Rich Baker has a work life that many would envy.
After kicking off the day with a morning meeting with his business partner and wife, Jenn, Rich’s commute to his shop is a mere twenty steps from his front door.
Rich’s welding shop is a century-old out building, that’s adorned by inspirational photographs and frequented by three feline co-workers, Sam, Penny and Tommy, who come to curl up in the corner by the heat of the pellet stove. But the cats are not the only creatures in the shop. On the shelves and tables shiny feathers, smooth paws and bespectacled eyes glisten, their metal frames irridescent, almost alive.
“I didn’t know that I could do this,” says Rich as he gestures to the intricate metal sculptures, which have become high in demand by international clientele. “It sounds odd, but I don’t know exactly how I’m going to create what I see with my mind. I just start working, and then suddenly, there it is.”
Not surprisingly, Rich’s free-flowing creative process is also reflective of his career path. Previously employed as an industrial welder in a multi-national company, Rich became burnt out by the monotony.
“Creativity is part of what gets me excited to get out of bed in the morning. If that disappears, I lose interest really fast,” he admits. “I found myself counting down the minutes on each shift.“
Together, Rich and Jenn decided that a change needed to happen. Although he describes the leap into self-employment as “terrifying,” the risk proved worth the rewards. The business has grown and transitioned from small figurines, welded together with nuts, bolts and nails into incredible works of art, cut from sheet metal and intricately bonded together. Amazingly, each feather is anatomically correct and every strand of hair is hand-cut.
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Though his previous employment may now be a distant memory, the experience proved valuable to building his new business, as Rich has been able to join his artistic expression together with the best practices he gained from his old job.
“One of the things that working at the other company taught me was that using the best tools is essential to doing your best work,” he says. “When it comes to welding, headaches and neck-aches are common because you’re wearing a helmet for so long, and you’re constantly flipping your face shield up and down. In the other shop, we used 3M™ Speedglas™ Helmets and that’s what I still use today. The support and adjustability of the head strap is amazing. Because it’s so comfortable, I can wear it longer than other helmets I’ve tried.”
Because Rich’s shop doesn’t have temperature control, the exhaust vents on his 3M™ Speedglas™ 9100 FX Helmet has also proved beneficial.
“Because it directs my breath back away from my face, I don’t have fogging on the inside of the screen, meaning I can see what I’m doing,” he says. “Even in the summer months it was fantastic in directing my breath away from the inside screen.”
The long hours he spends, imparting meticulous detail into his pieces hasn’t gone unnoticed and his art continues to attract attention from a growing number of galleries.
“I’m not sure what this wave is that I’m riding now,” he says with a wide smile. “But I know it feeds me creatively and I don’t know what else I’d be doing.”
As for his advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
“It’s not a popular thing to say, but for me it rang true: Don’t straddle the fence, jump off. I still have the fear of failure every day, but life is short,” he says. “In the end I don’t want to be filled with regrets thinking about what I should have done. I want to be looking back thinking, ‘WOW, that was cool.’ ”
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