So, I'll be back next week with another "Meet The Maker". I had intended on taking a week off to spend time with the family for the holiday, but I woke up this morning feeling thankful and I wanted to put it on "paper". We all have so much to feel thankful for, and of course there are always the things in life that happen that we definitely could have done without. But in the grand scheme of things we are all pretty lucky folks. We have found a niche in life that involves sawdust, metal, electronics, or whatever your maker heart desires, and it makes us happy. It's the happy place we go when our things outside the shop aren't always great. I could write a 500 page saga on how amazing my family is, and it still wouldn't be enough to justify how awesome they are. My wife is a nurse practitioner in the ER, working nights, weekends, and holidays (including Thanksgiving this year) to help provide our awesome 16 month old Wyatt (get it, D.I.Wyatt) the bright future he deserves. Her hard work never shined brighter than when she was working full time at the hospital, eight months pregnant, and doing 10 hours of clinicals for her master's of nursing curriculum each week on top of that. Oh, and dealing with me and all the racket I was was causing while finishing the nursery for Wyatt.
Now that we have scratched the surface on my family at home, let's talk about why I decided to write this "Thankful" article. When I started D.I.Wyatt Custom Woodworks in June 2016, it was my wife Ashley who pushed me to put my name out there as a part-time business who could build furniture etc.. I knew I saw people post stuff they built on Instagram and Facebook, but I had NO idea what was waiting on the interwebs. I made an Instagram. My parents and wife and a few friends followed me. I posted a couple of pics. Not a lot happened. Not a lot of engagement. I didn't know about hashtags, analytics, or posting schedules. I didn't know there was an entire community of awesomeness out there just waiting to be found. I just built stuff, and then posted a picture. Got a few likes. And on to the next.
In February 2017 I posted a single hashtag on a post and picked up a few random followers with woodworking accounts. Felt kinda cool, so I followed back. Each time I did Instagram suggested a few more...so I followed them too. Most of them followed me back. A few commented. I noticed a local fellow woodworker and we started to message back and forth. Jacob at Bagwell Woodworks and I were talking about furniture and I asked him for some advice. He said he wasn't sure but mentioned the Southern Woodworkers group in Facebook and how I could definitely get an answer there. So I looked it up, and saw there were maybe 315 members at the time. So I joined, and posted my question and got 20 replies with help. No trolls, no one making me feel stupid, just genuine good natured help. A few days later I saw where Zach Manring, the founder of Southern Woodworkers and Southern Ginger Workshop had posted asking for help running the Southern Woodworkers booth at The Atlanta Woodworking Show at the end of March. Brand new to the group and community, I hesitated on volunteering because I didn't know anyone, or anything about the group really. Something told me to just do it, so I commented and said I'd love to help, and messaged Zach to explain how new I was and if I wouldn't be helpful I understood completely. The response I got was the exact opposite. "Sure man, we'd love the help. Don't worry about being new, we are a new group, lots of new faces will be there." Next thing I know I was in a group message with the other booth workers, getting to know people and checking out the work they do on social media. What a talented group I had found. The Woodworking Show started on a Friday afternoon, and I left work early, threw on my D.I.Wyatt shirt, and headed to the venue. When I got there I first met Chris Philhower of Wallman Woodshop and introduced myself. "A few people have asked if you were here today" he told me. Who? Me? I was kinda taken back considering my wife and family weren't there, who else would ask about me? We all hung out, spreading the word on Southern Woodworkers for the rest of the day. Our booth was the place to be that weekend and I got to meet so many awesome people.
After the show on Friday, everyone went to dinner across the street, so I headed over and saw only a few random seats left in a sea of people I knew of, but had never met. As I contemplated my best approach to barge in on the party, a familiar face from the booth came up and said "everyone is over here, lets go grab a seat". It was Darryl Jones from Dreadknot Workshop. We grabbed a seat and then he and I and Steve Carmichael got into a conversation and I instantly felt apart of things. Steve and I had gone to prom at the same venue 20 years apart. Small world. That week I had gotten a message from a new friend on Instagram, Keith Johnson, who was flying in for the show. We met up on Saturday and a friendship was instantly formed over lunch and a few beers. I could go on and on and on about all the people I met at the show. It was an incredible weekend and really what kick-started my love for the online woodworking community.
With everyone riding on a high from how awesome the show was, we decided to start organizing monthly meet ups or "lollygags" (read more about them in the link) to keep the group active and to help keep it growing. We have been having monthly hangouts ever since. And now they are spreading rapidly throughout the community, which is incredible. In the last two weeks alone, there were meetups in Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Texas. We have had meetups in shops, homes, restaurants, and bars. We've built together, eaten together, drank together, and bonded together. Lifelong friendships are forged. The community call to action for tragedies in Texas and Florida with the hurricanes was so inspiring. It's the most caring community I have ever seen. Especially when probably 9/10 people on your feed, you have never met in person, but you feel like best friends. People trust and have so much faith in each other in the community. They rally behind each other. They support each other when they are down, boost each other when they are up. Whatever someone needs, they have thousands of people who want to help. It doesn't just stop at Southern Woodworkers either. It's nationwide. This community from coast to coast, Canada, England, Europe, everywhere. It's one of a kind. Below are just a few photos from some of the meetups we have had this year.
If you wanna host an event, or have a meetup, or even just meet people, step one is to ask. Most of the events started with "Anyone wanna meetup?" Everyone has someone local to them. And this community loves getting together. Another favorite thing to me personally is the Meet The Maker series. It's just me, getting to know other members of the community, and sharing what I learn so you can get to know them too. I'll leave a list of the articles at the bottom if you want to read up on our Meet The Makers. Maybe you will be featured to one day. There isn't a requirement. If you are a Southern Woodworker, you can be a Meet The Maker feature. That simple. No minimum followers. No specific niche. Just love your craft. That's what I look for.
In closing, be thankful for this community, and never be afraid to reach out to it. I could only really speak about my personal experiences in the community. Maybe some haven't gotten the same great impression I have, but I find that hard to believe. If you dive in I can guarantee you that it won't leave you hanging. Have a great holiday weekend folks, next Sunday Meet The Maker will be back with a new exciting maker! Stay tuned!
Meet The Makers:
I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know everyone one of the Makers on the feature, and look forward to many more. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being a part of the community. And thanks for being a friend. See you next week guys!
D.I.Wyatt Custom Woodworks.