Jesse Williams is a scroll saw artist who recently set up a website, Williams Wood Works, to sell his scroll sawn wood art. He was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on the process.
[SSG] Hi Jesse, thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get started scrolling?
[Jesse] Glad to be able to share some thoughts about scrolling. Im 26 yrs old and live in Urbana, Ohio. I lived here for 5 yrs and just love this little town. I am currently a 3rd grade teacher and going back to school so I can become a principal. I have been teaching for 3 yrs and love being able to teach children everyday. I have been married to my beautiful wife for 2 yrs now and we are expecting our first child in September. I love scrolling because it gives me time away from the entire high paced world and I can just sit out in my garage with some country music on, scroll for hours. If I am not scrolling I am usually on the water fishing.
I first started scrolling about 5 yrs ago on a really cheap pin-end scroll saw my father picked up for me from one of those mobile tool shows that travel from town to town. It was a small 15-inch but it got me started. I really had no idea about a scroll saw or the different ways to use it. I just sat down in front of it after I got it and started cutting out shapes and small little figures. I then started to explore the internet to find out more information about it and found out there is some nice pieces of art you can make from it. I use the word Art and not craft because you are creating something from an image in your head not from a package with instructions. I think this is a big misconception of what we do. I saw all of the portraits and fretwork style cuttings and wondered, how in the world did they use a pin-end blade to do all of this. Well I got the bright idea to go ahead and grind the pin down just small enough that it would hold and be able to fit in a small entry hole. It worked but then I found out they have straight blades. The saw I was using at the time did not accept straight blades so I had to upgrade. The second saw was a tradesman saw from the hardware store. Really nice but had limitations, then I upgraded to the current Dewalt 788 scroll saw. The saw is great and I have been using this one going 3 yrs.
[SSG] You just recently created a website to sell some of your work, can you tell us about it?
[Jesse] The website was intended for me to get my work out to the public. When I first started to sell my scrollsaw woodart it was mainly by word of mouth. It really was nice to sell items that I created from my thoughts. The custom portrait is something I really love doing. I do not think the public knows much about this type of art. That is where I really started to make my first sales. Teachers from my school saw what I did and wanted one. It was great. My thought was, get this to the Internet and make a business from it. Offer people who do not know about this a way to see some of the portraits that I have done and the detail I put into them. I always tell my customers if I would not hang it on my wall, I will not sell it to you.
Along with custom portraits I wanted to also get all of the items I have created out to the public, stock portraits, which are portraits from pictures I have created, welcome signs, and a few other items I am currently in the process of finishing and placing on the web.
I also have so many scroll saw magazines with patterns that I will cut and have for sale on the website.
[SSG] How long have you had your website running?
[Jesse] The website has been up since January 2008. The site right now is kind of in the test phase so I can continually add to it. I wanted to get some of the main areas out there so people would see what I have to offer. It is a website that is going to grow and keep getting bigger.
[SSG] What prompted you to create the website?
[Jesse] Talking with some of my current customers they asked if I had a catalogue or a website. I thought why not put the two together and create an online catalogue. I am currently trying to put a paper catalogue together as well.
[SSG] Is the website strictly for internet sales, or do you use it in conjunction with craft shows.
[Jesse] It is right now strictly for Internet sales. To be honest I have yet to do a craft show. I have went to them to see how business was and to see what scrollsaw woodart was offered. My first show will actually be this October if I can get enough stock built up.
[SSG] I noticed the products you offer are made to order as opposed to maintaining an inventory, what made you choose that route?
[Jesse] I think options are good, not to many because then it get confusing. My thought was some people might want a small portrait for the mantle, or a big one for the wall. Same for welcome signs. This gives the customer the option or lets them feel more like they have a decision. I look at it like the grocery store. If you are making dinner for two and you want turkey but the store only sells whole turkeys you most likely will not make turkey. But if the store offers whole turkeys and turkey breasts, the store has accommodated to the customer that wants the smaller portions. (I am not too sure why I used turkey as an example)
The big idea is offer something for either the small buyer or the big buyer.
[SSG] On your website, you offer custom portraits. Can you explain the process when dealing with custom orders?
[Jesse] The big question I get is why do you not take a down payment when you design the pattern. My answer is simply I want business. I could charge someone $10 to design the custom pattern then apply it towards the cost of the portrait they want. There are 2 sides to this. Some of the customers I get have never seen these types of portraits before so I want them to be able to see how nice the final product is. I am offering it as a free opportunity to see what it will look like. This encourages the buyers to step outside the paper portrait box and into the scrollsaw woodart world.
I have offered two different ways for the customer to submit photos, either through email or through an online form that I created. The online form is right there and the customer does not have to go through their email to submit photos. Quick and Easy is key.
If the customer would like to submit their photos through email that is fine as well. They just attach the images and send them. Once the pattern is created, I then send them a graphic representation of the final cutting. I never send just the black and white pattern because the pattern could be confusing to some.
[SSG] Did you design the website yourself?
[Jesse] I did create the website by my self.
[SSG] Do you have a background in web development?
[Jesse] I have dabbled here and there with web pages and blogs just to get a feel on how it works. I do not have any type of schooling to create websites. I have found a great website builder program and host. Bluevoda is the program I use. Very user friendly and they also offer online video tutorials.
[SSG] What program did you use to design your website?
[Jesse] I use Bluevoda. This is a great program for anyone to create a website. They are cheap, as a host and the program is absolutely free to download. You have to use them as a host in order to get your website on the Internet. That did not bother me because they have such a wealth of knowledge on their website it was just worth it. This is a great program and a great site.
[SSG] Were there any hurdles you had to overcome when developing your website?
[Jesse] The biggest hurdle was making the website user friendly. You do not want it complicated to navigate, and you dont want it to be cluttered or hard to purchase items. That was my biggest hurdle. I have to take myself out of the equation and think of the end user. It should be Quick and Easy, two key words to building a website.
When building a website you just have to try things and see how they work.
[SSG] How do you handle orders and payment processing?
[Jesse] All of my orders go through PayPal. It is yet again quick and easy. Push the buy button, go to the cart, and check out. That is the main payment system I am using right now. For some of my custom orders I will send an email with a payment button along with the graphic representation, making it easier for the customer to buy the product.
[SSG] Can you give any advice to other scrollers wanting to set up a website to sell their products?
[Jesse] Be patient, you will not start getting orders the first day you put your website on the internet. I have had mine up and running now for two months and have gotten a lot of feedback but just a few orders. I am still getting the word of mouth orders. But the site is coming along with close to 50 80 views a day and people emailing me.
I actually worked on this website for 3 months prior to having it placed on the web. That was just the website, not pattern making. So be patient and read on the Internet about online businesses and get some ideas. The one big thing that helped me a lot was to put everything on paper first then build the website that way.
Remember Quick and Easy navigation.
[SSG] Thank you, Jesse, for the insight on how you put your website together. It looks really great and I wish you continued success.
[Jesse] I really appreciate the opportunity and thank you.
Take a look at Jesse's website Williams Wood Works. His website is a great example of how to set up a website to sell your work. Hopefully this will inspire you to set up your own website. If you have questions or comments for Jesse, please post them in the comments section. He said he'd be happy to answer any questions. Thanks again, Jesse.