carving every day needs planning.
  • If you really haven’t got much time, carve something small
  • Cheat – by getting some blanks axed out in advance.  This means that you can carve in the early morning without waking the street by axing
  • Committing to carving every day communicates the importance of this thing – both to yourself and to your nearest and dearest
A selection of handles

A selection of handles

Week 2:  Make social media a (good) habit

This challenge for me was to double my activity on Instagram – to two posts a day.  Not too much of a stretch for me.  Another aspect of the challenge was to improve the quality of my images.  I’ve got a DSLR, but was out of the habit of using it, and have often struggled getting a good photo of a spoon.  I was ready to engage in this side of things.  The hardest part was of the week was that Emmet encouraged us all to change our handles (that’s the name you’re seen as on social media).  I had to leave @egg.and.spoon.crafts behind, and become @rachel_bainton.  This felt HARD.  This felt like a vulnerable place.  As silly as it sounds, this gave me a knotted feeling in my stomach.

I learnt:

  • I don’t need to hide behind a handle
  • Have the DSLR to hand, and then you’ll use it
  • Natural light is your friend
  • Autumn is sadly lacking in natural light after 4pm
  • Carving in the morning gives more opportunities for getting a decent image
  • Frames and filters are unnecessary – go with minimum post-processing
  • Taking photographs is something that you can get better at too
Homestead

Homestead

Week 3:  You need a website

Ha ha!  I can feel smug.  I already have a website.  This might mean I can have an easier week.

But actually, my website has been in sore need of attention.  Emmet made the analogy between a website and a homestead:

“It starts out as a plot of ground with your stake in the centre, and then log by log you build that cabin over time.  You clear the trees and fence the pasture.  This is your home you are making.”

My home was leaky.  It hadn’t had a coat of paint in ages.  Some of it was falling to bits, and simply didn’t work.  I’d known for a while that it needed a bit of an overhaul, but I hadn’t prioritised it.  Now is the time!

Emmet’s advice was to use your own name for your website – for the same reasoning as the social media handle.  And this is the first piece of advice that I haven’t followed.  As I’ve already staked my claim for the domain www.eggandspooncrafts.co.uk, it seemed like unnecessary hassle and expense to stake another one.  Hopefully I won’t regret this.

So, I’ve amended my shop – having separate items listed wasn’t working for me.  Whenever I went to market and sold stuff, I’d have to remember to update the website.  And I was pretty lax about putting new products on the shop in any case.  I think that at the moment I want to concentrate on carving consistent shapes, and deciding on a range of products, and posting on Instagram as I go.  I’ll update the shop again once I’ve decided on that.  Until then, if people want to buy then they can contact me directly.

And I’ve restarted my blog!  Now to make this a habit too…