Hi folks! I know I’ve been quiet for awhile. It’s been a hard time for me here. I had hoped that I could have the situation all resolved in a few weeks and then I wouldn’t have to post any kind of explanation at all other than “Been busy! Sorry!” But it’s not going to be resolved that quickly so I’ve decided to tell you about what’s been going on.
This is going to be reading-heavy. Sorry about that.
The workshop that I lovingly refer to as The Adamant Studio (or more recently Inkblade Studios as I move closer to incorporating my business) was located in the back room of my apartment. WAS. I had to decommission it, and this is why:
I’ve been making swords out of 1 inch thick (25mm) acrylic. I decided to move up to 2 inch thick (50mm) material so I could have wider hand guards and more 3D detail in general. Unfortunately, this thickness was too much for Nibbles my band saw to handle and it broke. The blade snapped. I tried to fit it with a new blade and discovered that the driving wheels inside the machine had been jarred out of alignment. What does that mean?
That means that the saw blade comes flying off the machine when I turn it on. That’s a bit of a problem.
I tried to complete the remaining 8 orders I had for the year with a table saw and my plunge cutter Jitterbug. Unfortunately, the table saw is much louder than Nibbles. The neighbours complained about the noise and the landlord forbade me from using the back room as a workshop anymore.
So what happens now?
Now, I must look for a workshop to rent where I can do my crafting again. This is not as easy as it sounds. I am a Canadian living in Finland and I don’t speak Finnish. Most of the inquiries I made received no response. One place I went to see is in the building’s bomb shelter two floors below ground. The air filtration is kind of … questionable. The “flooring” is made of old, loose boards that are not nailed down. Yeeeey. All this for the jolly price of 400 euros per month.
Yes, you read that right. 400 euros or $439.24 US per month. My swords usually sell for 200-300 euros depending on the model. I don’t get to keep very much of that money. Out of the price of each sword comes the shipping (about 41 euros depending on where it’s going), the materials (the acrylic, leather, paint, LED mechanism), and the saw blades, sanding belts, sandpaper … you get the idea. What actually goes into my pocket is a number much, much smaller than 200.
I usually make two swords per month because I’m carving thick acrylic by hand, and it’s slow work. I physically cannot work any faster because the machines I have just can’t chew through the material any faster.
“Hang on a minute,” you might think at this point. “If Ethan makes two swords a month and they cost us 200 euros each to buy … he gets 400 euros. But the workshop costs 400 euros to rent. That means …”
“Ethan is working for free.”
Kind of. I still have to buy the materials and pay the shipping fees.
“Ethan is working for minus dollars?! what?“
You got it. Ethan is spending money to make swords. That’s not a very good business plan. So, is it all over then? Do I stop making swords? No. I don’t get to call myself the Iron Brother if I give up that easily.
I’ll keep looking. That’s what I’ll do. There’s a possibility that I may be able to get a work space for 180 euros a month. Yes, I know that’s still not very much money for me at the end of the day but it’s still better than losing money to do my job.
What I really need to make this work, though is better machines. I’ve been making do with little hobby saws and things that are just not made for any kind of industrial manufacturing. I need to make more than two swords per month and to make that possible, I need a CNC router machine. One of these:
How much does that cost? Funny you should ask that … it’s about 3000 euros. Haaaaaa … *head desk* Yay. Yeah that’s quite the investment. But all is not lost.
The Finnish government has a wonderful program called the Startup Grant Program. It’s for people who are starting a new business in Finland and need a little extra cash to get everything up and running. I have to make a business plan, a budget, and then apply and cross my fingers, pray to the Angel that they say “yes” and give me funding.
This machine can cut several swords for me in a matter of hours. Instead of taking two to three weeks per sword, I could have one ready for you in less than a week. I would be able to keep some swords in stock so you could buy them whenever you need one and you would only have to wait for it to arrive. No more waiting in queue for a crafting slot. I could afford to lower the prices of the swords so more people could have them. It would change everything. It would allow my business to survive.
I’ll tell you the truth guys, because the Shadowhunter fandom received the award for the Best New Fandom. I feel safe telling you all these things because our fan community isn’t full of haters. It’s full of love and support and good attitudes. I don’t have to worry about being ridiculed or trolled for sharing with you when I’m having a problem.
For me, making these swords isn’t about the money. It’s about loving the Mortal Instruments series. It’s about loving Cassandra Claire for sharing her magical, imaginative world with us. It’s about creating beautiful things and sharing them with you. It’s about learning and discovery and pushing my skills to uncover new ways of crafting things.
Art is my life. And this … I don’t have words to tell you how much I want to finish the sword in my hands right now. It hurts my heart. I get a lump in my throat when I set foot in the back room of my apartment, mostly empty now. And silent. I sit at my computer and endlessly refresh the listings for workspaces for rent, hoping to see a new one pop up that I can inquire about.
I feel like a Shadowhunter stripped of his marks: useless. Unable to do the task I was made for, despite how badly I want to.
So, yeah, I’m frustrated and sad and tired right now. I will keep trying. I appreciate how kind and patient everybody has been and I hope you will understand. I could really use a turn of luck right about now. Fingers crossed everybody.
Thanks for hearing me out. Much love, and stay safe out there Shadowhunters. ❤