Welcome back for the conclusion to our interview with artisan Kyle Miller.
In Part 1, we discussed Kyle’s experience, growth, and popular style.
In Part 2, we asked Kyle about working in his shop.
Now we’ll find out what Kyle has planned for the coming year.
AA: In this age of instant global electronic access, does your geographic location have any affect on your work?
KM: There are definitely some pros and cons. I live on Vancouver Island (not where Vancouver BC is located) in a tiny town of about 15,000. Really the biggest pro is that I can source a lot of my material locally. A lot of tonewoods and high quality domestic hardwoods can be found within a very short distance, and I have several friends who fell trees on their property and then mill up the lumber for cheap. Not being centrally located though, and living on an island, makes it a little tricky to get to shows. I’m limited to anything in the Pacific Northwest basically as far as “in person” attendance goes. However, the internet is a wonderful thing. Almost entirely, my business has been done online. I’ve shipped all over the world, from Japan, China, and Taiwan, to Germany, Australia, Norway, and even Mexico. I’ve been meaning to put a map on the wall and stick pushpins in for every place I’ve sold to. I’ll get around to it one day…
AA: What can you share with us about your goals, projects, and events for the coming year?
KM: Well I’ve got a commission that I’m working on right now; unfortunately I can’t really talk about it. It’s for a client that I’ve been working with exclusively for the last few months, and it’s definitely the most important piece I’ve made to date. I’ve got a few personal things I’d like to get done as well, including finishing off a second guitar/rifle combination and another guitar amp. I’m trying not to take on too much at the moment to be honest, as it’s difficult to get things done in the winter. It’s freezing cold, there is frequently snow on the ground, daylight is extreme Ely limited and energy levels are definitely lower. I’m hoping to take a short break after this commission finishes up. I’m getting married in May and possibly moving around the same time, so, lots to do!
AA: Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. That’s going to be your biggest project of the year! What kinds of challenges are you anticipating this coming year, and in general, as the interest in steampunk increases and the other artists join in to meet the demand as well as add their own interpretation?
KM: I think it’s pretty safe to say that Steampunk has crossed into the mainstream at this point, or the mainstream is at least pretty consistently aware of it. This level of activity is always met with one of two responses. Some people, especially early adopters, will jump ship for something else citing that Steampunk is no longer what they wanted it to be, etc. Others will embrace the acceptance and the community will become even more widespread and inclusive. That model pretty much applies to all subcultures as they are adopted by the mainstream. For artists, it’s kind of the same dilemma, while more opportunity to have their work garner attention is a good thing, once things become so highly visible you run the risk of those with a larger resource base being able to run you out of business. Ultimately though, there is a place for everything. Should it ever get to the point where you can buy Steampunk goggles and chest harnesses and rayguns at Hot Topic, there will still be people willing to pay the independent artist for the higher quality version that lasts longer. At least, I hope so. There is always a balance.
AA: As an artist and an entrepreneur, what suggestions do you have for others who might want to try their hand at such creative work?
KM: Well, I think when you first get started it’s important to focus on improving your skills rather than making money or having a perfect end result. Prop building and costume design, like anything else, takes practice. Nobody is ever perfect at something right away. If you want to sell work right away, you have to be willing to swallow your pride. There is a financial hit that most artists take in order to get their work out there. If selling something for less, means it actually sells and you get your name out there and get a testimonial, well that’s a lot better than not selling at all. Everyone wants to pay themselves a fair wage, but this isn’t always possible.
You also really have to be able to accept criticism, and it’s not always constructive. You can’t have a thin skin, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere and you’ll never improve. Its also important to realize, that if you are comparing yourself to other artists or their work, you really have to understand that most of the time those people put in a lot of effort to get where they are. They suffered setbacks, they encountered obstacles, it’s not easy. Just because it may take you a few times to figure something out, that’s ok. Ultimately, practice, practice, and more practice is the best path to success. That being said, if you cut off a finger every time you try and use a saw, maybe you should stick to painting.
AA: When you aren’t in the workshop, what other interests fill your time?
KM: Well I’m in school part-time, working towards finishing my BA. The plan is to move on to graduate studies after, but nothing is set in stone yet. I had been practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for awhile but that’s sort of been put on the backburner while I get some projects finished. I spend a lot of time at home studying and hanging out with my fiancée. We also go for coffee a lot. I’ve got four pets as well (two dogs, two cats) and they can be quite a lot of work but they’re all very sweet.
AA: Sounds like you have plenty of things to keep you busy, it’s a wonder that you have any free time at all. What influence do those non-steampunk and non-workshop interests have on your creative work?
KM: Well, Alysia is a great sounding board for advice. She knows me very well, of course, so she is quite adept at being able to look at things from a perspective she knows I haven’t look at them from. Very helpful actually. Other than that, there isn’t too much in the way of intentional crossover that I’m aware of. I have a tendency to compartmentalize and keep things separate.
AA: If you weren’t building these awesomely creative pieces, what would you be doing instead?
KM: More school. Haha! The only reason I’m not in school full time actually is because I’ve been busy in the shop. If I had less to do in the shop, I’d be in school more, if I had more to do in the shop I’d be in school less. I think so anyways.
AA: This has been so great to chat with you! Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
KM: Well, I’d like to say thanks for interviewing me, of course! I hope my answers gave some insight and such! If anyone is interested in commission work or just wants to drop a friendly email please don’t hesitate to contact me. I may be taking one or two more jobs before shutting down for the spring. I’ll be up and running again at the end of May. Thanks so much, Kevin!
Thanks for your time with us, Kyle, and for sharing the behind-the-scenes information on your creative process. Best of luck with your projects and your wedding!
To see Kyle’s previous work, find items currently available, and discuss commissioned work, visit Kyle’s website, http://www.ThinGypsyThief.com