As you probably know by now, my sister and I are madly in love with anything - and everything - coastal. So when we came across John Birdsong's shop, Recycled State, on Etsy a few months ago, we were giddy with excitement! John's super-cool recycled designs immediately caught our eye!
Lucky for you, John let us interview him for this month's Featured Etsy Artisan, and we're pleased as punch because Recycled State is one of the coolest Etsy shops we've ever had the pleasure of featuring on We Know Stuff!
Want to know what's up for grabs this month? One lucky winner will receive a $30.00 USD store credit to Recycled State!
Hi John! Thanks so much for hosting this month's Giveaway contest. I don't mean to be so dorky, but I have to say - your store, Recycled State, is...just...SO...cool! Ok, now that that's out of the way...
As you know, we're from Long Island, so we're naturally drawn to all things coastal - I imagine it's the same for you? Living in Neptune Beach?
Totally. I've lived my entire life at the beach. It's in my blood. Even though my shop has plenty of items that are in no way associated with the ocean or coastal living, I still feel as though all of them would fit right in to any beach house. Sun bleached wood just screams coastal outdoor living.
Speaking of sun-bleached wood, how did the idea for Recycled State come together for you?
My wife and I took a trip to coastal Georgia and saw loads of great artwork. One particular place had stuff made from old signs and bicycle parts. Everything was so expensive. I said to my wife, "I've got a fine arts degree collecting dust, I'll make my own cool stuff." The following weekend I dug through a pile of old wood behind my garage and made a few prototypes. They weren't great, but I was hooked.
Why old fences - or as you like to call it, dirty wood?
After those first attempts, I was talking to my dad and told him I needed a source of nice old wood. He had just, the day before, torn down some old fence that a tree had fallen on and suggested I go pick it up. It was perfect. I picked up a few panels and started making some things. It was exactly the material I wanted. It's not the easiest thing to work with, but it looks so good.
Where on Earth do you find all of this recycled fencing?
People are throwing away fence everywhere you look. That is, until you start looking for it. Fortunately, my family and friends all know that if they see a pile of old fence thrown out they have to call me. Sometimes waste management gets to it before I do. So far so good. I haven't had to pester a fence company yet, but I will when the time comes.
Nice! But, where do the other bits and pieces come from?
The other main ingredient to my work is plastic. I mostly use plastic flower pots, vinyl soffit, and cat litter jugs. The flower pots and vinyl soffit come from construction dumpsters and the cat litter jugs are donated by my two cats, Jimbo and Macadangdang (don't ask).
Jimbo and Macadangdang, eh? We just named our cats plain 'ole Simon and Roscoe...somehow they seem so bland compared to your cats' names. ;)
So, how long does it take you to make a piece - from idea to completion?
It varies greatly from piece to piece. Once I've got all the kinks worked out, I can generally make a piece in 30 minutes. Some take considerably longer. The frames are time consuming, but I'm getting faster. Custom pieces and new ideas can take way too long. I can't help but want everything to be just right. Just right takes time. It's time always well spent. I've made hundreds of sharks, but every time I'm thrilled with how it turns out. The most laborious and time consuming aspect of my work is stripping the fence panels of their slats, removing the nails or staples, and giving the wood a light sanding.
Do you make custom orders? Or do the animals shown in your shop hold a special place in your
Most of the works in my shop are based on subject matter that I'm fond of. I love sharks. I spent my twenties obsessively hunting for shark teeth. The shark head was one of the first things I created. I love it.
I love custom orders too. They often directly result in great new designs or at least inspire future designs. I'm often surprised by what people respond to and what just sits on my shop page being ignored. There have been many pieces that were retired after I recognized the fact that I seemed to be the only one that thought it was cool.
What do you do when your not making recycled creations?
Ughh! The day job. Unfortunately, I have to waste eight hours a day working for the man. Beyond that, it's almost all family. The wife, the boy, and I love goofing off. Spending time at the beach, going for nature walks, building Legos, cooking delicious food, riding bikes. Good old fashioned fun.
Just out of curiosity, is it difficult being a Man of Etsy? I mean do you find it challenging to be in a female-dominated environment - or do you think it gives you an edge?
It's practically a non-issue. I realize I'm in the minority. The biggest problem in that regard is in developing new work. I want to make rad manly stuff that I want. The wooden sword had zero sales before it was retired. The mermaid is still in the works. Most of my customers are women. If it weren't for all these super hip ladies, I'd have nothing.
Ha! Super-hip ladies and rad manly-men. That nicely sums up your target demographic. But aren't you forgetting someone? What about all of us lunatics that wait each summer for....SHARK WEEK!?!?!?
Etsy's embracing of the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" is critical to the success I've experienced on Etsy. I serendipitously opened my shop days before shark week. My shark head piece landed on the front page twice within ten days of opening my shop. That lucky break put me on the Etsy map in a hurry. I had sales and views and favorites from the get-go. Most people have to stay at it for months or even years to get the attention I stumbled into. It was truly amazing to get such a warm welcome and rapid start to selling on Etsy. Once that ball got rolling, it hasn't stopped picking up speed.
That's really terrific - talk about perfect timing! But now for the sappy part...what really inspires you?
My son is a great inspiration. He's six now. He was four when this whole crazy thing began. He comes up with great ideas. He'll say; "Daddy you should make a ?" It's always a good idea. It's not always something I can figure out how to make well. I'm still working on a squid, octopus, and mermaid. Other than the boy, ideas come to me while I'm trying to fall asleep. My saws would be running in the middle of the night if I didn't think my neighbors would kill me.
Your son is brilliant - mermaids AND octopuses! We can't wait to see what you (and your little man) come up with next! Aside from your Etsy store, where else can we find you?
If you happen to be in Neptune Beach, Florida, you can pop in to The First Street Gallery. That's about it. With my Etsy sales and that darn day job and carving out time for the family, that's all I can handle. I've had to turn down a bunch of retail and consignment opportunities. It kills me every time. In the near future I hope that I'll be everywhere. Recycled State is growing beyond my wildest expectations. I can't believe how well it's received.In August, I'll be featured in Do It Yourself Magazine's "Best of Etsy" page. Of course there is a facebook page too.
We look forward to seeing you on the "Best of Etsy" page and are so happy that we got a chance to find out more about you. We're huge fans!
Denine & Daniele
Want to win a $30.00 USD store credit to Recycled State?
Here’s how the Giveaway Contest works:
1.) Like Us on Facebook.
2.) Help Us Spread the Word:
Tweet this: #SharkWeek is coming! New #Giveaway Contest from @WeKnowStuff_US: http://ow.ly/c9vP4 - and #Recycled State: http://ow.ly/c9vUm #wood
Post it to Facebook: Check out https://www.facebook.com/WeKnowStuff.US and enter to Win a $30 credit to Recycled State: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Recycled-State/181297921954649
3.) Leave us ONE comment below and let us know what you've done (please include a link so we can see how you helped us spread the word).
The winner will be selected on August 18th at 4:00 PM EST. USA residents only, 18+ or older.
Denine & Daniele