2015...another hard row to plough.
Phew, another year end nearly come around, and I’ve kept myself busy again. 2014 saw me consolidating my guitar making and music business…with only the odds and ends of my day job as an architect to deal with, putting my elder daughter Anne to work, helping me around the workshop and in the office, a couple of festivals, workshop and so on. 2015 has moved up a gear, and has been a full-on year of getting the business on a serious footing.
My daughter Anne at Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul Festival
Anne has moved from part time to full time, dealing with all the sales, the website, packing, shipping, prepping for workshop and festivals, running workshops with me...and working on the guitars too...designing artwork, painting, finishing, soldering, fretting. It’s meant I’ve had to up my game to pay her wages, but I couldn’t do it without her…and my wife has retired, so the pressure to keep putting bread on the table has increased.
Blue Sugar Skulls designed and painted by Anne Zilpha
We’ve had to do forward planning, task allocations, weekly progress meetings…in short, we’ve had to get really serious about things. It’s meant registering the “ChickenboneJohn” name as a trademark, getting public liability insurance, product liability insurance, employer’s liability insurance, setting up trade accounts with suppliers, striking deals with overseas suppliers, and joining the Musicians’ Union…yes I’m now a card-carrying member! All of this is the stuff that you don’t see that has to be done when a hobby changes into a business…the most obvious outward sign of this change is sitting on my driveway. I sold my car and acquired a 2.7 tonne Mercedes van, as it had come to the point when doing festivals was pretty much impossible with my little Vauxhall Meriva.
The new Mercedes...how did we manage with my little Vauxhall?!
Inside the van...getting a bit more of that lived-in look.
We’d bought a big, serious “Ezy-Up” marquee that in itself weighs in at around 80kg, and that together with tables, lights, PA system, banner and all the other gear needed to sell at a festival, meant that it simply wouldn’t fit in the car. Of course, buying the van means bigger bills and business insurance on the vehicle, and it’s part of the cost I have to factor in of running a business.
3 days of this is hard work (plus 2 half days set-up and break-down)....but there are worse ways of making a living.
ChickenboneJohn at Upton Blues Festival 2015 from ChickenboneJohn on Vimeo.
We’ve done fewer workshops this year, but dipped our toes into selling at Festivals, which has turned out to be pretty successful. Not everything worked out, perhaps biting off more than I could chew, and I’ve had to pull the plug on a few things…a midlands guitars show that I’d planned didn’t happen, neither did Boxstock, I missed out on 2 decent festivals. It’s impossible to do everything, it’s all been a learning experience, and now we are already planning out the 2016 season, with bookings for gigs and festivals already confirmed and more workshops and tours being planned. In 2015 I aimed to double my 2014 guitar making target…and although I’m a little short of the projected figure, we’ve made more guitars than ever, just coming up to 200 for the past 12 months.
A few new guitars ready for the next show.
Workshop at Swindon Retro & Vintage weekend
Chilling outside The Roemer, Bremen with the boss, Christian
Beorma Morris outside the stall at Moseley Folk Fest
Here’s a sample of some of the things I’ve been up to...on top of all that there’s gigs and guitar making which were fitted into the schedule. February - Students visited the workshop for filming, workshop in Calne, Birmingham Guitar Show. March - Swindon Retro and Vintage weekend workshops with Hollowbelly, Newcastle Guitar Show, Southside Blues residency at in Birmingham. April - Holiday in Japan to visit our younger daughter Lizzie. May- Thirsk Guitar Show, beginners’ learn to play workshop, visitor from Sweden comes to learn CBG with me, Swedish guitar magazine interview, pro workshop photoshoot, Up North CBG Fest, Haydock Park guitar show, Kettering Workshop, Oxford Workshop. June - Lunar Festival, Intermediate CBG Workshop, Headlander festival, Milton Keynes Workshop. July - Mostly Jazz Festival, Upton Blues Festival. August - Cumbria Guitar Show. September - Moseley Folk Festival, Bremen Weekender workshops with Hollowbelly, Nijdrop workshop ,Westerlo and Dark Star Hopfest weekend with Hollowbelly, Leeds Guitar Show. October - New Southside Blues residency, Cheshire Guitar Show. November - Recording session, Aintree Guitar show. December - Christmas Party for Dark Star Brewing, “A Winter Less Ordinary” alternative Christmas fair.
Already for 2106 I’ve been asked to go to Sweden and Germany to do more workshops, I’ve got a visitor from Germany flying over for an intensive course of how to play cigar box guitar, a nice “boutique” festival confirmed, we’ve applied to trade at a mega festival..but whether anything comes of that, it’s another matter…the 2016 wall planner is already looking pretty busy. I’ve got a stack of vintage USA made acoustic guitars to restore, Harmony, Airline, Stella, Kay, and some beautiful pre-war Oscar Schmidts..keep in touch if you fancy one of those, and I’m also hoping to be stocking an amazing range of French electric guitars.
Pre-war Oscar Schmidt Stella -if you want it, don't be afraid to ask!
How about this French beauty?...Oh la la! Scheduled for early 2016
None of this would be possible with a great network of contacts...friends, family, customers, musicians, suppliers, venues, promoters...the boundaries blur between the categories, but the kindness, enthusiasm and support of all these people too numerous to mention here have made it all happen for me. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
- John Wormald