Hello and Welcome to Jes Hooper’s Monthly Maker: THE place to discover artistic innovators and creative entrepreneurs! Every first Monday of the month I’ll be introducing a new artist to my website blog to share their craft, inspirations, and aspirations. Why? To showcase the talented small business’ who are paving the way to success in our creative communities.
This month is the third installment of Monthly Maker and I’ve been chatting with Paul Johnston of PJWoodcraft, all about the timber medium, jumping head first into self-employment, and the joys of running a creative business! I first found Paul online through etsy, just one of his online selling platforms, and I was immediately drawn to his passion for woodturning- as is evident through his skilled craftsmanship. Here is what he had to say about his journey into the creative industry:
What first inspired you to create artwork from wood over other art forms?
I have always had an interest in woodwork in some form or other right from my school days and even before, and then into my working life where I started off as an apprentice Patternmaker, but left that trade and got into the Jewellery trade as a Jewellery Case Maker where I used to make wooden cases and do window displays for jewellery shops. This work gave me the opportunity to design and make the items from start to finish as the work was so varied.
What are the main influences behind your artwork?
To be honest I never used to like the coloured and stained wood turnings with all the embellishments but that side of the craft has slowly grown on me and I have come to admire the woodturners/artists/sculptors that do it bringing another side into the craft that makes it a lot more interesting. Influences here for me were New Zealand woodturner Terry Scott, Australian turner Phil Irons plus many more. I have made a few artistic type pieces in the past but do find them too time consuming to do and finish and that is the part I don’t quite like these days, I like to get my pieces finished preferably the same day so full respect to those that sit carving their work out for days and days.
Are you self taught or did you study your craft?
I am a self taught woodturner and like a lot of turners i’ve spoken to had my first woodturning attempts at school. I also spent a few days on a lathe in my first job and that was it until quite a few years later when I got into making hand carved rocking horses where I needed to turn the posts for the stands, luckily my brother had got a new Record lathe sitting in his garage doing nothing which he never used so I bought it off him and that was when the bug for turning really took hold. I started going to wood shows, joined a few forums and got to know other turners who were demonstrating and just asked loads of questions and even having a go at the shows with the tools been used, but I think my woodwork background did help me with understanding the wood side of things and just had to learn how to use the tools associated with turning.
What first drew you towards the creative industries?
I was unemployed for a while and got fed up of been turned away (no pun intended) and ignored for jobs so was talking to a good friend who was self employed who encouraged me to give self employment a go so decided to go for it. I’m not going to get rich doing this but it is enabling me to move my work on and keep the workshop going with tools and timber so most profits are just ploughed straight back into the business side of things. Everyone was telling me my items were good enough to sell so I just went for it and am glad I did.
What is your favourite and least favourite aspects of your creative process?
My favourite aspect is seeing the finished piece especially as most my work is from logs so I don’t know what is hidden inside until I start working on it, if it reveals some hidden treasure inside the log such as nice grain or some burr then it is even better. I also get great satisfaction when an item is sold and get good feedback from the customer. I don’t think I have a least favourite as I really enjoy all aspects of the process in making my pieces, but if I had to pick something it would be the actual business side of things, I much prefer making than dealing with paperwork.
Please describe your workspace, do you work from home, do you share your studio with other artists?
I work from home on my own in a converted double garage which I have soundproofed the best I can but still manage to get the car in there every night which isn’t a bad thing as by doing that it does keep the workspace fairly tidy. I have extended to the back and one side of the garage giving me extra storage space but could still do with more space.
When creating your studio what were most important aspects of the space to consider?
My health and safety was my priority when I was planning the shop as I knew I would be on my own all the time when working using some dangerous tools and machines which I was comfortable using anyway coming from a woodwork background but accidents do happen. So keeping the space tidy, especially the floor, with good lighting and dust extraction were priorities for me. I have my machines, except my lathe, on locking swivel castors so they can be wheeled out when needed and then put back. Dust extraction was important to me so a good dust extractor was included and a good air fed respirator with full face protection.
If you could name one thing, what has been the biggest highlight so far in creating your own art business?
Going ahead and Doing it I think. I never in a million years saw myself running my own business and selling my work all over the world and still find it hard to come to terms with but am really happy that I am. My work has been in Homes and Gardens, Homes and Antiques magazines and I was recently the featured artist of the month in the UKs best selling woodturning magazine last December (2016) with one of my winged bowls which I was really pleased about. I have also made items for a couple of films which I was also pleased about.
What would your advice be for someone who wants to turn their art into a creative business?
Feel confident and believe in what you are producing, know your craft and don’t be afraid to experiment. If it works it works if it doesn’t it doesn’t, even great ideas can come from mistakes. Huge thank you to Paul for taking part in this months Monthly Maker!
You can find Paul here:
Next month I’ll be introducing Joseph Cheyne, a fellow woodworker who specialises in detailed patterned work with reclaimed wood.
We speak of our shared love of timber for it’s natural beauty, and I can’t wait to share his work with you next month!