Age of owner, Sawyer Devuyst: 28
Number of pieces commissioned by the Wythe Hotel: 192
Lesson: Epitomize an aesthetic.
So you started your business by setting up shop on Etsy?
I had apprenticed at a metalworking place in Clinton Hill; then the economy tanked, and I could have either sat on unemployment and done nothing or started my own thing. So I started the Etsy store, selling my steel furniture. The Wythe Hotel scouted me when they were outfitting their rooms. They just searched for “Brooklyn metal table,” and my profile, they said, suggested I had my shit together. And then the Etsy-headquarters people also met me on Etsy.
It was literally Etsy buying furniture on Etsy?
How many pieces are you making these days?
I just finished building 68 minibar shelves for the Wythe Hotel; it took a little over a month. But if I have smaller, one-off jobs, I can do ten a month, maximum.
Have you needed a supplementary job?
I act as a background actor sometimes. I also do stunts for film and TV, but not very often because I’m so busy.
Are you making a living with Saw now?
I’m making a living. Hand-making anything is not the way to make a fortune. I have had to raise my prices, because I was naïve at first about the costs of running a business, let alone a business in New York City.
And West Elm just decided to distribute your pieces. Did they discover you through Etsy as well?
I actually have no idea how they found me. I’m assuming through the Wythe Hotel—they specifically wanted the Wythe side table. As of right now, West Elm has purchased the pieces that will be on the showroom floor, and they say a larger order will be placed soon. So I have to change gears from building one custom media unit to building 50 of the same table, production-line style.
Are you making growth plans?
I’m looking to get a workspace, have apprentices, entertain clients occasionally, and have sample pieces for potential customers to view. In the long term, I’d love to open a brick-and-mortar shop with my work, with a small interior-design office in back. My end goal, my dream, is to be like a Jonathan Adler—but less flamboyant, more industrial.