The Accidental Artist

Some people decide they want to start their own home business and know exactly what sort of business they want. Many other people who want to work at home have no idea what sort of home based business might be suitable for them.

If you fall into the second category, it makes sense to look for a product or service people need and then decide whether you could provide it. Another way of finding your own little niche business in a big competitive world is to examine your skills and think about what you enjoy doing. Sometimes, people don’t even have a vague idea about what they could do to work from home and they come across their ideal opportunity by accident. That’s what happened to me, but my friend Mick’s story trumps that: he didn’t even plan to start a business, it was all an accident.

Mick is one of those people who can fix anything and it seems like he can make most things from scratch. If you need anything fixed from your wristwatch to your motor-cycle to your curtains (yes he sews as well), Mick’s your man. I don’t think Mick and his wife have ever needed to pay for any work on their house. Mick can do carpentry, wiring, plumbing, painting; he’ll tackle anything from drains to roofing and make a professional job of it. Before you get to thinking I’m trying to sell you a superman here, I’ll tell you Mick isn’t perfect: he can’t cook and won’t try. His wife swears he’d live on sandwiches if she wasn’t there, and I have no reason to think she’s making that up. Mick says he doesn’t have time to learn to cook and I guess that’s true.

In his day job Mick worked for years at one of the biggest museums in London. I must confess to not really knowing what he did, but I gather from other friends it was something scientific and very clever. He didn’t talk about work much at all really, there were always too many other things going on – like sampling his home made beer or dashing down to the coast to work on some improvements to his boat. It was only after Mick retired from his full time job that he became aware of his hidden talent and it surprised us all when we found out about it.

Mick and his wife had always planned to dedicate most of their time following retirement to sailing. I’m not saying they are fair weather sailors but there are months when the weather can transform pursuit of a passion into a punishment. Retirement’s supposed to be enjoyable -right? It was during their first winter at retired persons that Mick started spending a lot of time in his workshop doing welding. He also developed a habit of dragging lumps of useless metal out of other people’s trash and taking them home with him. These “recovered” materials could be any sort of metal object from a broken table lamp to a buckled exhaust pipe. If you were walking down the road with Mick when he spotted an abandoned engine part, you would end up having the embarrassing experience of helping him carry it back to his workshop while hoping you wouldn’t meet anyone who knows you.

These odd bits of junk didn’t look like anything special to us and nobody could imagine what Mick could possibly be making from pieces of brass and rusty old chains. If you questioned him his answers were vague to the point of being evasive and, short of torture, you can’t force a person to tell you something he doesn’t want you to know. We couldn’t help wondering whether retirement had pushed Mick beyond acceptable eccentricity into full blown insanity. We wondered if his scavenging actually had a purpose or if he had just become a scrap metal hoarder.

We were all amazed when we found out the truth: Mick was turning all this found stuff into sculptures of all different subjects in a range of sizes from palm sized to several feet tall. It started by accident: Mick said that one day he found just looking at what we would see as a piece of bent iron made him visualise a sculpture and he felt a compulsion to turn the vision into a solid object. He already had the tools to do the cutting and welding and he enjoyed cleaning and restoring the materials. He also liked the challenge of finding methods of welding different sorts of metal together. Although he knew he had the technical skill to do this work, what he didn’t know was that he had a great artistic talent. Anyone who sees these strikingly unique sculptures will attest to the fact that Mick, the handyman/engineer, is indeed an artist.

Before long, the sculptures were taking up too much space in the house and some had to be sold. This is when, with a bit of encouragement from friends, a hobby was turned into a money making business. Mick now regularly sells his sculptures at art and craft fairs (in between sailing trips) and is making a very nice bit of extra income out of his hobby. It didn’t start out as an idea for a home business but doing something you enjoy with free materials and making a profit is about as good as any business could get.

There is always a market for well made hand crafted items: herb pillows, scented candles, soft toys, gift baskets are just a few that spring instantly to mind, there must be hundreds of others. Depending on your product, you can find customers at art and craft fairs, farmers markets and on eBay. You might not become a famous artist but it is always worth seriously thinking about whether there is a way to turn your hobby into a money making home business.

Copyright 2006 Elaine Currie