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Sun, Mar. 7th, 2010, 11:33 am
Manufacturing happiness

The "manufacturing" part is important. I'm grabbing the bull of life by the balls and making it my bitch, to put it one way. I am way, way happier now than I was when I moved here because I've taken matters into my own hands and jumped into things head-first.

I've spent the past three weeks or so working on my picture frame idea. Well, much of that time has been spent building, rebuilding, and buying tools so I can make frames quickly. Plan A is to make and sell high-end picture frames of local hardwoods. Plan A2 is to also do the custom matting and such with my frames. Plan B is to make just the moldings, meaning, turn boards into shaped/profiled pieces ready to be assembled, and sell them to framing shops. I've talked to only one framing place so far but it was encouraging. Dude said that all of their moldings and the ones that the other frame shops use come from China, are made of who-knows-what-kind of wood, and are pre-painted with who-knows-what-kind of paint.

I figured I wouldn't be able to compete with that and I'm probably right. Also, frame shops staple their frames together, which is vastly quicker than what I do. I glue the corners and when the glue is dry I bore a hole across the joint, glue in a piece of matching-size dowel, and then sand it flush (I read about the technique online). It makes for a very strong joint, and my miters are so much tighter than anything I've seen from framing places.

I've come to appreciate why custom framing is so expensive. Starting with a board and ending up with a fully assembled, framed/matted photo takes me 3-4 hours, which is a LOT of time. Making just the moldings takes about 45 minutes, so you can see why that's the avenue I want to pursue. I doubt that the market for my own custom hardwood frames and matting is very large, though I'm going to try. I'm sure that the market for custom hardwood molding is much greater and it takes a lot less time for me to do it so I'm going to aim for that. If the fully assembled custom frame market doesn't work out I can always just do that for my own photos for galleries.

Which leads me to the next good thing. I have three large-ish framed (using the aluminum frames I've had for too long) photos up at a local gallery! The owner of the place is a woodworker that I met at a meeting of the local woodworking society. I barely got in at the last minute and my name wasn't on the guide for the art walk but I'm just glad I got some stuff on the walls. I spent Friday night at the gallery for the First Friday Art Walk, Eugene's equivalent to Eureka's Arts Alive. I drank free beer and wine, talked to the locals who came by, and met a couple of other artists.

One dude, Tim, said that he admired my photos and really wants to learn how to shoot film. I told him that I admired his Photoshop skills that he applied to his photos, so we exchanged info and are going to teach each other. Sweet!

The gallery also has an infoshop/lending library. I picked up a flier there for the Eugene Free School. I know almost nothing about it but it looks like it's a group of people who teach various things for free/barter. They're having an intro to welding class that I'm going to take. I probably know a fair amount of it already but maybe not, as I haven't actually been taught what I'm doing.

The bartender for the night was this girl named Ashlee who works at the Cornbread Cafe, a tasty new vegan place run out of an RV next to the gallery building, owned by woodworker dude, his wife, and another business partner. Ashlee and I talked quite a bit throughout the night and I got a definite sense that she is interested in me in some way. I got her number and I'm going to call her this week. She smokes, not a lot I don't think, but still, that could be a deal-breaker, assuming we even get to that point. My approach these days is to not have an approach; I'm just talking to people and seeing what happens. Maybe I'll date Ashlee on a casual basis, maybe not, maybe nothing at all will happen, but I'll be happy regardless of any of those outcomes. It's a nice feeling. At the very least I'm hoping that she'll help me hone my skills as a people photographer (=I want her to model for me), as I've been getting back into that lately.

I took a bunch of photos of this totally awesome friend I've made named Dena. She and I get along REALLY well. One of her traits I like the most that she speaks her mind and doesn't sugar-coat things, just like me. She's very outgoing and spunky and fun to be around. I'm not expecting anything more than friendship to develop with her, but I'd be lying if I said that I don't feel an attraction to her. She's quite cute (including her brilliantly green hair) but a lot of what I find attractive about her is her personality. Anyway, I'm taking the same approach here: hang out and see what happens. At the very least we'll be great friends.

I'm meeting with a woman tomorrow who writes erotic short stories. I found her request for a photographer on Craigslist and we've been emailing back and forth for a couple of weeks. She wants an author photo, though not one with her face in it, as she also writes for a conservative crowd. I think she also wants a photo for the cover. Either way, I'm glad to oblige because I need more practice with people photos and doing the cover for a book would be really great.

I've also responded to another CL ad by a blogger who wants someone to do photos of her semi-strange ideas to put on her blog. She wants to model in strange places wearing mustaches and funky clothes and such. I think it's great, as I've been wanting to do something more "edgy" than my usual.

Oh, I talked to Tony, the woodworker who owns the gallery, about learning the craft from him. He's quite into the idea, so I'm going to spend some time at his shop watching and asking questions. He's a cool dude and I'm glad I've pursued this with him.

Last Wednesday I went to a meeting of Greenlane, which is an organization of businesses involved in all things "green" and sustainable and such. I had been meaning to go for a while but kept putting it off. It went very well. Before the guest speaker came on, each of us stood up and introduced ourselves. One guy at the end of the introductions said that he owns a solar business and "wants to talk to that young man over there", referring to me. I had talked to one of his employees who was eating at the same table as me who had said that they might have a need for someone to handle the incentive paperwork and explain the process to customers. I talked to the owner for a bit and I like him and he liked me. He didn't talk of a job specifically but he gave me his card and I'm going to contact him.

The big difference between the me of Eugene now and the me of Humboldt then is that I'm charging ahead with all of this and doing things the right way. I am FINALLY pursuing my photography as more than just a hobby that I do for myself and I am meeting people in various ways who can help me with that. I'm going to make a bunch of frames, put my photos in them, and get into as many galleries as possible. It turns out that I'm a damn good photographer; my photos are better than most of the ones in that gallery, but any time I feel like I'm exceptional all I have to do is look at what the real pros produce. I'm pursuing galleries to promote both my photography and my frames at the same time. I'm getting into the artist scene around here and I'm working on doing some free/barter photography to get myself started. In short, I'm a revitalized me and it's great. I knew I was stagnating in Humboldt and though it took some time for me to get my act together once I moved here, it's working.

I've also been dramatically ramping up my bike riding. I did three 21 mile rides this past week and my aim is to get up to doing that every week. My legs are getting pretty burly and I'm pushing myself harder than I have before. I splurged and got new pedals and shoes for my bike so I can clip in and actually attach myself to my bike the way real race people do. Tess was right, it makes a huge difference because I can now pedal on the upstroke as well as the down. I am getting frustrated, however, by my bike itself. It's a really nice mountain bike with high-end components but it isn't very good as a road/race bike, which is what I want. I've put the skinniest tires I can on it but they're still 3-4 times wider than road bike tires. Its gearing is too low and while it's light for a mountain bike, it's a bit heavy for a road bike. I'm hoping that my various ventures will produce enough income for me to buy a nice road bike on Craigslist. I figure $300-ish will get me something good.

I've been hemorrhaging money like crazy lately, adding over a grand to my credit card. At $50 per router bit, getting setup to make frames is expensive. I decided to ignore my former self and just jump in with both feet and go into debt to get started. That's how people do this sort of thing, I realized, and it also serves as a great motivation to really do this.

I'm still unemployed and I am more than a little nervous that my framing/molding idea won't pan out, but I'm trying my hardest to see that it does. I don't plan to make a full income doing this, but I figure it's something that can help, I enjoy doing it, and it'll get me by until I get a "real" job. The electric car place is still a possibility (and a spectacular one at that) but I'm not counting on it. Maybe this woodworking and photography stuff will really take off and I won't need to find a "real" job, but I'm being realistic and figuring that that may not be how things work out. Despite my incredible motivation, I have to remember that there are things beyond my control and I'm doing all of this in the worst economy in 80 years.

Life is great, mostly. Compared to where I was a year ago, I'm no better financially but incalculably better mentally and I'm putting a lot of irons in a lot of fires, so the financial side of things will improve too.