My name is Bradley. I live near Athens, Georgia, and I make things with leftovers and scraps that I get from a variety of sources. My wife Katherine is the real wizard behind the curtain, though. She takes the photos, creates the listings, and encourages me to have a brain, a heart, and a soul. She refused to be photographed for this interview, so sorry about that!
My late father was an amazing designer and tinkerer, which I think is at the core of why I do this. Building the items in my shop is one of the first things I have ever done that has been met with reward and encouragement. The very fact that I am writing this now is proof that something is going right.
My process is pretty simple. I throw my iPod headphones in my ears, dial in a great podcast like WTF POD, or You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes, and start touching stuff in the shop. I think the noise cancels out my “what do I do?” thoughts and allows me to create. After 5 p.m., my creativity really picks up as I crack open an ice cold brain juice from Dog Fish Head Brewery or the fine folks at Pabst. When I turn the lights off in the shop at night, there are usually three or four things that I have started, ready to be finished the next day or beyond.
The most unique thing about my business just might be how easy it is for me to change direction and build new things. I try whatever comes to mind, and the bestsellers in my shop were all fluke ideas. I’m pretty sure if you asked me to create a life size Emperor Penguin made from wood, wire and glue, I would say, “Hey, that is a great idea!” and do it.
For me, Etsy is a way to create value for myself and grow my creativity. Sometimes being creative is such a solitary event – it is not always easy to collaborate and try new things when you live in a small town in Georgia. Etsy has made it possible for me to collaborate, like when I found Jacksonofalltrades, (based near L.A.) who turns vintage tins into hand-poured candles. The look and feel of those tins fit my style, so I inquired about using them in some of my designs. Being a member of the Etsy community made that collaboration possible, and the benefit is now two shops doing something together that they could not have done alone. All of our ships rise together!
This creative business has changed me in a lot of ways. Firstly, I have never been poorer. Secondly, I see things differently now. I have more courage – courage to try new things on a micro scale, due to the previously mentioned lack of funds. That change from building others’ success to building my own has been a great lesson. It has changed me into a mini-mogul — I am like the Sean Combs of scrap materials. The money is not as good, but when I walk into a saw mill or junk heap looking for scraps, I make it rain!
At the risk of sounding hokey, I have to say that buying something that was handcrafted means buying a story. Notice when you go to a friends house for dinner and they show you a painting, they describe it by telling you about the artist, where the artist is from, and how they got it. They never say, “I purchased this serving platter from the big store down the road. It was made by a person I do not know, in a country I have never been to, with materials that might or might not cause long term health complications. Isn’t it lovely?” You have a choice when you buy something to keep a designer, builder or artist going. Who knows what your input will do for their growth?
All photographs by Sintwister.