Before I delve into this topic, I want to say I love the design, scale and most of the challenges of architectural work. I love the impact it has on a space. I love being able to create a haven for myself and others. I want to keep doing this kind of work.
This work breaks your body. Everyone I know who does this work has to live with the long term impacts of architectural work on their body. Joint surgeries, tendonitis, COPD, are all common issues I hear about from my friends and colleagues. When you do this work again and again the processes wear on you. There's a considerable amount of heavy lifting. There are particulates from grinding and the stress from repetition.
I've seen the way many large successful shops work. They hire lots of workers, often at a low wage and grind out repetitive work day in and day out. There's usually a lot of turn over and not a lot of customization. I do not want a business like that.
Mass produced ironwork is the fast food of the metalworking business. What I value is more akin to the slow food movement. Slow food is a response to the popularity of fast food. It seeks to produce food that is 1. Good (healthy for you) 2. Clean (Production that minimizes harm to the environment) 3. Fair (Prices that are fair to the consumer and conditions that are fair to the workers.) These are a great analogy to my personal values.
1. Good - I care very much about the how my work functions and I create my work to suit the tastes of the owner and fit within the design elements of the home.
2. Clean - I would love to minimize certain processes in my work. The grinding process creates a lot of particulates. Most disposable items used are a part of the finishing process. If I could minimize the amount of welding I could vastly reduce the use of these items and the particulates created. Unfortunately welding is the quickest and sometimes only way to join material. I am trying to secure more work where mechanical joins can be used and certain finishing processes can be eliminated.
I do not usually use paints, or plastics. I prefer natural wax finishes whenever possible. I do not use plastic caps, fasteners or other wasteful and inferior parts.
3. Fair- I only seek to make a living and pay for the overhead of my shop with my prices. Because my work is specialized and deliberate it takes a lot of time and it is hard to hit those financial goals. I pay above a living wage and my starting wage is above that of most similar shops. I try to alternate the work my employees do so they don't have to spend days in a row grinding and I provide them with PPE.
My values as an entrepreneur and an artist has made my job harder than it could have been. I am not going to compromise on my values. What I aim to do is to focus on precuring fewer jobs that I can devote my time and attention to. I want to do architectural work. I love doing architectural work. I want to do fewer jobs per year of a higher quality.
In order to achieve this vision I am also launching a line of bronze hardware that will hopefully be a good baseline for my business and help with cash flow. I'm looking forward to working on projects that help me to grow as an artist and will allow me to be more intentional with my business.