Sunday, February 13, 2005

Freelance Hobopoet

by AJ/Skald

Kristin's boyfriend, Wat, is from southern Thailand. He grew up in a "poor" family. He got a HS education but hated school and didn't do well in it. After school, he spent several years loafing. He joined a motorcycle "gang"-- the Black Angels-Easy Riders.

For the next several years he went to biker festivals and met tons of people. He also met a jeweler and learned the basics of silversmithing. A biker friend invited him to Phuket... where he continued to perfect his craft. He put a blanket on a street corner and sold jewelry to tourists. At this time he inexplicably developed an interest in Native American art, jewelry, and culture.

After a few years he grew tired of Phuket. Another friend was building a resort on a remote island and asked Wat to help. So for another three years he lived there, helped build the resort, loafed some more, and continued perfecting his jewelry craft. He started to mix "biker fashion" with "native American fashion".

Finally, the resort was finished and he was bored on the island. Yet another friend invited him to Bangkok... where he once more set out a blanket and sold jewelry. By this point, however, he had mastered the craft. His stuff sold like crazy. He couldn't handle all the work and so brought his brother to Bangkok and taught him the craft.

The jewelry kept selling. Soon some of the big jewelry stores noticed his work. They placed large wholesale orders through him. So Wat brought in several more friends to help.... he puts them up in a house for free-- and the house doubles as their workshop.

The most recent wrinkle is that his girlfriend is moving to Japan next month. Wat is going to go as well... mostly because he wants to be with her and travel. But he also realized that many of his most enthusiastic customers were Japanese tourists. It turns out he has a few friends in Japan (biker buddies who married Japanese girls). He called them and they are eager to help him get started.

So now he wants to start an import/export business to Japan. He will probably start, yet again, with a blanket and a sidewalk. His brother and friends will keep the Bangkok operation going. Wat has done all this without business training. He doesn't call it a "business".. he calls it "my art". He doesn't have "employees"... he has friends & collaborating artists. He doesn't "network"... he just has tons of friends. He has no "marketing strategy", he is just an extremely likable guy who has mastered his craft.

Wat will never be a millionaire. But he is living life on his own terms and doing quite well. He's an inspiring example of a freelancing hobopoet whose "work" and "art" are one in the same thing.

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