Art for Life, Buying Handmade, The Economy Optimist, & a website called ""

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 02-23-2009 07:36 PM 6905 reads 5 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m sort of sad this week. It’s just frustrating to me, what is happening now. In the big sense, and the little Lumberjock sense.

An artist and L-J’er that I greatly admire, Thomas Angle, can’t find anyone to buy his work, and he has shut down his business operation

That sort of just stinks, and should be a huge red flag for any of the rest of us that try to sell our handmade work for a living. He can work leather, and combine it with wood like few have ever done. It wasn’t their skill that was the problem for sure. Sometimes, we are victim to a culture.

I feel Thomas’ story, and the story of many others will soon be all too common.

How’s that for Optimism?

I’m glad he has found something else to do, but selling out his shop and moving to Wyoming has to be hard. I don’t like wind, or snow, or cutting calves, so I can’t follow him there. I admire a guy that is humble enough to tell others about the problem, and not just try to keep a smile on his “internet” face, and say everything is “great.” I do hope the best for Thomas and his wife, and for the guy that bought out the tools.

The Train is in the Station:
There have been dozens and dozens of professionals that have emailed me over the past year, worried about why their back log was dwindling. We all saw this economy coming a year ago, maybe longer, and it couldn’t be denied.

Back then, it was sort of like standing by the train tracks and feeling the ground move a little. You weren’t quite sure you felt it, been a long time since a train went by on those tracks. Then, way up the tracks, we thought we saw some smoke. Then a little later we heard the train whistle blow. “Yep, She’s on her way… that’s her whistle…Grandpa told me what it sounded like….”

And then we stood and watched as the guard rails came down with the flashing yellow lights (Bush reading his press release on Prime Time TV). Then, the cars on the highway all started slamming on the brakes, cars hitting each other, all squealing tires and smoke.

Now all that’s left is the suction feeling and the cold whoooooosh at the Big Engine speeds by as you stand and watch. All aboard!!

I have a good friend that lives close to a major rail road line. His wife told me one day when we stopped our conversation in their back yard to wait for the train to pass, “There goes another double decker load of Chinese ‘crap’, when will Americans learn that this isn’t good for us, oh I worry for my grandkids….?”

Her husband and I chuckled a little at her comment, and then the reality sunk in. That deep gut moving, queasy, feeling. “They are all headed to Walmart”, she went on, “I hate that place, just makes me sick…I just hate hearing that train whistle, reminds me every time what bad shape this Country is in….”

That rail line takes double stacked shipping containers by her house daily, she says it’s sometimes as often as every 15 minutes a train storms by. “Make sure you look for trains if you cross those tracks, it’s a dangerous place now,” she reminded me.

I didn’t argue with her, it isn’t respectful first of all, and I just can’t argue with her point. It isn’t good for us to fill our houses and landfills, and storage buildings, and rental garages, and empty warehouses, with all of this Junk. We buy it so cheap, there is no respect for it.

But, is it cheap?

A couple of months ago, my older friends that live by the train tracks, had their adult grandson, and his friend, and his pet dog all killed when they forgot to look to the left when they drove his pickup over that train track crossing about a quarter mile from his grandparent’s house.

I know that train whistle has an even more deep, and painful tone for them now. My heart has ached for their loss, I love them both so much.

Impressing the Jones’?
Many years ago, an older friend of mine from Wichita, KS named George Fooshee, Jr. wrote a book on finances called, “You Can Be Financially Free.” I remember one powerful line from page 39 of his book:

An unknown skeptic has summarized financial discontent in this way: ‘People buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress neighbors they don’t even like!’
Copyright © 1976 by George Fooshee, Jr
Fleming H Revell Company

That line is a classic for sure.

During one counseling session with Mr. Fooshee in the mid 1990’s, my wife explained to him how she was trying to convince me to downsize and pay off debt, and I wouldn’t hear of it. He looked at me. “Is that true Mark?”

I went on with a long discourse of how if I was keeping up with my bills, what difference does it make.

He asked, “Mark, doesn’t the stress this is causing your wife make any difference to you?”

“She just doesn’t understand…..”, I replied.

Mr. Fooshee pulled out an old black book, and told me to turn to a page where a man was on a ship headed to Rome, and was caught in a terrible storm. The ship was a merchant ship, filled with sailors that knew the sea well, and had their life savings in the hold of the ship. Mr. Fooshee explained that the men on the ship had a decision to make. He told me to read on from there.

The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.

After I finished reading that section, Mr. Fooshee asked me, “Mark, did any of that make sense to you, what those sailors and merchants were willing to do to save their own lives?”

I acted like I was thinking really hard, and I said, “Not really, I don’t see how this story has anything to do with my wife wanting me to sell my Corvette, two Harley’s, my new pickup truck, pay off my credit cards, pay off my 401K loan, and downsize to a smaller house.”

I wasn’t lying, I didn’t get it.

“Well, Mark, someday when the storm is great enough, and tieing ropes under your ship won’t save your life, then maybe you’ll see all of your cargo in a new light, and this story will make more sense,” Mr. Fooshee said calmly.

I still didn’t get it. So, Mr. Fooshee said, “Ok folks, why don’t we eat some dinner?” His wife fixed up some veggie burgers and we had a wonderful time talking and eating. But, when I went home, I still didn’t get IT.

I did a few months later. Maybe you’ll get it quicker than I did, as I’m pretty dense.

I just need A Cup of Coffee:
My wife’s new coffee maker quit the other day. She hands it to me, “You can fix anything, give it a try.” I took the bottom off of it and saw the dreaded “Circuit Board” the end of any repair project for me. I put the screws back in the bottom and took it back to her. “Toss it in the trash, it’s done,” I said to her.

“But I don’t want to throw it away, it isn’t that old,” she came back.

So, the coffee maker sits on the back of the kitchen counter, none of us can throw it away yet. It’ll happen, but only after the pain has worn off a little.

Dropping Big Logs?
I had a log mill operator, that wouldn’t hardly return my calls for nine months, call recently begging for work to do. He had two home-builders showing up to help him cut up logs, as they didn’t have anything else to do.

He told me that he was headed to the bank to borrow some money to buy trees, so the three of them would have something to work at. But, he didn’t have any customers for the lumber, and so he was calling around trying to find some. I bought a log from him, and he’s working it up now for me, and it will become a couple of tables for a nice guy in Albuquerque when I get them finished.

So, I finally have some wood coming that I’ve been trying to buy since the Spring of ‘08, and he has a little bit of work to do. BUT, the sad part is that his story is similar to others all over the Country.

We All Saw it Coming, Didn’t we?:
Someone very wise once said, “You reap what you sow.”

Another wise guy once said, “If you sow to the wind, you will reap the whirlwind.”

Someone, not nearly as wise though, said, “Don’t spit into the wind.”

We all saw this coming, didn’t we?

Those crazy home loans with nothing down, those huge college loans for jobs that would make it 30 years to payoff, and those maxed out credit cards with introductory low interest rates, those 84 month payment plans for a new truck when there wasn’t much wrong with the old one, and those home-equity vacations and custom decks, and eating out. We all did it. Don’t forget those tax breaks for Corporations to move factories to foreign countries.

Paying off a House? (How 1960’s that is):
I knew this Country was bound for trouble when I tried to pay off my Mortgage in 1997. We got our Mortgage a few years earlier from the little personable, local, Savings & Loan branch office. Nice folks there, shook our hands, gave us cups of coffee, treated us like real folks. Several years later, some big wigs in New York owned our house, and would hold our payment check until it was just a day late each time. Frustrating bunch they were. If we sent in extra Principle, it would be held a few days more than it should. Things like that. I watched it close in those days, as I was trying to scramble enough money together to pay them off.

When I finally had the money to pay the house off, it took three levels up in Mr. Big Wig Corporation Management to tell us how to do it, and even that Manager didn’t really know, they had to go find out.

I remember watching my wife talk to the Manager on the phone. My wife repeated back what the Manager had said, ”what do you mean that Nobody pays off their mortgage? Can I talk I to your boss?”

The Wife is pretty good at getting things done, and about a week later we finally had a payoff amount and sent the wire transfer. But, I was left shaken by what this Country had become. Debt laiden.

A wise man once wrote, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

Ah Shucks, Appraisals, Who Needs Them?”
Then, in 2001, a friend of mine shut down his home appraisal business, since there was no longer a market for anybody wanting an appraisal on a house. A couple of years before that, he was booked solid with appraisals to hurry through.

“What? What do you mean that lenders don’t want to know what the market value is before they approve a loan?” I remember asking him.

“Times have changed,” he told me.

So, he went to work for a Mortgage company writing loans for houses. He called one day to say that it was not uncommon to approve loans for folks at 125% of the Purchase price, so they would have a little moving-in money, and then the borrowers put nothing down.

“What, are they nuts, didn’t they read the Total Interest-Charge Statement? Don’t you make them Initial that page still?” I asked him.

“Don’t they realize that if they ever pay off that mortgage it will cost them three times more than they paid for the house?”

“Yes, they know, they read the final interest cost, they just don’t care….” he replied.

“Mark, times have changed, and it has me worried where this is all headed,” he went on to tell me.

So, we all had plenty of warning. We just ran right through the dropped gates with the flashing red lights on it. Yes, the times had changed. A new wind started to blow, and behind it the Whirlwind. Too much free candy.

Isn’t Candy Good for You?
Yes, we all saw this coming. That Dreadful feeling, but we deny what our body is telling us..

The kind of dread you get in your Gut when something is wrong and you just know it.

But, knowing something is wrong, and doing something to change it, is the problem with human nature. You know what you are wanting to do is foolish, you can’t help yourself.

A wise man once said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

I can relate to that.

Sort of like the time I visited the new Russell Stover’s Chocolate Factory up by the big Interstate North of here. I knew when I went into the company store and they had free samples out on big silver platters that I should take it easy, just a taste, use moderation. I knew what to do.

Did I do it? No.

I ate so many pieces of Chocolate Covered Toffee that I had to go to my Father-in-Law’s house and just lay down on his spare bed, and I wondered if I would survive it, honestly. I knew each time I passed the big silver platter that I should stop, but I didn’t.

I did survive that day, but I haven’t been back to the Chocolate Factory since. I knew what to do, and couldn’t do it, it was just laying there on a platter, “Free, Please Take some.”

But, I got sick on that candy, not unlike our Economy now is sick from too many debt laiden Servants to the Lenders. I’ve actually been waiting on this “bubble burst” since the early 1990’s. Scared to death to borrow money, even when the Boom years were upon us. Still, once here, it is even still a shock, and I fear it is worse than I planned for.

Being Taught:
My grandfather spent many hours on his cattle ranch and wheat farm lecturing me about the Depression. You know, the kinds of things that old men wish they would have known when they were younger, and want to pass it on to someone they love. A wonderful Grandfather he was.

Daily topics like; simple living, avoiding debt, keeping your word, which weeds were Noxious, going to church, not working on Sunday, staying away from Television, avoiding spirited drinks, saying “no” to drugs and cigarettes, driving with both hands on the wheel, watching the 10 year cycle in Cattle and 7 year cycle in Hogs, and how once you start with a Chiropractor you’ll be a patient for life, and that I should avoid “fast” women, and many other gems.

And to be honest, in those days, I was looking for some “speed.” Good thing for me, I wasn’t fast enough to catch many of them, but those that I did catch caused me a lot of problems, just like Granddad warned me of.

I wish on many of those items he tried to teach me that I had listened better. We probably all wish we had listened better.

But, “No” actually, listening wasn’t the problem, it was DOING that was the problem. Some things a guy has to learn the hard way though. It’s those tough lessons that make the biggest impact on us. “Never Again, no way Jose.” That’s when real change can be made, when repentance is the goal. Like vowing to stay away from Russell Stover’s Free Sample Platters.

So, Granddad was a wonderful grandfather to me, the kind that every kid should have.

I had great parents as well. But being stuck together with Granddad, all summer farming and riding horses, repairing old broken tractors, greasing bearings, fixing fence together, trying to catch Bullheads with chicken liver, and shooting guns, you get a lot of “quality time,” together. The sort of stuff that matters in a boy’s life.

He was 17 years old in 1929, when he had a deathly sick father, my Great Grand Father Louis, with the family farm in hock to the bank. But Grandpa Manned-Up, and he worked it through, graduating from High School, doing the chores and working to pay off his Dad’s loans. It cost him most of his 20’s, and so he sort of got a late start finding a wife and starting his own family. Glad he did though.

And, you can bet that he didn’t forget the training that was forced on him in those years. And he passed it on to me. He died in early October 2008, and I’m glad he didn’t have to see it all happen this time. I hope I was able to demonstrate to him that I learned a few of his lessons.

I had two wonderful grandfathers, the other was the Dean of the Economics Department at the big University up the Highway. You wanna bet that he lectured me about the Depression?

So I got it from two perspectives, Professor & Farmer, one from the Theory, the other from the Dirt.

I started one day to write a Blog about my Grandfathers, and the lessons they taught. It was too painful, as I miss them both, and so I had to quit. Maybe someday I can pull out those files and try it again.

Still, I’m an optimist. But, to be honest, my optimism isn’t based on any Bailout Plan, or one party fighting the other in Topeka or Washington DC.

I learned a long time ago to not look for them to fix things. I know they try, but when the “home folks” vote based on what someone is willing take from another person to give to them, how does any Politician get elected anymore without making the pay offs later?

But, I’m an optimist only because I work for the Master of all Creation, and He doesn’t let me down, tell lies, take payoffs, and only does what is the best for me in the long run.

And, it is scary to think what is coming for the rest of us, in the midst of this Bailout and the Nationalizing of this-and-that big Corporation that made stupid decisions. Remember though, it isn’t a Corporation that makes those decisions, it was people that did it. All with their little computer programs calculating risk, watching the ticker, plying things for the short term gain. It’s sad. And, it will happen again to another generation some day.

I’m thinking about putting in a big Garden this year. Dennis Mitchell tells me that he enjoys his garden each year. I never liked pulling weeds though. But I like eating more. I’d rather have chocolate than tomatoes, but you can’t get sick as quick with vegetables.

Corporate World Bonuses?:
I used to work in the corporate world, and I got bonuses also.

But my Bonuses came ONLY when I exceeded my goals, AND the corporation made a lot of money for the bosses.

There were times when both of those factors didn’t contribute to a bonus for me, and I was torqued-off, like they owed it to me. I did learn that getting mad about what you didn’t get is a sure way to avoid getting those things in the future.

Things change, and so do I. I learned. CLM I used to call those, Career-Limiting-Move.

However, I just can’t figure out how you take taxpayer bailout money to cover your stupid, risky behavior, and then hand the money out in huge bonuses to the same goofballs that made the bad decisions. They ought to be fired and jailed, not given bonuses.

I digress though.

And to be honest, I’d sure like to sell them a big furniture set. But would that be right? Probably not.

Ok, so today, while working up the details on my third sale in my Online Shop getting the ship-to address, I stumbled onto a cute little website to encourage folks to buy handmade items.

I’m all for that.
So, when I found the BuyHandMade website this morning, I also joined their “Pledge.”

It’s easy to make the Pledge, give it a try, make your voice known.

The Etsy Website is supposed to be for artists only, selling handmade items they have created, or materials they will sell to other artists. I’m sure there are exceptions, but for the most part, it appears to be true.

On Etsy, there are lots of unique things ranging from clothing to furniture, and everything in between, including some things I can’t believe people thought of making, or that anyone else would purchase. But, I’m reminded that others may feel the same way about what I make and try to sell.

And there really isn’t any definition of what constitutes “handmade”, but for the most part, the website seems to have items that artists make themselves and try to sell.

Why Pursue the Art?
Many folks don’t understand why any artist would give up what appears to be a much easier, stress-free life, of commuting to the corporate jungle to be fitted for your golden handcuffs.

Do you remember Walking the cubicle aisles biting your nails watching the bulletin board for lay-off notices? What about w atching the calendar for the next “Treats in the Break Room Day”.

How about getting really excited about the new bulletin board posting announcing “Jeans-Casual Friday”? How about getting frustrated with Management because they took away the free Coffee? Ugh, the frustrations of those folks, the gall they have to take that away.

I remember those days well.

I remember adding up with a calculator the dry cleaning savings because I could finally wear jeans on Fridays. That was $2.25/week x 50 weeks a year in savings. That was before I realized I was going to have to go buy some “Business Casual” clothes to wear on that Friday. Ugh.

My work clothes haven’t seen the inside of a Dry Cleaners, or the bottom of an Iron, in many years now. Think about those savings a minute.

And, when you have gained some wisdom, know how to work efficiently and think on your feet, you are deemed too old to be useful to the Company, and they give you a sheet cake and a wrist watch and a little party that folks stand around and clap for a few minutes before rushing back to their cubicles.

Cubicles, who invented that? Ugh.

After the years of hard work though, the Company agrees to give you a pension so that you can go catch fish or hit golf balls. What a wonderful way to slide out of “here.”

Personally, I’d rather die of a rare parasite while digging water wells in Africa, than in a nursing home with a golf course view. But, that’s just me.

And, to top that, while you are younger, they pay you not to work several days a year called Holidays, and Vacations. Then, they only require about 8 hours of work a day, which if you take off the personal conversations and internet surfing, probably only works out to an average of less than 6 hours a day of work.

Still, I know it is stressful in the Jungle.

It’s why I left.

I sort of love those “Dilbert” cartoons. I just “Get” the joke in almost all of them.

I did that sort of “life” for 13-14 years, and I hope to some day get enough counseling to get over it.

Despite the “goodness” of corporate life, I hope I don’t have to go back. That’s why I work hard out behind the house in the shop, trying to give a lot of hours of expertise for a paycheck. Going back over that bridge to the Jungle is a scary thought.

But, I calculated my hourly wage for 2008, $5.04/hour. And I don’t even get Health Insurance for that.

Now, that figure includes everything, all the hours it takes to keep records, answer emails, do quotes, set up for shows, do L-J postings on the internet, photography, cutting the borders from brochures I print at home, fixing the copy machine, and all those things that don’t pay a penny back but have to be done. Oh, yea, and taking out the dust, and sweeping the floor, and cutting and splitting 6 loads of firewood to stay warm.

Why press on?

And, honestly, I realize that as each year passes, the odds that anyone would hire me back into the Jungle, is getting pretty slim. They want young folks with bright eyes and naive minds, with lots of debt to motivate them to work hard, who will “jump” when told to.

But, it was one of those choices I made, and I knew what I was getting into, for the most part.

Life of an Artist?
It is true though, being an artist, especially since there’s no Union to fight for your rights, and no Lobbying firm to get us government bail-out money, can be a challenge. Even in a good economy.

I never really saw the “boom” years. When real-estate was “booming” everywhere else, it just sort of fizzed quietly here, or sunk.

Which in hindsight, is a good thing, since I didn’t convince myself to get an equity loan against my paper-profit, like so many others have done. And, I didn’t go get an equity loan to take a Cruise, or buy a new car.

Sometimes it seems that not having money is actually a better way to live. Less decisions, less worry, less chances of anyone giving you money to borrow. Simpler it seems. Sure, I don’t have a flat screen, and my newest vehicle is 10 years old. But, if you hold until they are 25 years old you get an “Antique” car tag, and that is sort of cool, got two of them now.

I heard last week on some news program, that the Art Industry has about 2.5 Million people making a living off of it. I don’t know how they know these numbers, since nobody called me to find out what I do for their statistics, but “they” seem to know and quote the numbers. I can’t believe there are that many artists that are working and making a living from their art.

And, the statistics didn’t say how many of those folks were actually artists, and not just the support people that actually make the money selling the stuff for the artist. So, I don’t know enough about the statistics given, to really know anything. But anyway, “They” went onto say that In the art industry, there is a 12.5% unemployment rate right now. Which really stinks. Anyway, it is tough all over, and artists are no exception, except for the lack of the safety net that those Gold Handcuffs provide.

The Diamond Heads:
I remember a statement one time to me from a Huge-Corporation Boss said some years ago. He referred to the folks that were not working for the Corporation as “the Diamond Heads.”

I questioned him on what that meant.

He went on to “illuminate” that all the those outside of the “Fence” were wishing they could work for the Corporation, and that they had the red impression of a “Diamond” on their foreheads from pressing their faces against the Chainlink Fence, just wishing they could get in. So much for “worrying about the small guy” in that place.

That “Diamond Head Lecture” was a pretty pivotal moment for me, and I sort of started to feel my own “Diamond” starting to fade at that moment. I guess I was just too naive in those days fresh out of College, but it did take another 12.5 years for my own “Forehead Diamond Mark” to fade completely. But it did fade completely.

About 18 months ago I was asked to teach a lesson on Scrimshaw Art at the Senior Center in our little town. I got paid $10 bucks and got a great fried chicken lunch to boot. As I was sitting at the table eating with the new acquaintances sitting across from me, I heard about the “Highway 150” project. I live close to a highway that was first built in the WPA Project years. And I listened intently as one of the Seniors told me about his work on that road. He said in those days, they didn’t want any power equipment, only wheel barrows and shovels.

The management of the project was told to make the road project last as long as possible and use as many folks as possible. If you wanted to work that day on the road, you just carried your Shovel on your wagon, or saddle, and headed to work that day. If you had a family, you got paid more than a single guy. If you had a team of horses that could plow road bed that day, you could get a little more pay for bringing them along.

Those hard working folks picked and shoveled their way for 17 miles over some pretty good sized hills to place Highway 150 on it’s foundation. I don’t know how many folks worked on the project, but it was locally seen in those days as a real boost for people needing work.

A few years ago, the State tore out Highway 150, to replace it with a wider road with shoulders and bigger ditches, and lower hills, and higher valleys. I watched that work for two years, each day commuting to a Corporate job in the Big City. I would usually count about 6 Men working, including the Supervisor that always had an angry look on his face, especially at me, as I drove too fast, with an 87 mile commute to make.

One day I counted enough road graders, paddle scrapers, tractors pulling discs, dump trucks, and other power equipment that each guy could have three or four of his own to drive that day, and that didn’t count the pickup trucks.

The Highway 150 Project went from a Shovel Ready Project, to a major equipment parking lot.

That small group of guys almost finished the new highway before their company went bankrupt. A few months passed waiting on what the State would do to finish up the roadway. Another company came in and finished it up, only hiring the Supervisor from the old crew. Seemed sort of funny to me, the guy that managed the project into bankruptcy, was the only one suitable to hire to finish it. And, he was more angry than he had been before, to the point that I sort of started to feel sorry for him as he flipped me off some days as I Flew by.

One day, I drove by as he was hugging a mailbox, trying to pull it out of the ground. He pulled it up and threw it down in the ditch and reached for his post hole digger, the hand one. The next morning, I noticed the mailbox had been reset about 8-10 inches farther off the road, and a couple of inches lower. I could see why he was angry that day.

But are WE Shovel ready?

Back to the Pledge:
So, if you would like to take the Pledge to buy handmade items as gifts for yourself and friends and family over the years, you will be doing a great thing in the life of the artist that benefits from your exchange of money for art. And, the person that gets your handmade gift may actually not “regift” it.

I for one turned a corner a couple of years ago, trying to find smaller, simpler, easier, less costly, products that I could build. I saw the end of the “Build it fancy custom furniture” business in 2007, and so I tried hard to make a shift into things people could buy with a smaller amount of cash. It was sort of painful to be honest. I prided myself in furniture, the ultimate challenge of a woodworker.

The Lumberjocks noticed the change in my work also, many emailing to find out what I was up to. I even had one “friendly chap” take time to send me a note that I was nothing but an “artsy fartsy whittler.”

That zinger hurt me at the time, and I realized it was only Pride that was hurting, but I remember thinking at the time that I’d rather “whittle” than get excited about “Jean-Casual Day” at the Office again. A very wise guy said once, “Pride comes before a Fall.” So, when I started to write him back and defend myself with multiple links to bigger projects, I was reminded to swallow my pride and work to fight another day.

I do still miss those “Treats in the Break Room Days” though.

I just hope it was enough. If not, maybe I can carry my shovel to the big road project and see if it is really “shovel-ready.”

I enjoy Philosophy, and sharing my opinions. After all, it cost you just what you paid for it, and probably the same as you got out of it. I just hope that you’ll take the Pledge, and support your local crazy “artsy-fartsy” person that lives for, and by, their art.

A lot of my thoughts, financial goals, and ideas are shaped from an organization called Crown Financial Ministries, a non-profit bunch of folks that work to try and teach the rest of us some sense about money.

Thanks for reading, I’m off the SoapBox and back to the shop while I still have work to do.
Mark DeCou

(This writing today is protected by copyright 2009 by the Author, M.A. DeCou. No unauthorized use of this material is allowed without written permission. Weblinks back to this page are permitted without permission.)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

15 comments so far

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3684 posts in 4807 days

#1 posted 02-23-2009 08:53 PM

Wonderfully put. The consumer needs to be re-educated to support American made products and hand crafted products. Many don’t understand the difference, or what even a hand crafted item is. We have gotten so removed from the simpler ways of living, being swept up into the “Buy (cheap) Now, Pay (dearly) Later” frame of mind. The theory of saving up enough to buy what you need, is not even considered common sense anymore.

The craftsmen and master craftsmen who dare to create art and live off of these earnings are a brave and wholesome group. It takes a lot of time and care to create a worthwhile item, and the price that is paid, rarely covers the hours and expertise involved. This doesn’t even cover the time and energy spent towards marketing their work.

There was an increased turnout last Fall for the craftshow that comes to my area several times a year. I don’t know how the vendors did financially, but there was a record number of attendees. Let’s hope this trend continues with the realization that we need to support our home based industries before sending our money over seas.

I here by join your plege to patronize local crazy artists.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View majeagle1's profile


1429 posts in 4580 days

#2 posted 02-23-2009 09:55 PM

My sentiments exactly! What a great post and I couldn’t have said it better.

You’ve got my pledge also!

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 4712 days

#3 posted 02-24-2009 12:11 AM

Good read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience here. I found it well written and very topical to the state of affairs at current. I definitely wouldn’t want to be on the short end of discretionary spending right now and arts & craft sales are just that. No bailout for them.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View sidestepmcgee's profile


158 posts in 4809 days

#4 posted 02-24-2009 01:18 AM

well put,thanks

-- eric post, tallahassee FL

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 5161 days

#5 posted 02-24-2009 02:43 AM

Great post Mark. Very thought inspiring.

-- BLOG -

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 4526 days

#6 posted 02-24-2009 03:18 AM

Your post was interesting and well written but also relevant to those of us outside the US. The same mistakes have been made in much of the industrialised world. The New Zealand government is using borrowed money to fund tax cuts! how does that work? I totally agree with you about supporting the craftspeople in the community , it,s putting money back into local economies that gets thing moving, not hand out to the people that screwed it up in the first place!
I will happily take that pledge and please continue to use that soapbox of yours, I,m assuming it was made by an artist and not purchased from a department store!

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5399 days

#7 posted 02-24-2009 04:46 PM

Ya this is the one that stirred me up. I saw that 12.5 million make there living off the arts and divided that by the population. I came up with one out of 25. I know lots of people. I know lots of very talented artist. I know very few who make a living at it. I sure don’t. I would guess closer to one out of 1000 actually make their living at it. We give lip service to creative talent, but the facts sure do not back it up.
Mark you are one of the few that scratch a living doing this. I admire that. It is very different than just having a piece in a gallery wondering if this is the year it sells. Well I for one am going the spend the day building handcrafted soap boxes!

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5490 days

#8 posted 02-24-2009 05:02 PM

It’s sort of funny how inspiration comes and goes.

I went to the computer yesterday morning planning on checking emails and to find an address on Etsy to ship an item to, and then I found that little icon to click about “”.

What happened next was that I thought I would put a little blog note about the website to publicize it’s message a little.

By the time I stopped editing, several hours had flown by, but I feel that I’ve said my peace now. I’ve been chomping at the bit to say something for months, finally got the inspiration yesterday. I can go on now, I’ve said my peace. I wanted to warn folks a year or two ago. And if someone wrote me a personal email I often sent them a personal warning to get their boat to shore and be ready. But what do I know?

Dennis: are you making that box with natural sticks today?


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View RAH's profile


414 posts in 4961 days

#9 posted 03-01-2009 04:40 PM

Well written, thank you.

I too take the pledge and have also made it a point to buy local and support my neighbors.

-- Ron Central, CA

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 5329 days

#10 posted 03-13-2009 01:05 AM

Mark – Once again you have a well written piece of inspiration. You have some great insight on many different layers of life. From living the “proverbial” good life in the corporate world to living the “real” life on your small ranch. When I have visited you in the past, I can attest that you have a rich life now that has nothing to do with money. God has blessed you and you have taken that blessing and honed it to the artisan work you do today.

Thanks for the posting, I am going over to the Buy handmade website to do some research.


-- Joel Tille

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 4797 days

#11 posted 04-01-2009 05:37 PM

Honestly when I read this 36 days ago, I wanted to post something, but I was too moved/rendered speechless/sent into a state of deep thought/provoked (in a good way) to do so. All I could do was feebly press the button to add you to my buddies list Your post on the praying mantis cane brought me back to post here. I’m sure there’s things we’d disagree on, but our feelings on life and craftsmanship probably aren’t one of them. I just came back to this post to tell you how much I think of it, and didn’t want it to pass by without applauding you for it.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 5023 days

#12 posted 04-02-2009 12:35 AM

While I firmly believe in supporting local businesses and craftsmen, I’m a little confused about the passion associated with the Buy Handmade movement. I read the pledge and some of the supporting information and the primary reason they give for buying handmade is that it is hand made. There is no reference that I can find to quality or value and having recently come from a craft show filled with “bored housewife” trinkets, I’m not convinced that buying something simply because it’s handmade is good stewardship of the resources available to us. Most of us are looking at diminishing resources and need to make sound judgements about how we use them. Unless the handmade product is of equal or better quality, or provides equal or better value, then it would seem foolish to buy it. We need a little wisdom with our passion.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5490 days

#13 posted 04-02-2009 03:40 AM

I guess you could pledge to buy quality handmade gifts?


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Karson's profile


35273 posts in 5485 days

#14 posted 04-02-2009 04:32 AM

Mark A great post. I guess I just hope that I can make all of my handmade item and not have to buy any.

A great posting and really in depth as to your feelings.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View toddhelmkamp's profile


50 posts in 4155 days

#15 posted 12-29-2009 06:13 PM

Excellent post. I’ve only started working with my hands in the last few months and I can’t begin to describe the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from that. Maybe someday I’ll be able to walk away from my corporate job. Way to go, Mark.

-- Todd Helmkamp,

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