This week takes us back out to Los Angeles..
Name: Aaron Van Holland
Occupation: Woodworker, Furniture Designer
Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/weareMFEO
My wife, Claire, and I began MFEO as joint effort to handcraft reclaimed materials into unique pieces for the home. Soon after meeting, we discovered a shared love for great design and living a more sustainable lifestyle. We intend to reduce the environmental impact of production by designing products made primarily from repurposed materials. We also hope that our pieces help initiate a conversation around consumption and maintaining an ecoconscious lifestyle.
When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?
I began designing furniture about two years ago. Etsy was our first sales platform when we launched In September of 2011.
How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?
MFEO is an acronym for ‘Made for Each Other.’ It’s originally a quote from the film, Sleepless in Seattle. We liked the idea that each piece we make is destined for a certain home.
Has your Etsy shop become your full time job? If not, would you like it to be?
Etsy isn’t our only sales platform. It was our first outlet, but since then we’ve branched out to other sites and also focus heavily on selling locally. Furniture is a difficult product to sell online.
How would you describe your creative process?
For us, a product design starts out as a need or a specific function to be met in the home. I generally envision the design right away. From there it’s very hands on, building a prototype and tweaking the construction until it’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Our primary source of material is from a 100 year old barn that I dismantled and carried off my grandfather’s dairy farm in Oregon. Oregon’s ecology and history inspires a lot of our creative direction.
Do you also sell your work at craft shows? Yes
• What shows have you taken part of, and do you have a favorite?
So far, we’ve hosted a booth at the Unique LA spring and summer shows. We’ll likely be back for their holiday show. We’re hoping to attend the Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice. You can also find us at the Melrose Trading Post from time to time.
• How long does it take you to prepare for a show? Do you have any special methods of getting ready?
We’re getting better at prepping for shows. Organization is key. Even if we don’t have orders coming in, product is always being made. So we assess our inventory and determine what may be missing for the show. We try to always have a few new designs to feature. Large pieces f furniture like tables don’t typically sell on site so we use them showcase smalls that shoppers can easily carry.
• Describe an experience from a show (good or bad) and why that pushes you to continue with your work.
We receive so much great feedback every time we do a show or market. Even if there’s a slow day where we don’t generate a lot of sales, the positive remarks are always so energizing. It’s really a great way to re-motivate yourself when you’re feeling burnt out.
What is your most cherished handmade item?
A bust of a mother and child that I found in my grandparents attic as a child. It was sculpted by Yucca Salamunichin 1957.
Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?
Running a small business and making all the product for it consumes most of my time. When I have a moment I like to try to rebalance. Hiking, meditating, reading and scouring eclectic estate sales are my favorite ways to unplug.
Was there ever any other job you dreamed of having growing up?
As a little kid, I’d spend countless hours lying on the floor, drafting up floor plans of my dream home. I guess I should’ve studied architecture, but I’m happy with where I’ve landed.
Five years from now you will be…
Designing more, sanding less. By then MFEO should be at the point we have a sufficient number of helping hands, including bringing Claire on fulltime. We’d also like to curate a storefront that features our work longside other eco-conscious craftsmen/women.
Describe yourself in five words:
Determined, mindful, hungry, visual, indulgent
Carrying on with the five theme, if I were to turn on your <insert whatever type of music player you use here>, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
The Von Bondies, Matthew Dear, The Janks, Radiohead, Pink Floyd
Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop or participating in craft
It’s an unbelievable amount of work, but I’ve never done anything so rewarding. If you want it bad enough, you’ll accept the lows with the highs and learn to appreciate them both.