Tell us your name and a bit about what you do.
My name is Mike Rankin, and I work in my "real" job as a commercial diver, travelling all over Scotland fixing boats and piers. In my spare time, I'm an amateur woodworker, making various items for your house and garden from the small workshop in my garden, that I sell at wudwerx.
Between the two things, I'm pretty busy. One of the bonuses of working on the coast is that I can go hunting for driftwood for my shop quite easily!
When did you realise you wanted to do what you do now and how did you get started?
I've always been quite creative, so although my shop is fairly new, I've sold a few bird boxes over the years. I think the first were made with the help of my dad about 20 years ago and we sold them to neighbours. Since then, my career got in the way for a few years but now I've moved back to Edinburgh I have more spare time to create. I bought a saw and a drill press and got stuck in!
Tell us about the first thing you made.
The first things I made for my shop were two sets of three candle holders from a piece of driftwood I found on the beach at Cramond, north of Edinburgh. I cut them to different heights and drilled them to take tealights. When I listed them on Etsy they sold quickly to a customer in the USA. I packed them up and sent them off - and they disappeared! They are the only thing I've ever sent out that didn't make it, so that was a really disappointing start to my business. Luckily things have got a lot better since then!
What do you love most about what you do?
There are many things that I love about working with wood. I love the smell of all the different types of wood as I walk into my workshop. I also love the feel of the wood as I work with it. It's always warm to the touch. Seeing things come together is always great. It's so cool that a plank of wood can be transformed into a bird box where new life is born. I have one of my bird boxes in my garden which is being used by a family of Great Tits so it's great to see them in use.
What's the ethos behind your work?
I love making items that either re-use things like driftwood, or make it possible for things to grow. My whole family is fairly green. My Brother sells Solar panel systems; my parents run a plant nursery that sells rare and unusual plants; so I think there is a strong sense of Nature in me. It's great to be able to express it in the way that I can.
What sort of things inspire/motivate you?
It's really motivating to know that a piece of driftwood I found can be turned into a beautiful frame or candle holder that will look fantastic in a room; or that a plank of wood can be turned into a feeder to help feed a family of birds. I enjoy the act of making things too. It's great to be able to take something and turn it into a good looking, functional item.
Where do you sell your work and how do you promote yourself?
I sell my items both online and face to face at various outlets. I also have a couple of wholesale customers. My online presence is quite large with shops at Folksy and DaWanda, and my main shop at wudwerx. I sell at various markets around Edinburgh and the Lothians, and have items in shops in Prestonpans, Castle Douglas and Penicuik. I rely on word of mouth for most of my promotion, though I do put flyers out at other markets that I don't actually sell at. I'm fairly low tech, and don't promote on Facebook, Twitter or any of the others. It's something I will look at in the future but at the moment I am quite busy with all the orders I have at the moment.
What sort of business goals do you set for yourself and what is the next milestone for you?
I would like to expand my custom order business. At the moment I am working on an order for over 200 Silver Birch candle holders for a wedding in July. It's a big job and has presented me with some problems that have been hard to crack - Like where to find 35 metres of Silver Birch branches that are the right thickness, and where to get them kiln dried. I think there is certainly potential for more custom orders and wedding orders, and it's great to know that candle holders that I make can help bring a bit of joy to a couple on their big day.
What one key piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their own 'handmade' venture?
Network! It's tough to get yourself known, which in turn makes it difficult to sell things. What I've done is joined several online groups, talked to market stall holders and gallery owners, printed off flyers, told friends, family and work mates,(several early sales of mine were to friends) and spread the word in any way you can.
Who are some of your favourite artists/designers/makers?
I've got a few! My favourite has to be my partners site! He is a Aboriginal from NW Queensland in Australia who I brought back with me on my return from Down Under. He paints contempary Aboriginal art that he sells at maiawalliart You will also be able to see his art featured at Gardening Scotland on the 4th, 5th & 6th of June. Another one of my favourites is EquilibriumDesigns It's very simple, but useful stuff. My final shop is woodguy32 who's got the perfect store for me, combining iPhones and wood! The genius!
the lizards - group of 3 original paintings by Mike's partner, maiawalliart
If you had time what new craft would you like to learn?
I'd love to learn Cabinet Making. My Grandfather was a Master Carpenter and made some stunning pieces, including a bureau that my parents now own. To be able to make something so beautiful and skilfully crafted, and that still works so well and looks so good after so many years would be amazing.
Is there one special thing that you would like to make for yourself?
At the moment with the nice weather we've been having I'm sorely tempted to make myself a table and chairs for the deck! I think for the long term I'd love to find a big tree root on a beach somewhere and turn it into a big seat, or a funky shelf type unit.
If you happen to be in or around Gorebridge, Midlothian this Sunday 30th May, you can go along and meet Mike at his wudwerx stall at the Gracehounds Charity Dog Show & Spring Fair at Vogrie Country Park near Gorebridge. The Fair is open from 11am to 3pm and is well worth a visit if you are planning a weekend outing :D