Friday, November 7, 2014

{Photo Friday} When following your passion turns into a business: Q&A with Ginny and Doug of Erickson Wood Works

Ginny & Doug Erickson. Photos on this post without my watermark are courtesy of Erickson Wood Works.
I find inspiration around me all the time and I have found that the more open I am to it, the more varied that inspiration is. Sometimes it’s as simple as stepping out of the building at work around dusk and seeing a spectacular display of wispy clouds and a Big Stick colored sky. Other times, it’s talking over the spark of an idea with someone and watching that spark ignite into a full-blown lightbulb moment, literally taking my breath away.

Then there are those days when I find myself on sites like Etsy and get lost reading their "quit your day job" profiles about creative folks who follow their passion and are making a living at it. If you’re like me and those stories inspire you to follow a dream, I have a treat for you today because I have one of those kinds of stories to share with you.

Back in early September, I received an email from Ginny Erickson, one half of the husband and wife team behind the Orange County-based Erickson Wood Works. She wanted to introduce me to their product line of custom wood photo backgrounds.

At first I thought, well, why would I buy boards when I have made my own on several occasions, even posting a how-to here on the blog for other bloggers to do the same?

But then I followed her link to their Pinterest account which lead me to their Etsy store and that was it. I knew then I needed a board. From them. Now. No paint stains on my hands, jeans or floor, thankyouverymuch.

Their work is stunningly beautiful. Since that introductory email, I’ve worked with Ginny to create two different custom boards (and will soon be ordering a third). These are double-sided folks so I actually have four new surfaces to play with. Now to be clear, I’m not being compensated for this post nor was this post their idea. It was completely my idea because once I saw their work, I knew I had many blogging readers and photographer friends who would fall in love with these boards as much as I have. And let me repeat, I absolutely love them. Just take a look:


These chocolate madeleines are shot on my latest board with this dark turquoise finish on one side and a black and mottled gold/red/yellow on the other side which I'll be shooting on this weekend. In the meantime, you can see an example of it here. I really like the slight distressing that Ginny added to this side. (Psst. I'll be posting a review of the new cookbook, Madeleines, that these chocolate lovelies came from next week so stay tuned!)

Here is my first board with a Kona finish on one side which you've all ready seen on my kale salad post. However, here it's shown straight out of camera with no post-processing filter:


In this shot, I used the Kona side as a backdrop. I love how you can still see the texture even through the in-camera bokeh (blurring).


The Dark Gray finish is on the flip side of the Kona board (actually, more of a dark charcoal, which I love!). These boards are finished beautifully with so much attention to detail. A far cry from my hastily painted planks with uneven paint and rough edges that give me splinters every other time I use them.

So, without further ado, I’m going to let them tell you a little bit about themselves: (Now, do read all the way to the end and you’ll find a special gift for you from Ginny & Doug!)

Q: Names and ages? 

Gin: Doug & Ginny Erickson, both 35

Q: How long have you been married? 

Gin: We just celebrated our 11-year anniversary this summer!

Q: Eleven years? Congratulations! So, is this the first time you guys have teamed up professionally? 

Gin: Yes, definitely, haha.

Q: I'm curious, especially because this is such a niche market, are your backgrounds in photography or art? 

Gin: Neither of us have backgrounds in photography or art, although it’s something both of us have played around with in the past – Doug on the photography side and me on the artistic side. This new venture has definitely taken on a life of it’s own though!

Doug: I took a introduction to photography class in middle school and learned the process of developing film with chemicals. I can still remember the smell of dektol and the feeling I had successfully rolling film in pitch black darkness. Photography was certainly more of a technical art prior to digital, but I am still really impressed when I see a truly spectacular photograph. I have recently become interested in food photography in particular and I am completely blown away by the sheer number of people who photograph food. The community is quite connected and I am really enjoying getting to know really artistic foodie’s.

Q: I know what you mean, Doug. I'm still blown away over how connected and supportive this food blogging community is after seven years of blogging myself. So, tell me, how did you get into making these gorgeous boards? 

Gin: It was kind of a fluke! Doug had been making and selling headboards on Etsy, and was contacted by a portrait photographer to build a large 6’x6’ double-sided platform for her photo shoots. He posted those images on Etsy and we were then contacted by a local food blogger who asked us for some smaller scale boards and mentioned that she thought a lot of bloggers would be interested in our boards. Doug and I looked at each other and said, “huh?”. That’s an idea! And it kind of grew from there. The first blogger referred another blogger to us, and she referred another. And then we started reaching out to a few food bloggers on our own and were really excited by the responses we were getting. I keep telling people that ask, this is the first time in my adult life where I am doing something I love, being creative, and (bonus) getting paid for it!

Doug: It has been a challenge balancing craftsmanship, functionality, and affordability. I believe that food photographers are more concerned with a great finish that can be easily cleaned than having a museum piece. Using affordable and easily accessible materials makes it easier for us to offer double sided real wood backgrounds at a reasonable price.

Q: Well, as I've already stated, I love the craftsmanship and how easy the surface cleans up. So you've been doing this about a year now, is this a full-time job for you both or are you hoping to make it into full-time in the future?

Gin: Doug works full-time in education and really started all this as a hobby. This has become my full-time job. I’ve worked for the past 12 years in the real estate industry, going to part-time after our kids were born, and was laid off this past November. I started helping Doug in the garage with the headboards but it wasn’t cutting it, and as we got into summer and thought ahead to the fall, with both kids in school for the first time, I would need to find a real job. Yikes! I asked Doug how many boards I needed to sell per month in order to continue working from home and being available for our kids. Doug gave me the bottom line and I went to work to make it happen. And then the most amazing thing happened – I did it! And, I found out in the process that I loved it!

Q: I know you’re currently running Erickson Wood Works from a home workshop. Has that been difficult? How are you coping with balancing home life and work life?

Gin: Now that the kids are both in school during the week, it’s become a lot easier to balance working and being available for the kids. During school hours, I work. When I pick them up, I go into mommy mode. It’s the best of both worlds.

Q: What does a typical day look like?

Gin: I try to get the boards packaged up the night before I want to ship them so I can make a Fedex run right after school dropoff. Then back home where I work on emails and customer communication. I figure out which boards I need to work on that day and then head out to the workshop to do that. I have to be really disciplined with the email portion of my day – the thing I’ve found in communicating with food bloggers is that they are such an amazing group of kind, funny, interesting people, and I easily get wrapped up in the “fun” part of talking with them! In the evening, Doug and I usually head back out to the workshop and put our boards together and figure out how many we will need that week and how many we have ready to go.

Doug: I put in a 40-50 hours a week at the office, but really enjoy coming home to express my creative side. Working with my wife has been a really rewarding experience.

Gin: Aw, babe! That’s so sweet!

Q: Speaking of the packaging, I love it. It feels like Christmas when I open my boxes! My boards have been so well protected for shipment. Ok, so I've tried working with friends before and inevitably, it hasn't worked out because we tend to both want to do the same thing. Given that this is a husband and wife team, do your skills and/or interests overlap or do you find one of you gravitating towards the hands on creative side and the other towards the business?

Gin: Doug is very much the practical, make a spreadsheet and figure out all the details kind of guy. Which is very helpful for me, because I’m not! He helps balance me out that way. But what’s been really cool for me is seeing him being so creative and artistic as he thinks up new boards. It’s really a new side of him – I love it!

Q: I've spoken in the past about finding and keeping inspiration at the ready to combat creative lulls. Where does your inspiration come from?

Gin: Well, basically, I have an actual excuse now to spend hours on Pinterest :) There are just so many beautiful ideas out there and that’s a great way to see them all.

Doug: My main concern is creating great backgrounds to meet customer needs. Giving them the tools they need to make their inspiration a reality. My greatest excitement comes when we get positive feedback and see our work online.

Q: What’s your design process like?

Gin: We’ve gone through several changes with our boards, seeing which is the most effective and efficient to mock up our boards. We’ve settled on a process now that we think works well, but I feel like it’s constantly evolving as we learn more. As far as the finish techniques, we have our Signature finishes that are pretty popular (Shabby Chic, Distressed White, Antique Turquoise, and Dark Walnut) and then we have some unique, custom finishes that are just a blast to experiment with and see what evolves.

Doug: We try to keep our focus on craftsmanship, affordability, and functionality. It is easy to go on Instagram and be overwhelmed by the amazing work that is being done, so keeping a positive attitude about your skills and your place in the market is important.

Q: Oh, I love that, Doug! What's the feedback been like from photographers? Your family?

Gin: We’ve had great feedback from photographers. One of my favorites was a very sweet blogger whose posts and photos noticeably improved after she got our boards. We complimented her on them and she said that her new boards had re-inspired her and motivated her to work on her photography. Whoa! So rad.

Our family is super supportive as well. It’s funny because my sister and her business partner have been refinishing and refurbishing furniture for years, using a lot of the techniques that we have started using. I go to her with loads of questions, she’s basically my finish consultant. And one of my little brothers also does a lot of reclaimed wood installations in people’s homes and for remodeling projects. It’s funny to see how we’ve all gravitated this way!

Doug: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. One of our highest priorities is to give customers a different kind of experience in terms of communication. No matter how big we get, this isn’t going to change.

Q: What do you feel is your biggest challenge?

Gin: So, of all the things I love about running our small business, being a part of the food blogger community, and getting to be creative, there is one major downside: No high heels. It’s seriously a tragedy. All these cute heels in my closet that are sadly not sawdust-friendly!

Doug: Logistics and shipping.

Q: Hahaha. That's funny, Ginny. Looking ahead, where do you see Erickson Wood Works in say, five years?

Gin: I hope that in five years Erickson Wood Works has become a well known and respectable business with return clients that are involved in many different fields of photography- food bloggers and stylists, restaurants, fashion photographers, and product photographers.

Doug: We are still a very small business, but we see a need in the market. If people are still photographing food in five years, we will be here!

Q: Any non-Erickson Wood Works related hobbies or interests you'd like to share?

Gin: I’m an avid runner and so grateful to live where there are great trails and beautiful neighborhoods all around!

Doug: Woodworking

Thank you, Doug and Ginny for answering questions and sharing your inspiring work with us today!


So here’s the skinny on the boards

They are 100% hand-crafted custom photo panels. Their standard photo backdrops are 22” x 34” and are not individual planks but are securely fashioned as full on boards with metal brackets on the short sides to reinforce them so they don’t warp with use (the brackets can be easily removed if needed). When you order, you can order a finish on one side and a different finish on the other, essentially getting two backgrounds in one.

And now for the gift part of this post

I’m super stoked to announce that Erickson Wood Works are giving Confessions of a Foodie readers a discount code to apply at their Etsy store for 10% off any custom board!

Head on over to their Pinterest board to see various options, then head on over to their Etsy store and see what’s available. Feel free to send them an email through the “Contact the seller” form on Etsy if you have any questions or want to create a custom board with some of the finishes you saw on their Pinterest board. When you’re ready to buy, enter this code during checkout:

CONFOFAFOODIE10

Erickson Wood Works on Etsy
Erickson Wood Works examples on Pinterest

Well guys, I hope you found this post inspiring. I love hearing about creative folks making a living at what they love best. Here’s to following our dreams, wherever they might take us!

Until next time…
xo, Ani


5 comments:

  1. I ordered my first Erickson board last month and I LOVE it. I'm so tempted to use this discount code to order another board so I have more options. My current board is dark walnut and charcoal and the dark finishes photograph beautifully.

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    1. Hi Karis! Welcome! Aren't these boards gorgeous? I love their work. It's hard for me not to go crazy buying. I am thinking two more boards and I'll be set... for a while. ;)

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  2. Very tempting - gorgeous boards!

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    1. Oh Liz, they have stunning light colored boards, even a burlap board, that I think you'd love!

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