Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello. My name is Geoffrey Franklin. I grew up with my dad spending all our free time on the family farm in eastern Oregon. My family came to Oregon in 1843 along the Oregon Trail. I went to Arts and Communications High School before receiving my Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Oregon. I focused on architecture as an umbrella degree for design. I have a keen interest in design – making everything from bike parts to wineries. I have been working in various sized architectural firms for the last several years.
I met an amazing woman named Valerie Schafer, now my wife, Valerie Franklin. Valerie has always been my strongest supporter. She helped me take the leap to work for myself, nudging me out of the nest of comfort, if you will. And it turned out to be the best thing for me. With a partner, I founded Walnut Architecture. We envisioned our business to be a design studio where we work on projects ranging from bicycle accessories to backyard barns, from Halloween props to theaters, from furniture to hotels. We actually do all those things.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
When I’m not working, I like to do all the same stuff but for myself. There is very little time when I’m not creating something. I love to ride my bike and use that time to test the products I design as Walnut Studiolo. I test out my architecture skills and design by remodeling our house. I’ll spend all day modeling a house in the office just to come home to work on my own home. I am always thinking of and observing the world around me.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I remember watching my grandma with her oil paints. I must have been six years old. She really enjoyed still life painting. Carefully observing a van Gogh sunflower, for example, she would paint her own impression of the impressionist painting. I thought she was the greatest painter in the world. She told me, “Everyone is an artist, you just have to practice.” That was it for me. I started practicing.
Please describe your creative process.
Whether in architecture or product design, materials drive the form. Finding the right material for what you have envisioned may be a real trick. But getting that first step right seems to be key.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have two favorite handmade possessions. The first is a wooden stool from the family farm. Three generations of Franklins have used it, and it shows: paint splatters, saw cuts, an extra nail. The second is my bike, made by Renovo Bicycles in Portland, out of wood. I ride it everyday. It is spectacular.
Name your top five books, movies, musicians, and websites besides Etsy.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
Home by Witold Rybczynski
The Journals of Lewis and Clark by Lewis and Clark
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
If you have found something you like to do, find time to work on it everyday. Develop yourself. Not just your skills but also your mind. Keep trying new things. Bring together all those bits of experience that you have and contribute them to those who mean the most to you.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I love the gift guides and Editors’ Picks; they expose me to other artists and ideas without having to cull through the entire collection. I wish the local search function was more robust – I live in Portland, Oregon where there are hundreds of artists and Etsy sellers, and I wish I could search by location and keyword, such as for jewelry makers in Portland.
How do you promote your work?
More than selling in high numbers, I want my creations to go to people who will love them. All my efforts have gone to finding those special people. I’m still working on it but generally speaking, the bicycling community is hugely supportive. Write-ups on bicycling blogs have brought us significant bumps in customers:trackasaurusrex, bikesnobnyc, bikeportland and more. My designs are all original and conceived because I saw a need that I couldn’t find on the market and other bicyclists have the same need (like a stylish way to carry your u-lock on your bike – the only frame-mounted u-lock hardware I could find was cheap plastic stuff).
In ten years, where would you like to be?
In ten years, I would like to have rehabilitated a warehouse building in Portland into a workshop / design studio. Envision a mad scientist’s laboratory set up for a builder. I want my clients to see the process, to become part of it. I would like a proper place to explore my imagination so as to expand the possibilities for others.