At what point in your life did you decide to become a professional artist?
After we made our first light, we posted it on social media and got really good feedback. It actually surprised us. We thought we should create more and see how people react. The demand was there, but we didn’t have a lot of money at the time. We were trying to figure out how to make ends meet.
We actually started the business by selling merchandise. It was initially a lifestyle brand. We sold t-shirts out of the trunk of our cars to raise money without taking out a business loan. We never intended to have a ton of designs, but we got materials and supplies from the t-shirt profits, started making the lights, and more people started buying them. Now we have skateboard lights, industrial lights, and handblown glass lights. We also do a number of custom lighting commissions. We can take almost anything and make a light out of it.
We both still work our full-time jobs. We’re hoping that we can eventually make this a full-time business because we love making art. But we both have very established careers and we like what we do – we’ve worked hard to do it, so we’re not ready to give that up just yet.
That being said, Whiskertin is more than a hobby or a side hustle. It’s something we’ve been going after for a long time. When you go to a vendor market, we stand out because we go the extra mile to set up the display. Whiskertin has opened so many new doors and it’s a true expression of our creativity.
What’s one of the most special items you’ve ever made for a customer?
We do a lot of stuff that has sentimental value. One time, someone brought us a prosthetic leg from her brother who had passed away. So we made a lamp out of it, like the lamp from “A Christmas Story.” We had another woman whose husband had passed away. She gave us the bottle they drank on their wedding night; we mounted it on a wood base and engraved it for her.
We do a lot of repurposing of family objects so people can keep something of the past but modernize it or give it a new use – someone’s grandma’s lamp or kids’ beat-up old skateboards. We can customize anything and turn it into a fixture. We’re working on a ‘57 Chevy hood; we’re going to add bulbs to it and the client will hang it above his workbench.
We love our personal projects, but we also enjoy commercial work. Commercial work is cool because we can really influence the vibe of a space. We might do 100 lights for a commercial customer, creating a truly illuminated environment where the lighting sets the tone for the room.
On the flip side, lights for a customer can be more personal. They’ll often come back and see us. We have one customer that keeps coming back to us because she eventually wants to have our lights around her whole house. There’s a lot of custom work that goes into Whiskertin. We like the challenge of it.
If you listen to music while creating, what’s on your playlist?
We make all of our lights by hand, which is fun but work-intensive, so we like to have background noise. Most of the time, we’re listening to punk and indie rock to stay motivated.
Where do you go to find inspiration in and around Cleveland?
We get inspiration from collaborations. We use skills of other artists in our work like Rust Belt Rebirth and Akron Glass Works. We’ve had local artists do some woodwork for us, too.
We both lived in Akron for a long time before we started in the maker movement. We weren’t in the world of being around other artists and vendors. Once we started doing this, it changed who we interacted with. We’ve met so many cool new people through Whiskertin. People in general have been a source of inspiration in that way. We’ve built relationships with people we’ve never met. We’ll go to Chicago or New York and see makers and customers from Northeast Ohio. You create these relationships and people remember you for what you do. We didn’t expect how great it would be to be part of the maker movement, but we can’t imagine life without it.