Sean Woolsey | Artist & Entrepreneur
Sean Woolsey has built a luxury furniture business that focuses on purposeful design, natural materials and local craftsmanship. His intention is to make a higher quality product that will be passed down to the next generation, an heirloom piece — we love that. Before he landed in his current space, the Sean Woolsey Studio, his curiosity led him to experiment with different forms of art and design. He also grew up in a family of craftsmen, artists and entrepreneurs so this type of work seemed destined for him. His special pieces are handmade and designed by him and his small team in Costa Mesa, CA. We’re excited to share our interview with Sean. You can shop his furniture online here.
What originally drew you to your craft? Was there a particular experience or personal calling?
I have always been drawn to making things by my hands, whether it be skate ramps, t-shirts, fine art or furniture. I have a deep satisfaction when making things by hand. I began dabbling in woodworking about 12 years ago when I enrolled in a class at a local community college, and that is when I was hooked on woodworking. I have always been drawn to furniture and I love figuring out how things are made in general. One thing pretty much led to the next in a very organic nature. I never set out or planned on having a furniture business, but 12 years in and I am even more passionate about what I do — continually progressing in the craft and in business.
To what do you most attribute the development of your craft? Did you have a mentor or formal education?
I have learned the most from 2 things: trial/error and YouTube. There is nothing that replaces the real thing of doing something hands on and having immediate feedback (whether good or bad) to make you learn something really fast, in real time — probably similar to cooking. They both have immediate feedback loops.
What kind of risks or challenges have you encountered over the years? And did the challenges (or a particular challenge) change your path in any way?
Many challenges, always. The challenges of business are always a changing landscape. The only way out is through. One of the constant challenges is how, when and to what degree of growing the business. This may look like investing in machinery, employees, more space, sales people, etc. I have found that slow methodical growth is more my cup of tea. The constant aim is building things the best we can while carving out a niche of clientele that are just as obsessed about our work as we are about making it. When you first start a business it is just about surviving, then you get the wheels on and spend some time deciding where you want to go, and with that there are many more decisions to make.
When thinking about the future of your work, what are you most excited about?
We are heavily investing in the design and development of more gaming tables (pool, shuffleboard, and ping pong) as well as chairs. I love these items as they are both tricky to make and so fun to play, especially in such a digital landscape that we all live in. I also am very excited to have a store/showroom of our own sometime soon. Also a larger shop space.
Is there a television or film character that reflects your personality in real life? If so, who?
Thought long and hard, but can’t think of anyone.
What piece of advice would you have loved to receive when first starting out?
Keep your overhead as low as possible, and take your time hiring the right people. Be slow to hire, fast to fire.
Is there anyone whose eyewear style stands out to you?
I dig anyone who has their own personal style and is not scared to be different, dress different, think different.
When you’re not working, how do you recharge and stay inspired in Costa Mesa?
Traveling, trail running, surfing.
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