Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm an Artist, not a Factory!

I appreciate the last comments but have to say, I am an artist not a factory. I'm not interested in making larger and larger quantities of stuff, I'm interested in making the next cool thing. There's a big difference there. My voyage is one of creative discovery and invention, not necessarily one of trying to grow a business in the classic sense of the term.

This is one reason why I am sometimes not interested in making more and more of the same item...Item A has been made once or twice, the ideas have been thoroughly explored, now I'm done with it and it's discontinued. Things that I enjoy making, I will make more of them, the rest I will stop doing and go onto the next idea that I'm interested in.

I think what has happened is that I suddenly got a lot of attention due to some influential blogs spreading the word about my stuff. There were a couple of mentions in Blade magazine as well. So as a result there are now many times the number of people looking for Atwood tools than were previously there before. That is probably the biggest reason for the huge increase in traffic over the past few months and the subsequent scarcity of items.

This heightened visibility is not my fault and I certainly have taken pains to avoid the limelight. Indeed, I even have purposely shunned interview requests and asked to not be mentioned in magazines precisely because I did not want a great increase in exposure. Part of the fallout may be the recent appearance of the Chinese copies.

To those who want me to build a factory and hire a staff, I understand completely where you are coming from and sometimes wish that I could do that. But ultimately, and I think WISELY, I do not want to do it. There are many reasons for it which I won't get into here but I may at some point collect my thoughts on this and write it up.

Bottom line, I'd much rather have fun and keep being creative than relentlessly pursue some misguided goal of trying to become a millionaire.


Anonymous said...

Well said Peter! I'm with ya all the way.


ZapperCat said...

Well said Peter,
I would like to mention that

You are the Man

keep it up, don't let the public bring you down,
All you can do is what you do and what you do is Awsome.

BSR said...

Well said! It's one thing for us fans & customers to post suggestions or requests here. But when people start telling you how to run your business, it might be time to tune out the chatter.

Do what feels right for you. If you build it, we will come.

(Ok...that last line was unnecessarily corny, but I haven't had my morning coffee yet....sorry!)

Dan said...

One thing about knife makers, and artists like you, is the fact that your stuff is all hand made. People have to understand that you are not making production tools, they are custom tools. I wouldnt want anything else. You work is very appreciated.

jet said...

Have you thought about only taking advance orders on future products or selling a subscription? Or maybe selling some of your knives on eBay (to fund future projects) and the rest via some other fans-of-Peter club?

Also, there's a bike maker on the west coast who is also into making things by hand you might find interesting. There's now a four year wait for one of his bikes -- here's a short film about his shop:

Pat Galea said...

Maybe you should take a year off selling, and just make whatever the heck you want. At the end of the year, you'll have much less visibility.

Then you can put everything you've made up for sale all at once, and spend a month in the post office. :-)

TheWebWatcher said...


Suggestions and opinions are wonderful to recieve, but that is all that they are, "Suggestions and Opinions"
Keep up the Excellent work, Keep doing what your doing, the way that you want to do it.

Norm Shapiro said...

Peter, Keep on trucking, doing things that you are satisfied and happy with is the best way to go. If you are happy with it then keep doing it, when you are done you are done. If you become a factory you won't be happy. On the earlier post how about setting a quanity limit of one for each item per sale. And then do not allow another sale to same person of same item for maybe 1 week or so?

Desert T said...

Run it how you see fit. I'm waiting to make my first purchase, people need to be patient

Nephiel said...

How curious. A Ti Mini Keyton just popped up on eBay at more than twice the original price. Nothing new here, I've seen a few Atwoods for sale from this very same seller, and I myself have bought a Prybaby from him because I had no other way to obtain one. But now the seller has added this line at the bottom of the description:

"I always encourage interested parties to buy from Atwood’s Web Site. He is an amazing and incredible Craftsman and Tool Maker."

How are we supposed to do what he's "encouraging" if he snags everything before we have a chance? That's not fair. IMHO Peter is right about putting a limit to the number of items per buyer.

gtie said...

These are your products and you should sell them as you please in whatever manner you choose.

Once the items are on the open market, economics will take over and the price for these items will be set directly by the demand. Whether you choose to to set a one item limit or limit an individual to one item per month, the current demand for your items will drive prices up as long as the demand is greater than the supply. If the demand was lower, then items would stay on your web site for weeks at a time until the demand was exhausted. Hence, whistles last longer on you site than blades.

Do we really want to to have an Atwood market where items are purchased by collectors and are never resold? This boils down to people whining about not getting their way. They want to be able to go to Peter's web site, buy the items they want and move on to the next fad. Part of what makes these items great is the need to invest time to buy them. Peter should sell items in whatever manner he chooses. If he wants to continue his web site or move to eBay or move to some other method then so be it. These are his creations and his rules.

WebForce said...

Rather than Blaming others for our own inability to obtain what we desire. Appreciate What you all ready have.

ChickenTalk said...

The people who feel left out on all the Atwood goods should try what all the other People who obtain Atwood pieces do.
Try real hard instead of trying half hard.
People on Ebay are now being blamed for the lack of Atwood Items available. Like they are the cause of everyone's inability to gain an ATwood Piece.
How curious,
I believe the only problem here is that people are blaming others when really they need to look within them selves and realize that to get an Atwood piece you gotta "Be there When it Happens"

Gadget Guy said...

does that include software to cheat??

Anonymous said...

Nah, I think what Peter is doing is RIGHT ON THE MARK. It is clearly not his intent to fleece people. People that buy multiple items and resell them on ebay are unfairly making it so the rest of us cannot buy them.

"Be there when it happens", huh? I guess it never occurred to you that some of us actually have jobs and work for a living and can't be by the computer every (sporadic) time something is posted that we want. That thought never crossed your mind, did it? Or maybe you're one of the price-gougers and you don't like being limited to one or two of each item, huh?

Way to go, Peter...I might actually attempt to keep an eye on your website again so I might have a chance at buying something.

Ben Lavine said...

I feel for you all who appreciate Peter's creations- It's frustrating to miss out on something you want.

There's a secondary market for everything- Cars, textbooks- you name it. There are only going to be finite numbers of Peter's work available directly from Peter.

I've actually put a fair amount of thought over the last couple of weeks into wasy of making a situation like this more 'fair.' Run out to their logical conclusions, nothing I've come up with works. Peter has a good balance of hobby and business. To change almost any parameter destroys that balance.

Peter isn't going to be a factory. Accept that. I check the site when I can. Sometimes I get lucky, sometimes not. Personally, I enjoy seeing the designs develop and evolve as much as I enjoy having and using the tools. It's not all about the stuff.


Gadget Guy said...

Ben, I agree with you, but I don't think it's right to use software to check Peter's site! How can anyone compete with that?

Steven aka UKSFighter aka said...

Well said Peter. I'm fairly new to buying and owning your tools and have bought quite a few of them recently. I watched your website for over a year before I purchased anything. I have since seen almost every item FOR SALE on your website. I have only purchased the ones that I really wanted or thought I wanted. I have traded and sold some of the items that I didn't use. I like the fact that your tools are "hard to get" and that you want to maintain artistic integrity and not "sell out." I know it sucks that some long time buyers don't get in on the goods when they are released, however that is the price you and we all pay for fame. Look at any artist, this is what happens when they become known. I enjoy collecting furniture. I've been collected Bob Timberlake pieces for a long time, however I have to buy production pieces just like everyone else. In the beginning, he made custom pieces and one off's. Ultimately, his supply couldn't meet the demand. His pieces are now mass produced and whhile extremely nice are not the same quality as the original works. I can't afford any of the originals, however much I want to it isn't going to happen.

Someone once told me, it is rare that the common man can own the finest of something. That is true, fine craftmanship is generally reserved for the elite, the connected or the rich. However, with your tools, we all have the ability to come across the "original" that you hand created. Do we get every item that we want, nope. Do we get every item we need, YES. Most likely none of us actually NEED any of your items. I didn't think I would use a Mini Keyton, however it is one of my favorites now. Do I NEED it, nope, but I do enjoy it and it comes in handy very often.

The items you create are awesome pieces of art. It is a privilege to own some of them. IF you were to mass produce them, they wouldn't be the same quality or nearly as treasured as they are today. I would have loved to have a true custome folding knife of yours from the early days, however they are rare and expensive. If I really NEEDED one, I'm sure I could find a way to get one. I know lots of other people would like one as well and I'm sure if lots of people NEEDED them, you would make them or find a way to produce them. With that said, these tools and works of art are merely desires and wants that we have. It is funny that we get so upset about our WANTS that we would be willing to neglect our NEEDS. It is sometimes rare that our true WANTS and NEEDS align. In my opinion, you have a NEED to express your artistic strenghts. If you were to sell out and start mass production, we would see far less innovation and more of the same old stuff. As evident from your posts, you WANT to meet our WANTS. That is admirable and one of the reasons you are popular.

Keep doing what you are doing, restrict sales if that is what you feel is the right thing to do. You only do this because you enjoy it, don't let the opinions of a few take the joy out of what you do.

I've rambled enough and I hope it makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Well what better place could an Atwood tool be than in the hands of a "collector"... Lets all admit here.. these aren't the cheapest tools and your average Joe isn't the person that would ever buy an Atwood tool... and since Peter IS an artist everyone that wants or owns one of his tools is in some form of another a "collector"

So the only people complaining about Atwood tools being in the hands of collectors...are the people the want to profit from the buying & selling of Peter's tools

Curtis said...

Peter,love your stuff and your attitude. I do appreciate your limiting quantity to 1 item per individual for the low production runs. We don't need more middle-men selling/flipping your stuff. Let the folks that have an interest in collecting your stuff have first dibs. Thanks for the great work!


Geomorphologist said...

I appreciate your art and admire that you make your tools available when and how you choose. I've purchased various pieces over the years for myself and family and have to say, I feel a bit weird using mine as much as I do now that everyone seems to want to collect them. I keep them as banged up tools on my ratty keyring - and it feels good both to carry a handcrafted, original working piece of art and support the artist directly.

Keep doing what you do please, especially the inventing new tools part. I really like my new bottlebug. And thanks.

A nony mouse said...

I completely agree with everything you've said Peter.

Also yeah, its kind of like Woot, if you get it, then great congrats, if you slept through the blinged out cabbage, oh well, you'll get it someday.

I remember going to employee sales at a large sunglass manufacturer's headquarters. Things were offered at much less than they were originally sold for. There were also rarities and some current items that they had overstock of. At the exit of the sale area were big signs warning people not to turn the stuff around on ebay, yet that night it was chocked full of items they bought that day.

While yes, people are free to do as they please with items they buy from you, I think they sort of take advantage of consumers (and the market) by turning them around immediately for a profit.

I think rare pieces have their place, and items that are known to never be made again certainly appreciate in value quickly.

I know personally that a year or two ago, after buying a one - off piece of yours, I was offered $100 over what I had paid for it. Honestly I was stunned that it had "appreciated" that fast, so I held onto it in the hopes that it would continue to go up. I haven't offered it yet anywhere, and now with this increase in people ebaying your stuff, I pledge to re-invest part of any profit I make back into future Atwood items.

To quote Swope:
"I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time."

Dave said...

I feel honoured to now own a few select items of Peter's creation. Yes, it took time and vigilance, but that has only made each piece so much more appreciated. I won't buy off ebay, as I've experienced purchasing from Peter is a big part of the experience to me.
If I had missed out altogether, of course I'd be disappointed (and have been at times), but these tools only exist because Peter has followed his own dream and interest, and in his own way.
I agree wholeheartedly with Ben when he says "Personally, I enjoy seeing the designs develop and evolve as much as I enjoy having and using the tools. It's not all about the stuff.
For me it's following the journey, regardless of the outcome.
Thanks Peter.

Anonymous said...

If you were making collector plates of cartoon characters, I'd agree with you. But, you're making tools. Things people find useful. It's not entirely unreasonable that people would expect you to stick to a few basic items to always have available in the storefront.

Peter Atwood said...

Wouldn't that be nice! I wish I could keep stuff in stock but lately even bigger batches are gone in a few hours. Dude, I am only one guy and as I said above I AM NOT A FACTORY. As I have discovered, the world is a very large place.

Anonymous said...

I think the important point here is that, as Peter has said "I'm an Artist, not a Factory".

These are indeed tools, but they are first and foremost artistic creations by Peter. I believe this is the same for the world of custom made products, be it knives, watches, or even pens.

Again, I think all of you should be focusing on the fact that his business revolves around him, not the other way around. I don't think he owes all of us anything, why should he keep restocking items that he feels restrained or restricted to? Shouldn't he be ALLOWED to do what he wants, when he wants?

I find it quite ridiculous that people are even complaining. I've missed some of them or probably most of them myself but I don't go around complaining. Frankly, I think the current situation makes getting an Atwood all the more worthwhile.

Cut him some slack and let the man do what he pleases.

texasflyfisher said...

Excellent quote! I believe your "I'm an Artist, not a Factory!" will resound throughout the industry as did John Merrick's "I am not an animal! I am a human being! I... am... a man!" did in Victorian England. :-)

Excellent attitude as well!

stefan said...

I might never have heard of Atwood knives except for the blogs Peter mentions that catapulted his products into the mainstream this year. Still, I have been able to score 2 tools from his site and a knife from one of the web knife dealers, not ebay.

The tools are beautiful. I never leave the house without my keyton or booger. And they are actually very affordable. Peter is making original designs that don't break the bank. Just compare his tools with well known knife makers whose work is equally hard to get and sells in the hundreds or thousand dollar range.

Peter could only create high end knives that even fewer of us could afford or find, but his work is actually much more accessible, for a one man operation, than people are giving him credit for. Thanks again!

Lee said...

It is really determined by what you want to do.

From this post it seems you like to be on the creative end of the process and not so much on the business end.

One option is to raise your prices to the market price. A price differential part of what supports eBay (for any item). The other is to ONLY sell on eBay. This lets supply/demand determine the value for every item.

Another would be some sort of licensing arraignment with someone. Have them crank out the items that fall under the category of 'chore' for you that still have some demand. You lose some control with this, but if it is only for items which hold little interest for you, this might be acceptable.

If it is a local shop to you, then it makes quality control for you easier. If it is a remote shop, then a interview/training program might be in order.

Another option is not licensing, but outsourcing. Find a shop (or person) and have them make the 'chore' items for you. Ship them to you for a quality check and eventually sale. This reduces your profit per item, but you would be able to sell more items with only a small increase in labor.

Dan said...

People have to remember. A big part of collecting is the hunt. Items would not be collectible if they could be obtained whenever and wherever. There is a certain feeling one gets when they find that certain piece that they have been looking for. If Peters products were in abundance, it wouldnt be the same.

Anonymous said...

What dan said. My sentiments exactly.

Franz said...

I am one of those people who just paid $65 for a diamond knurl whistle on eBay.
Had the object been manifactured as and end product of an industrial process, well... I am not sure I would have spend even a fraction of that money.
What makes things like these unique is the human workmanship and artistic taste behind them. That is something that is being lost year after year in this mass production world.
So Peter please go on the good work!!

Milan, ITALY

M. Gale said...

People keep throwing words around like "fair". Fair doesn't enter into the equation.

I learned about this in 9th grade business class.

Supply and demand. Market value. Etc.

Nip it in the bud and CHARGE WHAT YOUR ART IS WORTH. don't sell yourself short. don't sell your product short.

It's not gouging. Your items are not a necessity for a starving man, they are a luxury for people that have money to spend and appreciate the quality.

And as you have learned, if you aren't going to sell them for what they are worth, then someone else will.

It doesn't make you any less of a nice guy to get paid what you are worth.

souptree said...

Wow, man -- take off for 2 days and come back to 2 hours of reading!

Two brief thoughts:

1. I am very pleased to see you address the ebay situation. You won't be able to stop it completely, but now EVERYBODY knows these are not de facto dealers.

2. I *REALLY* want an "I'm an Artist, not a Factory!" t-shirt.

Damnit, Jim, I'm a scientist!

Anonymous said...

ahahaha I'm in for one of those shirts also good call soupy ^_^

lummi said...

Nicely put Peter, I agree with you 100%
Keep up the innovative work.
Well done Chap.

Robb said...

For your viewing pleasure... I give you, Artist not factory (copy and paste it:

Peter Atwood said...

LMFAO!! That is hilarious. :D

The link didn't come out right though...should be:

lnuzzo said...

I've given a lot of thought to this post. I think (not being an artist) that I understand where you're coming from.

BUT...why don't you license your designs to a manufacturing firm. Those produced could go at your normal price. Then your originals could be sold at a higher price...

The folks who want the tools to use them would get them at a good price. The collectors would buy the originals at a higher price. Your customers are happy.

AND you'd have three things:
1. more time to create the next cool thing.
2. More money for better equipment to make your creating easier.
3. Less people bothering you for this, that, and the other thing.

Mike said...

Spoken like a real artist. Thank you for what you make.