Exciting News!

After a long and difficult search, I have finally found a suitable workshop! It is 32 meters squared, has an industrial sink for wet-sanding, its own climate control, a wall of storage racks, a workbench and chair, and excellent air filtration. It has a freight elevator and hand-trucks I can use to haul in my big plastic slabs, and also a kitchen to cook and store my food in. Best of all, I can be as noisy as I like! I’ll be surrounded by mostly storage rooms, another sculptor, and a hockey-mask painter with a lovely, loud air compressor.

The only downside is that it’s in Herttoniemi which is about 45-50 minutes away from where I live. Not a terrible commute as it’s mostly on the metro line, and frankly many people have a longer trip than that so I won’t complain. Much. Hehehe.

Herttoniemi has a lot of industry in it, especially automotive shops. There are several huge hardware stores within easy walking distance of my workshop. That means re-supplying tools and machine parts will be easier than ever!

I’m really looking forward to working near other people, to be honest. Having a workshop in my home was pretty convenient but also usually lonely. I could go an entire day without going outside or talking to someone other than my wife when she comes home from work. While I’m pretty introverted, I do need people-time now and then or I get sad.

So, Monday is going to be a very busy day for me. In the morning, I will go to register my business. That means I get my registration number and notify the tax man of my company’s existence. Then, in the afternoon, I go to sign the lease for the new workshop. Yaaaay!

After that, I’ll need to poke the Startup Grant people in hopes of getting some financial assistance with my newborn company. Wish me luck! I’ll put up some photos of the new space as soon as I’m able.

Small Update on the Workshop Hunt

Hi guys! What’s with all the posts without pictures? Ugh, boring, I know. Well hopefully, I’ll have something cool to show you soon!

I’ve been put in contact with someone who owns a building that used to be a big laboratory. That means that it has things like fume hoods and water hookups already in place. It may just be perfect for me! So cross your fingers and pray to the Angel and perhaps I can secure a new crafting spot for myself in the near future.

Love y’all ❤ Stay safe out there Shadowhunters.

Updated Gallery

Hi everybody! Just a quick note to let you know I updated my gallery with some new images. There are some sensational cosplays there and I’m so grateful to the Shadowhunters who sent me photos with the swords I sent to them. 🙂

Feel free to check it out here.

The Hunt Continues

Hi guys! Getting squirmy waiting for news? Me too. I’ve made many inquiries to potential places I could set up my workshop. I’ve learned some things that, while frustrating, will help me succeed.

They don’t like independent artists. Seriously. Building owners want to deal with “official businesses”, not individuals. For some reason “people” make them nervous but “companies” are quite alright.

But don’t get discouraged at this news. (I tell this to myself as much as you guys haaaaaah …) It just means I have to change my tactics. I have to push hard to get my business plan completed and submit it to NewCo Helsinki. That’s the place that helps new business owners get established. You can’t imagine how grateful I am that someone’s helping me out with this! I’d be lost. I’m an artist, not a businessman! … well I guess I’m kind of both now.

I never expected to become a full-time costume props maker. I just kind of … fell into it because, well, it’s the thing I love doing most of all. 🙂 You should see me at Halloween. I go bonkers. 😄

Whoops, I got distracted.

Anyway! The other thing I learned is that a lot of building owners really don’t want to deal with me because I speak English, not Finnish. I have some basic Finnish skills and I’m studying the language but it’s going to be a long time before I’m good enough to understand all the legalese that I need to use to negotiate and sign contracts.

I don’t have that kind of time on my hands. I have swords waiting to be finished and I need a space like … a month ago. So a few of my amazing Finnish friends are helping me out by translating my inquiries into Finnish to have a better chance of persuading building owners to talk to me.

I’ll admit it, this is really hard. I’m trying to stay positive about it. I usually do National Novel Writing Month at this time of year but … I just don’t have it in me this time. I feel pretty drained.

Iron Brother is sad. Boo. Oh well. Keep on keepin’ on. On the upside, I have some new photos to upload in the gallery if I can remember to do it! Haha. Okay that’s all from me for now. Keep your chin up guys. 😉

Having a Rough Time – Announcement

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 …” 

Yes.

“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:

hope-tool

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. ❤

Hey! What’s the Hold-Up?

No, I’m not dead. Yet.

Once again, I’d like to thank the Shadowhunters who have ordered blades from me for their stellar patience. You guys are the best!

I’m currently doing my best to cut through the two-inch acrylic with Jitterbug and the newest member of Inkblade Studios: Hellscream.

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Hellscream is a circular table saw which, much like Nibbles before it, only cuts in straight lines. It is even more adamant about this policy than Nibbles was, in fact and will SHRIEK LIKE THE SOULS OF THE DAMNED at the slightest provocation. Hellscream’s favourite things include: lurking under the work table, screaming, biting anything that comes close enough, and flinging bits of hot melted plastic at me.

Jitterbug and Hellscream make for an awkward duo to accomplish the task of cutting the sword outlines. It’s rather like hunting demons with a box-cutter and a cannon. I either have to chip away at it with many small cuts or make big, not spectacularly accurate cuts while trying not to damage anything I want to keep intact.

It’s getting done it’s just … slow. And quite frustrating. Boo. Wish me luck guys! We’ll git ‘r done one way or another.

Having a Little Trouble

Wow look at that awesome sword! … what? You can’t see it? It’s inside that block of plastic there. It’s going to be spectacular as soon as I can get it out. When? Um … well, the thing about that is …

Nibbles is broken. My band-saw, Nibbles, is doing poorly at the moment. Something’s happened to the alignment of the wheels and the saw blade keeps popping off them. I’ve tried everything I can think of to fix it but the fact is, I’m an artist, not a mechanic.

So, I have six orders left to complete before the year’s end … and no band saw. This makes Ethan sad. Sad and quite frustrated. Making people pretty things and bringing them joy is my happiness. Kind of like Santa Clause without the awesome beard.

I’m working with slabs of two inch (5 cm) thick acrylic instead of my usual 1 inch in hopes of being able to do more 3D cross guards and generally have more freedom of design. I didn’t take into account that Nibbles would not be on board with my decision.

Nibbles is NOT on board with my decision. Nibbles chewed on that bit of acrylic for about twenty minutes and had a breakdown. It’s now packed away in the corner of the workshop questioning its life choices. I may just join it there cause holy cow I am super frustrated.

What am I gonna do? Well, my current game plan is to visit the hardware store tonight and search for something a little bit more robust than a hobbyist band saw. Maybe a chainsaw. No, I’m not even remotely joking. I just need something to strong enough to strap the plastic to and I will take a fracking chainsaw to it if that’s what I have to do.

No, I don’t think you quite understand.

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This slab of plastic weighs as much as I do. The tablesaw I bought specifically to cut pieces off of it is too small to handle it. The chunk I removed to make the sword I’m working on (stalled on) right now took over 3 hours of sawing with that big beautiful wood saw you can see there. I’m going to have amazing shoulder muscles when I’ve finished my commissions for the year.

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You can see where the table saw started crying for mercy.

So uh, that’s my update for now. What will happen next? Not even I know. Stay tuned for more insanity from Inkblade Studios!