---- — Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Walter Putrycz of Wallywoodshop in Franklin.
How long have you lived in the area?
Since the mid-1980s, I started coming up this way more and more often from the city. By the late 1980s, I decided to stay here. Friends in the city said that I would be back in a month, then they said I would be back in a year, then it was three years. Now I don't think about living anywhere but here.
Tell me about your business:
I make things out of wood. Since moving up here, I have had to reinvent myself four or five times, and my business evolved into what it is. I make cutting boards that are very useful, but some people like to display them as art also. I use nine different patterns in a variety of sizes and wood types.
Describe a typical day in your business:
Every day is different, but I am taking the work seriously instead of a hobby, so I spend a lot of time looking at wood grains, cutting, sanding and polishing. Two days a week, I sell at the Pakatakan Round Barn on Saturdays and at the Franklin Farmers' Market on Sundays.
How did you get started in this line of work?
My job in the city was photography, but when I moved up here I began working with wood, doing trim and molding in restoration projects. I made a few cutting boards because I love to cook and they are a great gift.
I realized how much I love working with wood and as people began requesting pieces, I started selling to the point that I realized I could making a living doing this.
Where do you see this business in five years?
In five years, I would like the business to still be doing well, more orders, more customers and really make a living. This last year, I doubled the profits, which was impressive. It would be great to be able to hire someone as I pick up more business.
Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:
It is memorable to me when any customer picks up a piece that I have made to purchase and admires the craftsmanship and notices the artistry. That lets me know that I am on the right track. I had a cutting board I made sent to South Africa as a gift. and I got such a wonderful response from them, it made me feel completely enamored with humanity.
What have you learned from your work?
I have learned patience, humility and that wood is a great equalizer. I have learned about immense gratitude.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
I try to use only local wood, but there are some tree woods that are in short supply, such as black walnut. The lumber mills that I work with are reputable places and tell me what is from this region. Typically I am working with oak, cherry, ash and birch.
The most enjoyable?
Creating usable pieces of art from a renewable resource that I can make a living from. It is a very good feeling. I love to see how the wood grains are and work that into what I am making.
How do you define success for your business?
My customers help me to define that _ they appreciate the natural beauty and that it is a unique, handmade and local piece of art that is very useful. Being able to make a living working with wood is a success for me.
What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?
The advantages are that it is a wonderful life here, it is beautiful. The drawbacks are that because of the economy and lack of jobs in this area, most of my customers are people from the city. My cutting boards are expensive for people with limited incomes. The pay scale and salaries are difficult to live on here. I certainly don't want big industry here, but I would like to see better job opportunities for people to make a living.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?
The first piece of advice that comes to mind is to rethink it, rethink going to college for a master's. Having said that, I think that if you enjoy working with your hands, learn your craft, learn from others. Find someone whose work you respect and become an apprentice. I believe that everyone is an artist, but to become successful, you need to know only work with wood but you have to know wood also.
Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information or to suggest a business, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or email email@example.com.