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Women of Woodworking – Kelly Meagher, Northwest Arkansas

4 Jun

unnamed-1Kelly Meagher is wood burner and stay at home mom living in Northwest Arkansas. She specializes in botanical wall hangings, and has a unique and interesting story behind her path to woodworking.

Meagher grew up in Mexico with parents working in missions working to help support those trying to leave the drug trade. Her father opened a carpentry shop to provide opportunities to those men seeking a better life.

“Everything in our home, from the cabinets, to the beds, to the dressers were built by my dad. I remember being fascinated with watching him turn raw slabs of wood into beautiful pieces of furniture. To be able to envision an end piece out of nothing, and then be able to execute it was amazing to me – and beautiful,” says Meagher.

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When Meagher became a senior in high school, her and her father embarked on their first joint project together, a hope chest. Meagher shares “I loved every moment of it. I don’t think at the time I ever imagined myself being a wood worker, but I definitely can look back at the moments I spent with him in his woodshop, and know that that was clearly where I fell in love with using wood as a medium.”

Later on, Meagher stumbled onto the wood burning technique she now focuses on. Eight months pregnant with her son, she wasn’t happy with any of the decorations she found while working to decorate her new home. She decided to play around with her husband’s wood burner, and immediately fell in love with her creations. A few months later, Meagher decided to open up her now thriving Etsy shop, Of Thistle and Thyme.

As far as considering whether or not her gender has affected her experience in woodworking, Meagher does not think it has since she is stay at home mom and hasn’t ventured to much into the woodworking community. As far as her clients go, Meagher explains “I’ve noticed that about 90 percent of my customers are women – and I intentionally have tried to reach women as my audience on social media – mainly because my shop is home décor and specifically botanical and floral in detail – so more feminine in nature.” But while her clients at mostly women, Meagher shares that males are more likely to reach out to ask questions about her tools or process, even though they may not be the ones actually buying her product.

Meagher continues to explore her botanical work and admits that there is an inherently feminine direction of her designs. “My first wood burned pieces were ones I made for my own home. And after making them, I fell in love with them and thought they would sell well. So from the beginning I saw my product as home décor, which generally is a more feminine interest – at least at the level of where I’m at in my shop.”

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Meagher’s favorite pieces are always the newest one she makes, but she’s been particularly fond of the food pieces she’s made, especially her artichoke design. Meagher gets her designs from the illustrations of early botanists and traces them onto the wood. Meagher shares more about her process, sharing that “When it comes to design, a lot of thought goes into which prints I choose, and how I edit them when I’m tracing. My goal is always to give my wall hangings a simplistic feel that still feels full or sufficient. And then, really, choosing the right piece of wood to work with is critical. Some grains of wood can really mess with the print and distract from it, and some grains make it impossible to even wood burn a clean image. So my work is very much pairing the right image onto the right piece of wood.“

Meagher has some exciting new plans coming up for brides-to-be and also more floral arrangements. “In the very near future I’ll be offering customized bridal bouquets where I’ll be taking custom orders to wood burn images of individual bouquets for brides. And later this year, I’ll be launching poster size wood burnings of collages of whole flower species. I’m still working out the details on this which is why it’ll come out later this year, but I would say it’s the one things I’m most pumped about.”

For the future of Women in Woodworking Meagher has an optimistic outlook. “I have high hopes for women in woodworking. I think the lines aren’t drawn as tightly as they used to be, and I believe in the near future we’ll see more and more women taking it up as a trade. Women are creative and innovative, and more and more the gender role of trades is changing. It won’t take long for women to see that wood is an awesome medium to work with.”

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Specifically for those looking to start their business and are considering Etsy as their initial platform, Meagher was kind enough to share details of her experiences to those interested. “I originally started my shop with both its own website as well as a store on Etsy. But after a few months I saw a clear advantage to having an Etsy shop with an already established audience versus trying to generate traffic to my own website. The thing about having a trade of any kind, is that not only are you working at your trade, but if you’re boot strapping it like I have, you’re suddenly a photographer, marketer, business developer, and customer service person. It’s a lot to take on, especially if what you really love to do is just create. I’ve found Etsy to be an awesome answer to a big portion of that pressure. They already have an established audience who are looking for handmade products, and I’ve simply have to tap into it. It’s saved me a lot of leg work.

I will say I’ve had a hard time getting traffic to my shop, simply because people aren’t really looking for wood burnings. It’s an old fashioned trade, and while it’s one I’m trying to bring back into modern decor, it’s still not something people are looking for. Very rarely has anyone found my shop by searching for wood burnings. It just hasn’t happened. So while Etsy still provides views from casual browsers, I’ve found that the majority of my actual customers have come from my Instagram account. My social media accounts paired with the familiar Etsy backdrop has been a great pairing for my shop.”

Etsy has provided so many artists and new business owners with the opportunity to explore their passions and turn them into a real job, and a real business. It’s been a pleasure to see someone able to use the platform to develop and grow their craft while simultaneously being able to reach thousands, if not millions of people to help build that foundation.

You can check out Meagher’s Etsy store Of Thistle and Thyme, and be sure to connect with her on Instagram at @ofthistleandthyme and also on Facebook at facebook.com/ofthistleandthyme.

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Social Media Responsibility for the Consumer

21 Aug

If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you found this post or my blog through social media. I love social media and anyone that follows me knows I’m avid liker and retweeter. Social Media is also part of my job as a rep for other brands as well as my own. Not to be outdone, my husband Joseph took over our JWTWoodworks Instagram account and has now blown me out of the water.

Joseph’s large and very active Instagram following gives him the ability to share messages about events and new work to promote our business very easily to an interested crowd. What he did last week was a little different though, as Joseph took the role of the consumer. After literally hours of frustration he posted a negative review regarding an experience with a product and the company.

Long story short his needs have been attended to in a polite manner, but he was given a little “lecture” by the company’s rep who was made aware of JWTWoodwork’s large Instagram following prior to speaking with Joseph. The rep emphasized that Joseph’s large following came with a big responsibility. The rep said that he wished Joseph had come to him first, which he did, four times in fact. This situation was showing glaringly obvious communication problems within the company, and although they are trying to make right of it, it’s been quite a journey costing a lot of time and money and that is something that is not so easy to replace.

I am proud of Joseph and it appears his followers are happy with his honesty too according to their comments. The company is going above and beyond to try to rectify the situation despite some major slip ups – at first we were getting great service, then not so great service. We were stern, and got what we needed. We then worried that we were too harsh on the company, but after that quip on social media responsibility from the company worrying about us ruining their reputation, we feel that we made the right move in order to protect ourselves and our followers as consumers.

This whole situation has left me asking myself where the boundary lies between being polite and going overboard with social media reviews. We’ve all had negative experiences at one time or another – a loud guest next door in the hotel, a hair in our food, you name it, it happens. We go to the front desk or our waiter to get it attended to. In general, we’re told to shrug off the small stuff, which is what I’ve done for some time on social media when I’ve been unhappy with products or companies, but after this past weekend my alter ego as the blunt yet honest writer has had a few words to share.

My thoughts are that social media should be used by companies to engage and interact with their customers, whether it be on a positive level or handling a negative customer experience. Unfortunately for companies social media can be a very public megaphone to the world, thus giving consumers the ability to cause a massive shift with the tap of that RT button.

I share this on Twitter often, but I truly think that capitalism puts the consumer in power at times. Our dollars and what we spend them on determine everything in the market, yet we are made to feel small and almost powerless by companies and their bad service very easily. I encourage folks to spend their dollars with those who care, those who count, and those who produce quality. Companies won’t continue to make crappy products if no one buys them. Social media is our modern way of saying “Fellow Buyer beware!” and I believe we have a responsibility to tell our friends and neighbors when they REALLY don’t need to spend their money on this product with X company because it is horrible.

I’m really interested to hear what you think. Do you voice complaints to companies over social media? If so, do you see results? If you don’t share them, why not? Is the machine too big? I don’t think so. If companies are worried about their reputation, they should focus more on service, quality products and doing good business so there is no questions about their reputations. No one is perfect, but I think it’s safe to say consumers have reached another level of influence that can and will continue to dramatically change the landscape of business and the control that consumers have over their dollars and the market.