Ever think of setting up a woodworking shop in the sense of, well, someplace people can shop? Several woodworkers in Minnesota did, and the result was the creation of Xylos Gallery. Nearly a decade old now, Xylos is a co-op with a current membership of eight woodworkers.
One of those woodworkers is Mark Laub, who says one of the advantages to him is having as many sales channels as possible to reach the upscale clientele who buy his work. Richard Helgeson, another Xylos member, appreciates the freedom and control being a member gives him over what work he can show on the sales floor. Other galleries, he says, have to give approval to a piece before they’ll show it. “In this place, you can build a speculative piece and show it.”
On the other hand, “it’s a lot of work, and you need to be ready for a very long haul,” Richard said. For a co-op like this to work, “You also have to have a member who’s familiar with business,” said Mark. “It’s not easy to sell something made out of wood.” That person will, hopefully, help other co-op members with sales and marketing. “If you don’t have a person like that,” Mark added, “you’ll have a hard time.”
All members of the co-op do put in working time. “We take turns minding the store,” Mark said, and they pay equally on rent and utilities.
While that split currently goes eight ways, membership can go as high as 14 and has been as low as seven, Richard said. “It kind of ebbs and flows.” New members — many of whom make connections with Xylos through the local Minnesota Woodworkers Guild — join after submitting an application and being interviewed by the current members.
In that, and in other areas, decision- making can be a lengthy process, because everyone becomes involved, Mark said. “Whether it’s what kind of wine we should serve at an opening, or what kind of rug to put on the floor, everybody weighs in, and then we vote.”
All of that participation does have an advantage, Mark said: “People feel vested in the work.” He compared the co-op model to craftsmen’s guilds of yore. “Everybody has a particular expertise, and it’s a great way to collaborate and exchange ideas,” he said.
Visit www.xylosgallery.com to see more from these woodworkers.