I rarely write anything about my other “professional” job in the pages of Barking Shaman. The use of the term “professional” rather than “mundane” is not an accident. While my training is in the design of assistive and consumer products, most of the money that the company has made in the past year has been in the design (both physical and magical design) and creation of custom, unique, sacred tools.
I’ve wondered of late why this work hasn’t found its way into BS before. I think the biggest reason is that people in the pagan community tend not to really understand what it is that I do. In my interactions with other pagans and magical folks I am often referred to as a “craftsperson.” I have deep respect for those I consider to be “craftspeople.” That is one reason why the term makes me uncomfortable. I am not a “craftsperson.” I think part of me would like to be, but I’m not.
I am a product designer. Both in my magical and material work, design is the primary focus. As a metal worker, I am certainly adequate. And there are not all that many people making sacred tools with access to a TIG welder or a Bridgeport vertical milling machine, which adds an element of uniqueness to what the company can offer. These things are not the reason someone hires me though.
When you give a craftsperson your money, you do so because they can make something that you can’t. A key tool in my magical and shamanic working is a soul-bonded sword made by Daniel Watson of Angel Sword for instance. Even if I had a limitless amount of money (and no demanding goddess breathing down my neck or family for that matter) so I could devote my life to the art of sword making I don’t know if I could ever produce something so lovely. This is why Mr. Watson can charge over $20,000 for his finest work (which is very fine indeed).
While my company does fabrication work and to a high standard, fabrication is not really what we are paid for. When someone hires us, especially in the case of mundane design rather than sacred tools, what we are being paid for is to think. I am not trying to say that my clients are unintelligent, or that I am more so. Rather, I spent years (perhaps as many as Mr. Watson had by this point in his business) training in a specific way of thinking and looking at the world.
Training in design strongly influenced my and Fire’s way of doing magic as well. We are often referred to as good “energy technicians” by people in the pagan community. It’s true that our way of doing magic is quite technical. We approached the study of magic much the way we approached design and our methodology and symbol system for spell construction owes far more to the Lemelson Design Center than to Llewellyn Publishing.
However, I’d say that there is a difference between energy “technician” and energy “designer.” I see a magical technician as someone who has perfect form in their magic, so nothing is wasted or out of place, whereas, a magical designer is someone who creates something new on a regular basis, especially to solve a new problem. I try to be both. I have known good “technicians” who don’t create new magic, and people who are brilliant at coming up with new ideas and spells but who have sloppy technique.
My main focus in the business at the moment is a sacred tools project that involves very little magic at all. However, the client’s needs are myriad and the challenge of meeting all of them has been surprisingly daunting. It has been the worst kind of design process. At our first meeting when the client described their needs, I believed that the design would flow smoothly and quickly. My first impression was mistaken, and I have had to fight to keep the slow destruction of that beautiful mirage from getting me too down on the project. Weeks of work (although with my health, I don’t exactly get to put in full days) and the design is finally taking shape in the computer. Like any good design, magical or mundane, when it is finished most people will look at it a think “well, that doesn’t look too hard to figure out.”
This is a problem for us as designers, fabricators, magicians, people who sell a service and now sometimes sell a product. At the top of BarkingShaman in the “about me” section is a picture of a CAD design of a product we produced for a client. It was a specialized ordeal tool designed to be worn on the head. Influenced by the Kavadi ritual, the “crown” had twelve surgical steel spikes that were fully adjustable but could be removed for sharpening or autoclaving without loosing the adjustment. Made from scratch, it also incorporated extensive magic to open the crown chakra in a dramatic, yet controlled way, and provide a structure and containment to the opening, leading to greater safety in use compared to other, less controlled chakra opening aides. The design process on the crown was extensive for both the physical and magical design. The fabrication ran about forty hours. The client for the crown was a major figure in the pagan demographic.
Although our client was quite happy with the results, the few other people who had expressed interest were turned off by the amount of money we were asking to produce another crown. One offer was %12 of the actual cost.
Like Clan Tashlin, with our unusual magical system and nameless Lady, the company is struggling to find a place in a broader community that doesn’t really “get” what we do. As I was sitting with the client whose project I am currently working on, I realized that there may quite literally be no one else in the world that can do exactly what we do. That is to say, how many people or companies have a shaman and more that one magician to address the spiritual needs of the client’s design but also have the training to identify and solve the myriad technical problems posed by the design’s necessary criteria? Finally, we have the resources of an industry CAD program, a small but capable fabrication shop, and cultivated contacts in both the magical/pagan and design worlds.
Our biggest problem in magic, sacred tool work and in presenting Clan Tashlin is that what we offer seems to come from a different place than many people in the pagan demographic. Our approach has at times turned people off or created interpersonal conflicts. In a community where “intent” and feelings are often seen as being paramount, a technical approach to magic, a Lady who doesn’t tell her name, and sacred tools designed in SolidWorks CAD are not always an easy fit.