Featurepreneur: Makers Gonna Make
By Genevieve Allen Hearn
We wanted to get a sense of what it is like being an entrepreneur with a home-based business versus opening a brick and mortar retail space. We connected with two makers: Erika Diehl creates beautiful macramé creations at home and sells them at craft fairs and by request, and Don Beamish is the general manager of the handmade ‘end grain’ cutting boards company Larch Wood Canada that has recently opened a storefront in Wolfville.
Erika Diehl – Maritime Macramé
The Grapevine (GV): Is Maritime Macramé a full-time endeavor, or do you have other things on the go?
Erika Diehl (ED): It’s not a full-time endeavor, and that’s okay. I think there is a risk of having a craft you love to do become something you have to do, and then you can lose the joy in it. However, I do have plans to grow Maritime Macramé – I hope to open an Etsy shop in the next month or so, and there are some specific pieces I’m itching to get to work on. I’d like to run more workshops also. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of this craft; there’s always more to learn and I want to try more intricate designs. And there are so many other crafts I want to explore! Learning to make pottery has been on my bucket list for years, and punch needle rug hooking is my newest interest.
GV: Describe the life of a maker. What does your day look like?
ED: Every day is different! In addition to macramé, I also have a part-time job that I’m lucky to be able to do from home, and I have a young son that needs a lot of mama-time. I try to set a daily schedule for my work (both macramé and my “desk job”) during school hours, but life often throws curve balls into my routine – so the time I get to spend working on orders, trying new designs or preparing for workshops or craft fairs is often early in the morning, at night after my kiddo is in bed, and then any other time I might have a few free minutes.
GV: I’ve noticed that there is a very tight maker community online. How important is social media to building your brand and connecting with others?
ED: Social media is invaluable! I have an Instagram account and a Facebook page that are active, but Instagram in particular is really an excellent platform for makers – it’s the perfect way to showcase your work, get your name “out there”, and also connect with other crafters and artists. I particularly love to see what others in my area are working on – it’s completely inspiring. I follow not only macramé artists but also potters, weavers, painters, soap and candle makers, printmakers, jewelry makers, interior designers, farmers – the list is endless. There is a lot of encouragement and positive interaction in the Instagram community.
GV: What is the best way for makers to break into the market?
ED: Be brave and go for it! Chances are if you have a product or an idea that you think is beautiful or useful (or both!) others out there will feel the same and be interested in what you are doing. Macramé started for me simply as a means of dealing with my ever-increasing number of house plants – I was running out of shelves and available window-ledge space. I tried it and found that I love it – I love how it looks, and I really love the process of making it. I was hooked pretty quickly. Macramé is enjoying a bit of a revival right now; it carries a lot of nostalgia for people – if they didn’t do macramé themselves in the 70’s, they have mothers or aunts or grandmothers who did. I decided I would see what I could do with this craft I “rediscovered”, and started making hangers to sell, and it just grew from there. It’s been well received and I’m enjoying every minute of it!
If you are interested in checking out more of Erika’s work, you can visit:
Maritime Macramé here:
Erika will be teaching a wallhanging workshop at Cotton Tale Café + Play on Saturday, December 2. The cost is $45 – email email@example.com to register.
Don Beamish – Larch Wood Canada
The Grapevine (GV): Can you describe the genesis of Larch Wood?
Don Beamish (DB): Larch Wood started in 2003 when our owner Ben Webster purchased a building and tooling from bankruptcy in East Margaree. The last company had been milling framing lumber and had been hit by the softwood tariff in the U.S. and was unable to recover. They were also making larch flooring and Ben wanted to continue with that. Our mandate has always been to work with Larch – a local and underutilized species also known as Tamarack, Hackmatack, and Juniper. I was asked in early 2004 to manage the business. I had 35 years’ experience as a builder designer and wood worker. We initially tried to make it with larch flooring but the writing was on the wall after a year that we weren’t going to make it with just flooring. The first end grain cutting board came as an inspiration from the bold and varied grain patterning found in the larch. We made three prototypes and sent them off to local chefs and we received two thumbs up. Larch Wood has always been a group collaboration on design and production. We were initially four people creating the boards from log to finished product.
GV: What is it like to have other people take part in the creation of your products?
DB: My job evolved more into marketing and design. Design being my strong point and marketing I was learning on the go by networking with other crafts people at trade shows around North America. We have been lucky to have come up with a functional product that seems to really appeal to people. One of Larch Wood’s mandates from the beginning was to provide employment for people in our area so the more makers the merrier. We also try to include other woodworkers in the area. For instance, we have collaborated with two woodworkers to make end grain larch stools that complement our custom countertops.
GV: What inspired you to open a shop in Wolfville?
DB: Our inspiration to open a shop in Wolfville was for a number of reasons. We wanted to have more retail presence in Nova Scotia and Wolfville seemed like a unique town with a growing and diverse economy, lots of tourism, and a walkable downtown. We also wanted to include good quality knives which are a natural with cutting boards. We have an ever-expanding line of handmade super sharp Japanese knives that you can actually try out in the shop. While working on renovating the store I really enjoyed the curiosity and friendliness of the people who passed by and dropped in. So far – “knock on wood” – sales have been good.
GV: What advice would you give others interested in getting into the artisanal and craft industry?
DB: Start slowly, don’t go deeply into debt, get lots of feedback on your work before marketing, network with other crafts people, and look at getting provincial help for trade shows through the Creative Industries Fund.
Larch Wood Canada has a beautiful new retail space in Wolfville at 420 Main Street.