Many of you had seen me complaining about my personal situation over the past year. And many of you have become friends over the years whether or not we personally met, so I just wanted to give a quick update to those of you who are interested, and also point out my current thoughts about how this will affect my handle making.
Long story short about the background: I got screwed out of my job at the university department I was working in, made it into the top 3 in half a dozen nationwide searches for a new job, but - these are my interpretations - my age and the fact that I have a different CV than people who grew up in the US system kept people from hiring me, even though I still think I am good at what I do. I was unemployed for almost a year for the first time in my life, skidding on the verge of bankruptcy all that time, threatened by homelessness if it weren't for good friends who took me in, and getting frustrated to the point of thinking about buying a gun and a bullet. I know some of you have been through worse, but for me it was the low point in my life so far.
Now it looks like things are starting at last to move forward again. I just started a new job at the State Health Department - far from what I want to do and my direct supervisor is a guy who could easily have been one of my students. The pay is less than 2/3 of my previous position which is a problem in Hawaii, but in a couple of months I hope to be financially stable enough again to at least get by and hopefully sleep better again... I also moved to a new shared place, got a new car, and hope to get my feet on the ground again by the end of the year. I will do my best in my new job but will also continue looking for university faculty positions in my field (local, mainland or anywhere else), so we will see what will happen.
While one could think that being unemployed gave me much more time for woodworking and handle making, I came to find that struggling with frustration and trying not to glide into deeper depression together with searching for employment and some freelancing to survive made it hard to find the discipline to really be productive. At the same time I kept taking on orders because I was panicking about my financial situation. As a result, I kept many of you waiting forever after ordering from me which must have been as annoying for you as it was adding to frustration on my side. So, at this point I want to sincerely apologize to all of you who have been waiting or gotten frustrated over dealing with me.
Hoping that with the new job some more structure will come back into my life, I want to do what I can to catch up but also will have to make a few changes. Here are my current thoughts:
- I still need some time to get to most of the individual handle orders on my custom list because I have committed to another large order that I need to get out first.
- Once I see that things are clearing up a bit (and I am hoping that will be in another 6-8 weeks or so), I will contact everybody on my order list to check if people are still interested to go through with orders after all this time. If you are one of them and have changed your mind or want to go through with it, please let me know and I will update my list accordingly.
- After clearing off my current orders, I will very likely stop to take full custom orders for a while. As much as I like to work with everyone to come up with designs, this is taking a lot of time and puts me under a lot of pressure to produce. Instead, I would like to go back to how I started and make handles in my own time after my own design ideas for some time again - less pressure for me and that will give me a better chance to get my feet on the ground in my day job again.
- If you are among those who have recently contacted me about custom handles, I will honor that and get you on the list, but please be aware that it will take some time before I will get all orders done.
- I may do a few things like putting up a poll to see what type of handles are in demand or offering 'half-finished' handles like Mike Henry does occasionally, i.e. handles that have been started and I can finish for a specific size if anybody wants it. If you are interested, you can always ask me to make something specific, I will just be more likely to say no than I was in the past. Chances will be better if you want 3 or more handles, simply because it is more efficient, or if you come with something like 'Can you make me 3 gyuto 240 handles in dark woods?' which leaves the the details to me and I don't have to hunt for materials I don't currently have.
- I may also start to sell off a little bit of my wood stash, just to raise some cash. There are no plans to become a regular wood seller, though.
- As it is, I need to sell a certain number of handles per month, just to cover the rent for the wood shop. After the end of the year, I will have to reevaluate where I am. If I am better off saving the rent than making handles, I may consider stopping this altogether. That's not what I want, I still enjoy making handles, I love interacting with you guys, and I would love to try new things, but except for the past year I actually lost quite a bit of money doing this (my wood buying addiction may have something to do with that...) and given my current situation I cannot afford that anymore. But we'll see how it goes.
Thanks if you managed to read up to here And thanks again to all of you who supported me here on KKF in the past years, be it through direct encouragement, financial support, or even just saying kind words about my work - in times when so much else went wrong and there was no appreciation for my work in my day job, these meant and do mean a lot to me.