Tuesday, 26 February 2013

profile scott snella - berkshire bowls.

scott snella of berkshire bowls

This week for something a little different, I thought I would turn my attention on design for little people (which is also very aesthetically pleasing to big people too).It was while leisurely browsing deep within an album on pininterest, followed by a bit of detective linking, that I discovered the work of US based artisan Scott Snella of Berkshire Bowls. Initially starting out making wood turned bowls three years ago, the purchase of a new piece of machinery prompted Scott to try more intricate creations and ever since his puzzles have been a labour of fun and a wonderful creative outlet. Beautifully made from wood, with a lovely handmade touch,it's the details which are perhaps most charming. I love the little smile of the whale above, and the penguin's slightly cranky expression. Checkout the entire collection here. Although the US postage is a little steep, it's value can't be compared to something plastic and disposable from a department store. Think of it as a long term investment in an wooden artisan piece you'll love forever- that's what I was thinking when I clicked 'buy'!

How would you describe yourself?
Creative, funny, kind, artistic and logical.

What was your childhood dream?
My childhood dream was to become a baseball player.

What led you down your current path?
I started the sports game website had worked on it for several years and was looking for a change. I bought my lathe, made a few things and got word of some of the craft selling sites online.  After I taught high school for a year (2009-2010) I spend the summer in Florida thinking about what I wanted to do. That’s when I decided to launch Berkshire Bowls.

What do you love most about what you do?
I like the creativity of making new puzzles and the challenge of fulfilling all the stages of the business cycle, like keeping inventory at a healthy level, working with customers to get just the right piece, etc.

Where do feel most inspired?
I probably feel most inspired in the woods. I would really love a home that was in the middle of them so I could be inspired 24-7.

Who do you admire?
I admire a number of people.  My parents (of course), artisans who create wonderful things from scratch, and people who have created successful businesses from nothing, are just a few.

What challenges have you had to overcome?
I think with respect to Berkshire bowls, there have been a few challenges. First, designing something that people want.  When I started, I was making bowls and boxes.  While customers liked them and bought them, it wasn’t until I started making puzzles that the business started picking up. 

Second, making sure your business name is out there. Marketing is a full time job in and of itself. Although I am a marketing major, there are realities that you need to learn.  One of the big ones was that marketing doesn’t just mean selling. It means creating awareness and driving people to your online store.

Finally, there is the challenge of capital. When you start out, you have to build a customer base. Finding money to live on and grow the business is always tough.  Luckily I have owned and operated a sports simulation game website, Simgalaxy for several years. That income helps to allow me to grow Berkshire Bowls through time.

What do you enjoy about working with timber?
What is there not to enjoy? The smell, the feel, it is great. It is an easy material to manipulate if you know how. It is no wonder our ancestors used it to build just about everything.

Do you have a favourite creation?
It is funny, my favourite is just about whatever puzzle I created last. Pretty much every time I create a puzzle, I take a look at it and say, wow, this one is fantastic design, I love it!  After you make about 20 of them, that wears off, but, each one holds a special place in my heart.

For example, I thought the Koala puzzle was really cute when I made him.  I got the idea when I found that there were a healthy number of customers in Australia.  When I realized this, I started thinking of Australian animals.  I just couldn’t come up with something that stood on its own (I don’t think I have seen a picture of a Koala NOT in a tree). It wasn’t until I decided to just include the tree that the idea started coming together.  I have also found that it takes a while for something to catch on.  If I want a piece to be popular by Christmas, it needs to be in the store by July.  That way people can see it and like it.

What's been a 'pinch yourself' moment?
There have been a couple ‘pinch yourself’ moments.  I think one of the biggest ones was when my first brick and mortar store approached me about carrying my things.It is just a great feeling to know that someone thinks enough of your creation to place it on their shelves.

Another would be my first sale.  Anyone can take some photos, pay an online retail site $X to open a shop and set up a Paypal account.  It isn’t until someone in the world thinks enough of your creation to order one and place it on their table, shelf or in their playroom. It is really humbling.

What are your top creative resources?
1.  The internet – I use the net like people use to use encyclopedias. I often use it to look-up photos of animals and other objects that I decide to do puzzles of. 
2.  Friends – I make my friends and family sit down and brainstorm about good ideas for puzzles all the time. I write them down, then revisit them when I feel like drawing.
3.  Stores – Just walking down the isles of my local department store gives me ideas. It also lets me know what’s out there that is popular.
4.  Videos (Internet and TV) – No question that videos give me creative ideas.  They are less about specific subject matter and more about a new type of item or a new technique, though.

What is your idea of happiness?
I guess happiness would be being able to create great things in my shop and walking out the front barn door to a 75 degree day.  Having my friends and family there to enjoy it and having enough resources to continue doing that, day after day at my pace.

What's next?
I wish I knew. That’s the great thing, this is a journey.  If you asked me when I started what my top selling product would be in 2 years, I would not have said puzzles. In fact, I wouldn’t have even said I would be doing them.  So, what’s next?  I would like to continue to develop new puzzles, but, I would also like to branch out into toys.  I do think that as there are more and more plastic toys out there, there is also a bigger market for toys and games that are made from natural resources.

When the weekend rolls around what do you love to:
Read – I read a little, but, mostly before bed.
Watch- I am a Moonshiners and Gold Rush guy (Discovery Channel)
Cook- Not so much, I do, but, am not a gourmet.
Create- Creating never stops. Always thinking of new wood items.
Listen to- I like rock and roll, so, yes, I often will turn it on.
Dream about- The next adventure waiting to happen.
Look forward to- The new day.