Friday, July 16, 2004

Artisans Craft 2nd Careers From Lifelong Interests . . . No Rocking Chairs For These Entrepreneurs!

Artisans Craft 2nd Careers From Lifelong Interests . . . No Rocking Chairs For These Entrepreneurs!

There's a different breed of retiree hitting the road these days. . . often younger than the average retiree, enormously talented, business savvy, and not necessarily looking for relaxation. Some are crafting new careers for themselves, enjoying their work more, and finding pleasure in sharing that work with the people they love!

(PRWEB) June 27, 2003


Experiencing the wonder of another personÂ’s talents, skills, and imagination is a joy that can only be described as "awesome!" But have you ever considered who these skilled artisans are, or what else they may have done before they began traveling from show to show? Or thought about the physical and financial challenges of crafting as a business?

Sandra Johnson of AmericanCraftsOnline. com (www. americancraftsonline. com), and Sugarloaf Craft Festivals (www. sugarloafcrafts. com) says, "These are the most amazing people! Many have retired from very successful careers in other fields, and frequently see retirement years as a time to explore what they might have done if theyÂ’d taken a different career path. They enjoy the freedom to travel, meet new people and let their creative sides show. . . and frequently without having to worry too much about actually making a living." Several artisans who travel throughout the country and sell their crafted works via the Internet through JohnsonÂ’s AmericanCraftsOnline. com agree with her assessment.

Charles Tedder remembers handing his father tools and watching him work at only 5 or 6 years old. But while he had a strong interest in woodworking himself, he spent most of his 25-year career with Hatteras Yachts as Manager of Quality Assurance. He says, "I knew though, that after I left the boating business, IÂ’d make my living building custom furniture and operating an antique furniture business. It started in 1995 when a friend asked me to make him a humidor, which led to building him 5 more. Before I knew it, I was swamped with orders -- all word-of-mouth. In 1997 I did my first craft show, a Sugarloaf show in Manassas, VA. Since then, I havenÂ’t looked back. Now my humidors are just a small part of my business, as IÂ’ve added jewelry chests, menÂ’s valets, and boxes of all kinds to my line."

Kathy and Jim Morrison left unsatisfying jobs to begin their adventure as professional caners and chair weavers. "I worked in a doctorÂ’s office and taught chair caning classes, and my husband was a computer engineer. These jobs taught us that we really didnÂ’t want to work for other people," says Kathy. The Morrisons are taking part in 18 shows over 21 weekends this year, including some in New England for the first time. "We travel mostly to East Coast shows, from upstate New York to the Tidewater area of Virginia, and west to Ohio. ItÂ’s a full-time occupation now. I think weÂ’re successful at it because itÂ’s a fairly unique craft, and because we also get lots of restoration jobs. WeÂ’ve restored chairs for many museums and historical societies in the Washington, DC area -- even the White House. As we get older and doing shows gets harder, the plan is to have a well-developed base of customers for repair work as well as more exposure through the Internet," says Morrison.

The physical challenges of working shows is a concern for retired crafters, and why many seek additional exposure for their wares on the Internet. Gretchen McCrorey, who designs and sells original scarves for women, says, "We laughingly say weÂ’re semi-retired because we donÂ’t do a show every weekend. But doing shows are the least of it. It takes an amazing amount of home time to go to every show well-stocked, not to mention getting mailings out on time, meeting advertising deadlines, and many hours spent on business paperwork. My husband jokes that he wants to go back to his old job to get some rest!" But as a former window designer and in-store display person for a department store, Gretchen felt she was better prepared for the physical and mental effort required to put a successful craft display together. "My experience made it easy for me to create an eye-catching booth to capture the customersÂ’ attention, and prior retail experience made the art of selling at a show second nature." As for the need to travel, McCrorey thinks of it as "one of the perks in this type of career."

Laurie Kleespies, 48, "retired" from her Army nursing career in the early 80’s as a result of asthma. By 1990, after "the baby years," she began her woodcrafting business, focusing mostly on small desk accessory items. With a husband who’s supportive, but not involved in her business, and two children now 15 and 20, Kleespies found her greatest challenge was scheduling her "dusty, noisy business" around her busy family’s life, and learning how to make the business pay off. She states, "You have to factor in expenses like travel, parts and materials, labor, packaging, advertising, cost of shows, credit card fees, and the list goes on. And not all shows are profitable – bad weather, the economy, or the world situation can all affect a show. But I see crafting as a decent supplemental income. If you have an idea that is marketable. . . if you have the time, talent, passion and energy to make it work, then go for it!"

Talent and passion seem to be the universal motivator for crafters. As Charles Tedder said, "I’m so lucky to be doing something that I love so much and sharing it with the one I love the most. Sharon and I are together 24/7 now, but until someone reminds me, I don’t realize it – every show is a vacation!"

The work of these artisans can be viewed online at www. americancraftsonline. com