Can I ask you a question?: Pioneer Artisanworks

Today we have a Q&A with our first class sponsor Pioneer Artisanworks. It's been so awesome getting to know Macy and Joe even better through this process. If you're new around here you can learn more about the awesomeness that is Pioneer Artisanworks here. But also don't forget to stop by their awesome Etsy shop as well.Let me also take a moment to say THANK YOU to Macy and Joe for taking the time to answer my questions.

1. Pioneer Artisanworks is a cool name for shop, how did you come up with it?
Joe: 'Pi' is my birthday, 3/14.
'Pioneer' is the explorer of the unknown and the observer of nature for the benefit of people.
'Artisan' is a person who creates using great skill.
'Works' is a group of factories. I picture an ironworks with hundreds of workers, large machinery, factories stacked up on top of each other pumping out massive amounts of steel beams for skyscrapers and bridges and tanks.
Growing up I helped my dad and brother make circular stairs. We would use templates to add precision to a very hands on craft. There was almost as much time designing a good template as making the product. Our products at Pioneer Artisanworks are handmade much like that. There are no flames, electricity, glue, or welding involved. We engineer high quality materials to naturally form art.
Macy: Another reason we liked the word Pioneer is because it payed a little tribute to our recent cross-country move from Florida to Oklahoma. We packed up everything we owned into a covered wagon, er.. a Uhaul with a picture of a zebra on the side... because we wanted to start over somewhere new. We became pioneers, claiming new territory in our lives.
2. How long have you had your etsy shop? How did you arrive at the idea that you wanted to have an etsy shop?
Macy: Our shop opened in June 2011. We've always made things from scratch to decorate our own home or give away as gifts, and eventually we heard "Y'all should really sell these on Etsy!" enough times to actually give it a go.
3. You work as a team on this shop, how do you define your roles and was it easy to fall into them? Or was there a period of trial and error?
Joe: I'm creative and imaginative. I'm good with tools. Most of the hands on comes to me. Macy is more organized so she does the boring stuff. I have a day job and I go to evening classes so Macy is taking up a lot of the hands on for now.
Macy: Sharing this adventure has been one of the most friendship building things we've ever done together. I'll be honest though and say we do get really irritated with each other over certain things. I'll be pushing for Joe to stick to a deadline, and he'll be pushing for me to follow his technique to the letter, but we're both learning to give each other a little space. We really just fell into our roles naturally. I love budgets and pie charts and packaging orders (that's the boring stuff apparently) and I'm good at communicating with customers. I've learned a lot about working with metal too! I have more time during the day than Joe does (since this is my only job) so I've been able to take over a majority of the hands on work needed to complete our basic metal roses.
William's Wish rose - Listing
4. What is the process involved in making one metal flower from order on etsy to shipping?
Joe: First, I avoid it. I hate starting things. So I look for some important task to distract myself. Eventually we discuss the steps involved, and who is waiting on who. I make the stems and Macy makes the rose petals. If it is a new design then I have to make the entire flower myself. So I sit and stare at it. I build it in my head first. I gather materials. I research online to see any dimensions I need to keep with. Then I lay out the outline on my metal and cut it out. I shape the flat metal to a flower with various hammers. Once its shaped then Macy paints it.
Macy: We get an order and our phones go "CHA-CHING!" and if we're together then we high five. Every time. I print out the order details and place them in a folder. The folder goes out into the shop, and I write the due date on the giant dry erase wall calendar we have out there. The next time we're both in front of the calendar we break the project down into tasks and write each task on the calendar. Joe's tasks are blue, mine are pink, and the due dates are red. We always have a clear picture of what has been completed on any given project and we can easily see who is in charge of the next step, since we tag team almost everything. We spend a week or two working on it. For a rose it goes like this: I trace the template onto sheet metal. I cut out the pieces. Joe processes them to remove the galvanizing. I shape the petal pieces and punch holes where needed. Joe shapes the stem pieces and assembles them. I apply several coats of paint on everything. Someone assembles the roses. Someone does paint touch ups. The flower cures for 24 hours or so. I print a shipping label and package the rose, and then I usually get in some exercise and walk a mile to the post office to drop it off.
5. What do you consider the primary source of success for your shop?
Joe: Passion. We've been working hard on these for a while because we believe in them. If it was about $$ we would have quit a long time ago. Bringing a piece of metal to make an organic shape tickles my brain like nothings else. I stay up late and get up to early to do this. Also support from friends and family. Word of mouth is the best.
Macy: I agree. We are having a fun and I think that translates into our art. We love sharing our story and keeping people involved with what we're up to. Fun is contagious and our friends and family have been a huge part in the growth of our business, not only by placing orders, but by sharing pictures and staying involved in social media to help get the word out.
6. What is the most fun and rewarding part of having your own etsy shop?
Joe: I like sitting in a restaurant and hearing orders come in. My phone makes a buzz and so does Macy's. We both high five and go back to eating. Also making art that somebody appreciates. it's good to be needed.
Macy: I absolutely love hearing the stories our customers tell us. People give and receive flowers as a way to show many emotions. The following are all actual customers we've had: A man who bought a rose to give to his crush when he revealed his feelings to her for the first time. A woman who lost her husband and wanted a rose at his gravesite. A husband and wife celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. A memorial rose mailed to Aurora, CO shortly after the mass shooting. A husband who ordered a custom rose, created to look like the first rose he had ever given his wife when they were dating. These stories make my heart swell and ache, and I am honored that we get to play a small part in so many heartfelt moments.
7. Valentines Day 2012 was your first avalanche of orders, how do you keep yourself sane and organized during these periods of bulk orders?
Joe: We don't. We've pretty much put most sanity on hold. But we know its only temporary so its good to know we can go back to normal. It's a rush. Like skydiving. It makes me appreciate the slow times. When I can sleep or watch TV. During the slow times we can organize or design the next big thing. We try to always stay busy.
Macy: What has worked to relieve some of the stress is to pick a deadline we're comfortable with and communicate that clearly with customers. During times like Valentine's Day or Christmas, we reach a point where we have to say "Okay, that was the last order we can possibly handle." So far we haven't had to turn away anyone because of a deadline, we actually have quite a few customers who realize they're late to the game, but want to place an order anyway. During our most recent rush I made it through by taking 3 hours "naps" before getting back up to work. There's no explaining the feeling we get when we finally send off the last order and we just kind of spend the next available weekend laying around in a post-creative coma. It's glorious.
Mustache Cat painting - listing
8. I know you don't just sell your wares through your etsy shop, you sell some in your local area. How did that come about?
Joe: It's so exciting to see customer's faces light up when they see our product. That's something we don't see online. Although our online customers leave comments, it's still good to see it in person.
Macy: Friends, family, and co-workers make up most of our local sales. We attended our first art festival last year and hope to do a lot more with that in the future, because it was really fun to connect with other artists and to be able to see firsthand how people react to our art. We also met a local shop owner via the Oklahoma team on the Etsy forums who let us sell our metal flowers as a vendor in her shop. We have high hopes of finding more opportunities like that in the coming years.
9. If an etsy newbie came up to you asking advice about starting their own shop and you only have a few minutes to give your best tip, what would you tell them?
Joe: Jump in head first. One of our most popular roses is black. I wouldn't have guessed anybody would want one. But we offered it and they love it. The crazier and more unique we try to be the easier it works out. This coming year we have some roses that are jumping off the edge of a cliff with no parachute and I think the people will love it.
Macy: When you're deciding what to sell, choose something that you would gladly make for free because you enjoy the process so much. It should be fun. Also, the best piece of advice I've heard is to tend your Etsy shop like a garden. You have to come back each day and do a little something. Post a new picture. Join an Etsy team. Water your garden and give it time to grow under the surface for a while. We only made 2 sales the first 6 months we were open. It takes time.
10. Finally, what is the most valuable lesson you've learned so far?
Macy: We've both learned that its okay to take our art seriously. It felt odd at first requesting money for something we spent a lot of time doing anyway. We've also learned that there are a wide array of opinions out there and its okay not to appeal to everyone. The focus has to be on making beautiful things that we're proud of, and hoping the right people find their way to our shop.


  1. I love them. I have bought things twice and each time it's been wonderful!


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