Mike Caulfield started his creative business after years of working in the City as an Insurance Broker. Putting the years of suits and ties behind him the moved from London to Sydney and finally to the beautiful Cornish town of Marazion, with St Michael’s Mount as its backdrop. He ditched the suits for shorts and started his company Marazion Oak.
Creating beautiful pieces of homeware from salvaged oak and cast iron his work has a unique and identifiable look, not surprising then that he was featured in Cornwall Today!
Here Mike talks about his journey and why he loves what he does.
Describe your typical working day
I start my work day with a ten second commute to my workshop. I tend to spend the mornings and early afternoon making the oak homewares such as bottle openers, coat hooks and racks, herb gardens, thermometers, utensil racks, tea light holders, signs and plaques, etc. Each piece is individually cut or split from solid oak timber waney edged boards, sawn to the required size, then sanded by hand and oil rubbed before a final wax finish is applied. During this process, great care is taken to ensure that as much of the wood’s natural form and imperfections are maintained and enhanced. This ensures each piece has character and is unique. Once the oak is ready the iron and steel work is added. Depending on the weather (it has to be sunny), late afternoon is when I photograph those pieces that will be sold on my. Evenings are often spent catching up on the paperwork with a nice glass of wine!
What inspires you?
I’m always looking for new pieces of oak. It is a different journey every time, to start with a raw piece and then shape it into something beautiful which hopefully someone will love is a true pleasure. I like to think that people who see my work will be browsing and suddenly find exactly the piece that they have been looking for to suit a particular place and purpose in their home or as an ideal gift for someone special.
How did you get started with art/craft
I made some coat hooks and candle holders for our new home and friends kept telling me that they were really good and I should sell them. I have always wanted to work for myself and one day I thought – why not? If I don’t give it a go, I’ll never know!
What made you start your own business
I have always had an appreciation for wood, and enjoyed working with my hands. After many years as an insurance broker in London and Sydney, a move to Cornwall gave me the opportunity to work creatively with wood and turn what had just been a hobby into a way of making a living.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt
Different markets attract different audiences. What might sell well at Fowey, may not necessarily sell well in Penzance or vice versa. Having a range of products to attract different customers is key to success. You need to talk to your customers to receive their feedback on what they like and how things can be improved, craft fairs and markets are ideal for that.
When did you get started?
Late 2015, just in time for Christmas.
What three things would you go back and tell yourself?
1. Nothing is easy, just keep trying.
2. Don’t try to understand why a particular item sells really well in the shop one month or at one craft fair and not at all in the shop the next month or at another craft fair. You will go mad if you spend too much time thinking about it.
3. When you are a one man band, making the items is only a small part of the process, other things such as finding suitable sales outlets, photographing and marketing items, maintaining the website, general admin and paperwork or even sourcing the best oil or wax to bring out the grain in the wood, all take up a significant amount of time.
What has been your biggest achievement in your business
Having a feature article written about me and MarazionOak in Cornwall Today magazine.
What is your favourite thing to create?
I really enjoy making the Filigree Thermometer on Oak Board. When the oak, metal and glass are combined they create a really striking piece.
Where do you see the future of your business going?
This year I’m on course to double my first full year’s sales, next year I hope to do the same, after that who knows may be it will be time to transfer the business to Australia’s sunny climes.