Caveat Emptor

October 28, 2008

It’s a world of consumers. Consuming so that we can consume even more. Lovely cycle this. And you can see how well it’s doing these days in the financial markets. Never you mind. Remember that everyone’s livelihood depends upon somebody else buying their stuff. So as a result of the need for buying, there is selling.

I began furnituremaking out of a misguided sense that at least I wouldn’t have to be selling. That what I was doing somehow wasn’t commerce. The work would sell itself. People would recognize its inherent quality and it would be a simple thing as people saw the value in my work.

What a dope.

As I learned, as every maker learns, this work needs hard work in the selling of it. It does not sell itself. No one needs a chair that will last 100 years. A lifetime is good enough for most folks. For most of the market 10 years is more than good enough.  What we have to sell is difficult because it is so unneeded. But I think the approach may be off if all that you try to sell is your work.

What I think we actually try to sell is not so much furniture as the idea of making hand made furniture. The furniture of course is a part of the deal, the outcome of our efforts. But what we are really trying to sell is the idea that the customer is going to become part of a process where someone, someone they can shake hands with, this someone has gone out and chosen the wood, and figured out a design, and cut up the wood square, and joined it together well, and polished it to within an inch of its life, and finished it even further. They will become a part of this process and will be able to see it unfold before them.

The difference between this and the box of cereal they opened this morning in hungry consumer fashion is that they will know the maker. They will be able to see his progress, depending upon how open your studio policy is, they will see the plans and see the outcome of these plans. For most customers, this is akin to looking into the heavens to see the sky operate. What marvels that these makers can do, creating things from sticks! And this is what we do. We create magic for this non-visual folk. These folk so buried in their laptops, their spread sheets, their money making lives selling something that people really value highly. For these folk we create something that is not so highly valued although it comes with a high price. [Albeit a high price that still doesn’t cover your ends.]

We let these movers and shakers see the hand of god at work instead of the hand of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, the nameless engineers who created this world of effect. What causes this world? Who can say? The computer causes it somehow. But us furniture makers, we actually do the work. We do the creating. This is marvelous stuff worthy of wonder. So let the buyer beware of other work. Let them know that they are about to witness the creation of something of value. That can be passed from hand to hand, from this generation to the next. Tell me you want to do that with a computer file.

Gary Rogowski is the Director of The Northwest Woodworking Studio. Visit us at

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Gary,
    Very well stated! What you stated are my unconscious collective thoughts!


  2. Gary,

    Perhaps one positive outcome of the current economic collapse will be that people stop living “unexamined lives” and re-appreciate what is truly valuable in life. You are not only a fine woodworker but a fine wordsmith as well. Thanks for sharing your views with us.


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