WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN
Port Alice residents, Larry and Shirley Scott, have been maintaining a thriving business selling their woodworking crafts for the last 20 years. Before COVID-19 hit, they were busy enough to be doing the equivalent of a full-time job, working five, sometimes seven days a week, and have still filled some orders during the pandemic.
They accomplished this even without an online presence. Shirley states, “We don’t do online because there’s just the two of us and if you’re online and you get busy, two people can’t keep up.”
The Scotts have depended on local promotion and word-of-mouth connections to expand their business.
Back in the day, they would make most of their contacts at craft fairs. Sometimes these contacts would pass their names onto their contacts and so on. In this way they ended up supplying a store in Victoria with their crafts before it recently closed. They have shipped their wares as far away as Toronto, even Tanzania.
The Scotts once met a dog show judge who was interested in their mirrors with carvings of dog heads. After buying several, he would ship them all over. He would then inform the recipients where the gifts came from, which expanded the Scotts’ customer base even more. The judge was very particular about the dogs’ features, correcting their designs to make sure each one flawlessly represented the breed. They have several of these dog mirrors and carvings of dogs’ heads for sale and each one is “perfect,” thanks to some very professional help.
The Scotts started out making bowls, vases, tiles embossed with photos, trays, dog heads, dog heads with mirrors, mirrors alone, coaster sets, Christmas tree ornaments, fridge magnets, key holders, hummingbird ornaments of all sizes, flower arrangements that you could hang on your wall with hummingbird ornaments, towels, cloth handbags, picture frames and framed photography. Recent additions to their repertoire include jewelry boxes, charcuterie boards and bowls mounted on “whales’ tails” which have become top performers. Any new ideas they get usually come about from customer special requests.
Shirley is hopeful they can return to craft fairs. She says they “have to wait and see what happens… it’s hard to gauge because people are so scared.”
The Scotts moved from Ontario to Port Moody in 1975. In 1977 they moved to Port Alice where Larry worked full time at the pulp mill, retiring 16 years ago. Since 1978 they raised and sold birds until they saturated the local market. Larry did some woodworking in high school and Shirley was interested in art, so they decided to transition into woodworking. They both work the wood, with Shirley leaning toward designing and photography.
They use burls, yellow cedar, red cedar, hemlock, “you name it.” Their son, who is a logger, is often a good source of raw materials. Sometimes they go out and get wood themselves, or people bring it to them.
When selling their work in Victoria, they have been told that it is underpriced, that they could charge three times what they charge. Shirley says, “You can’t do that…it is better to sell more at a lower price than sell one at a price that not very many people can afford.”
Shirley says, “you never get paid for your time.” While talking about a rose decoration on one of their jewelry boxes she says, “one little flower like that, cutting it out, sanding, smoothing, staining… one little rose could take several hours.” She added, “but it keeps me busy and out of trouble.”
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