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Turned Write Handcrafted Art turns new opportunity

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Nov 15th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Features

Colin Schroeder is the creator of Turned Write Handcrafted Art now located in Peterson, Minn. Photo by Kirsten Zoellner

By Kirsten Zoellner

More often than not, many dream of casting off their professional lot in life in favor of their true passion. How great would it be to spend your days enjoying your favorite hobby as your career? If you’re fortunate enough to have the talent, you’re right; it’s amazing. Just ask Colin Schroeder, the creator of Turned Write Handcrafted Art.

For Schroeder, the road from hobby to profession has been a relatively quick one. The woodworker, who specializes in hand turned items, first picked up a lathe five years ago. Having spent time making furniture and working on his home, Schroeder certainly knew his way around a workshop, but the original $300 lathe was purchased on a whim.

“Did I need to buy it?” asks Schroeder, jokingly. “It was more of a ‘Hmmm… let’s add something new.” Thankfully, his wife Crystal, who’d gone to the car to wait and was surprised by the purchase, was completely supportive. “My family has always been behind me.” Still, at the time, Schroeder had no plans to do anything commercial.

When those first few handmade pens were made, and given away to family and friends as gifts, Schroeder never anticipated the response. Soon, new customers were lining up for his one-of-a-kind works of art. Schroeder began dabbling in different mediums of domestic and exotic woods, and acyrlics. He also began showcasing his wares at craft shows and small markets and quickly found there was a niche for his products. Turned Write is now a popular favorite at shows, was a featured demonstrator for ExpoCulinaria, and is a regular vendor at Rochester’s Thursdays on First and a founding vendor of the Rushford Peterson Valley Farmers’ Market.

Riding the wave of demand, Schroeder soon found himself invited to create pens, from 100 year-old Hemlock, for a large corporation. Still working full time for a local company, the immense, 1,060-piece order consumed nearly all of his spare time. Carefully weighing the options, the decision to go from hobby to full-time profession was made in July and on August 16, Schroeder made the leap.

The order brought along other turning points for Turned Write. For one, the order required custom engraving and while Schroeder had the option of sending the pens out for detailing, he ultimately decided to purchase a laser engraving machine, which could be used for various projects. The process continued to rapidly move along and Schroeder soon realized he’d outgrown his current space, an uninsulated, unheated home workshop. Keeping an eye out for both new workshop space and the potential for retail space, he quickly set his eyes on the vacant former Marine Credit Union in Peterson, Minn. By August 23, an offer had been made on the building and Turned Write Handcrafted Art had a new space and new opportunity.

“There’s so much potential in this area. I wanted to invest in the Rushford-Peterson Valley,” says Schroeder of his decision to plant his business within the community, as opposed to a larger city.

Turned Write officially moved into the new building October 4. The Schroeder family then spent several weeks cleaning, painting, and modifying the facility, including setting up a vaccum system for dust collection, a stock area, workshop, and a store-front window turning area. A second lathe was also added.

Schroeder orders much of his materials through wholesalers, and does some bartering for woods with others online, but he still enjoys when someone brings him a material that’s important or interesting for them and asks him to create art from it. “A lot of it, you might have a guess as to what it might look like, but you’re never quite sure. With some it’s totally random, a complete surprise,” he adds. Even corn cob and deer antler have been the basis for some. “I enjoy that. Otherwise, it would just be factory work.”

Schroeder makes the process look easy, but from selecting the stock, determining the desired outcome and look, and doing the work, the process is in-depth. Most of the items cut into a blank and built around a hollow tube. To determine the shape and size, some tools assist in giving end diameters, but the majority of it is hand work done with a careful, fine-tuned skill, turning in different ways and angles to bring out the beauty of the wood grains or acrylics. After sanding and finishing the item on the lathe, or wet sanded and polished in the case of acrylics, items are given a polymer friction finish using heat from friction to cure the finish. The product is then assembled and put on display.

“No two pieces are alike,” he notes. Unlike other high-end, hand-turned items, Schroeder has made a point of pricing his items as reasonably as possible. “They’re all unique, but I want them to be something people can use every day, not put away in a drawer.”

The biggest benefit of the location was the eastern portion of the building, which leant itself perfectly for a retail space. The bright blue walls now highlight and array of colorful wood and acrylic items, which have gone far beyond various ballpoint and fountain pens and now include mechanical pencils, bowls, buttons, letter openers, bottle openers, bottle stoppers, whistles, mutli-tool screwdrivers, and more. “If you can cut it, I can turn it,” enthuses Schroeder. Recently, five new items were added in anticipation of the grand opening event; classic wooden sinning tops, shaving kits including a razor, brush, stand, and shave soap, bracelet helpers, shawl pins, and stylus pens for those technology-savvy folks.

The new retail space, located at 322 Mill Street, has also allowed Schroeder to display works by other local artisans. Buying some items wholesale and some through consignment, Turned Write offers handmade products from Root River Baskets, Metz’s Hartland Dairy & Honey, Simple Soaps for Simple Folks, and Root River Lures within the store. Combined, they’re an effective and luring sampling of some of the more unique art and handmade products in the community, just a short jaunt from the Root River State Trail.

The grand opening for Turned Write Handcrafted art begins this Friday, November 22, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and continues Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Stop in, register for prizes, watch some amazing demonstrations, and check a bit of those gifts off your holiday shopping lists.

More information can be found at www.facebook.com/TurnedWriteArt.


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7:13:48, Nov 19th 2013

Colin's custom work is of the highest quality. He continues to produce unique product lines. They are true works of art you can pass on to future generations. A rare find. Absolutely worth your time to stop by & see for yourself :)