In an article in the Albuquerque Journal last week (8/13/2014), Jeffrey Mitchell, director of UNM’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research argued the need to recognize the importance of arts and culture as an economic force in New Mexico, “that’s bound to grow,” even amid the new economy following the Great Recession. Apparently 1 in 18 jobs in the state are in arts and culture. The article coincided with an interview we had scheduled with Aaron and Daniel Sanchez who are probably one the best representatives of the artistic contribution to the local economy. We certainly commend any initiative to encourage more artists to make a living doing what they are passionate about, and we hope this interview – and others – go to help encourage others looking to try that it is possible for them.
We took our gear on the road with us for this interview in order to see the amazing high end artistic furniture of Andy Sanchez and his sons, Aaron and Daniel. If you are an artist or maker then this show is for you, because the Sanchezes have really taken their business to the ultimate level. Even though they operate out of a small village in New Mexico their reach is global with their furniture gracing the showrooms of high-end stores in New York, London, Paris, and with other countries soon to be added. They are very much at the top of their game.
Andy and his sons made cabinets and furniture for a primarily local market. However, when the import laws were changed during the Clinton Administration they soon found that they were competing against much cheaper imports from India and China. They knew it was a game they couldn’t win, and they knew that they had to change up what they were doing.
Aaron takes up the story:
It started when we were working in a high-end environment working on the trim for a very expensive house being built by a very wealthy Marylander. He wanted everything as perfect as humanly possible, and it gave us an insight into the affluent market. For them quality is the key. That experience changed our thinking and we moved from making cabinetry and furniture into a more high-end artistic furniture.
It was then we started using the local Alligator Juniper, one of the first to do so. Alligator Juniper is a protected species, found only in the South West. You cannot take any green wood – you are only allowed to take dead-standing wood, most of which is taken for firewood. It is a very slow-growing tree and much of the dead wood we take can be anywhere from 1000 to 2000 years old. But because it is dead we can use it straight away – there’s no need to kiln dry it first.
We embraced new ideas and new designs, because we knew that if we could separate ourselves from the pack, people would take notice.
What really turned things around was when we started going out the furniture and trade shows in other states. We needed to reach both a bigger audience and a more affluent audience, and that wasn’t going to happen in New Mexico. To do it we had to invest both time and money and it was really a leap of faith for us.
Arizona was one of our main markets at the time. We were selling our tables for about $6000. Gradually we increased the price, up to about $9000. We were at one show and we were on day 3 and we hadn’t sold a single table. One of our friends there, who sold to the same market said, “Try putting the price up to $12,000. So we did, and immediately we had two customers fighting over the one table. Just by increasing the price we effectively sold the table twice over. We reached a point where we were too expensive for that particular market – but not expensive enough for the market we were trying to reach. We were reaching a new place, which at the time we didn’t really understand. You have to understand your value.
Web marketing has been very important in terms of broadening our market. Now I can work hands-on, as if I’m in the same room as a person, and work with them to build them a very personal piece. Google Analytics has been very important in terms of showing us how people are finding us, what they are interested in. For instance, we know that for the Texas market, they are more interested in our rockers; in New York they are more interested in our smaller coffee tables.
We have a client in London whose wife is connected to royalty, and he likes to through these business parties. At one particular party he actually invited the Queen of England to attend and she actually dined at one of our tables and we were told that she actually remarked on how beautiful she thought it was.
We are certainly at the top of what we do, but you can’t ever just stay in one place. You’ve always got to be thinking up new things to offer and new techniques and styles to use if you want to stay ahead of the competition.
Listen to the full interview:
See their “Top Tips” video on YouTube
Andy and Aaron are award winning western cowboy furniture artists. Their studio is located near Santa Fe, New Mexico, however their work can be found throughout the world. Andy and Aaron’s work is featured in several galleries, including Harrods of London and the Patrick Mavros Gallery in London, where it has received compliments from the Queen herself.
A common theme in our furniture is the use of live edge. This preserves the natural state of the wood. Combined with the smooth finish we create truly one of a kind signature pieces.
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