What do you get when you mix an artist and a Koi-keeper? The Wooden Koi Company obviously! Nigel Daw and Maggie Smeeton came together 10 years ago to start what would eventually take over their lives- The Wooden Koi Company; letting Maggie become a full-time artist and giving Nigel the opportunity to immerse himself in his love for Koi.
Nigel, who is a part time long distance truck driver and Maggie who use to work in a D.I.Y store accidentally struck gold with the idea of creating handmade wooden Koi when they discovered that their German Shepard - Belle, could escape through their garden gate and Nigel came up with the idea of adding two ornamental wooden koi on the door to stop Belle from squeezing through.
After receiving several compliments and making some wooden Koi ornaments for family and friends over Christmas, Nigel and Maggie decided to test the out the markets by adding some of their pieces on eBay and after being blown away by the response to their art, they decided to invest more time into it and thus the Wooden Koi Company was crafted.
The Wooden Koi Company creates beautiful, handmade and hand painted Koi and animal art for indoor and outdoor display. Maggie will even create a bespoke portrait of your beloved Koi for you to have forever. “I love painting Koi portraits because you have to get all the details right, so you have to spend time observing the fish and really getting all the details down to the last spot.”
Nigel and Maggie have developed a workflow where they keep out of each other’s way and trust each other's judgements when it comes to design and sales, with Maggie having final say on design and Nigel dealing with the customers. “If Maggie says the piece is not up-to-scratch, then the piece is not up-to-scratch, end of,” said Nigel when he explained their creative process. “ I cut the shapes and she paints the details and we keep out of each other’s process,” he added, making the process sound a whole lot simpler than it really is!
Nigel cuts the various shapes of Koi, trees and other animals; as they need for their customer’s orders and prepares them for painting; at this stage, they are just white shapes. Maggie then adds the details, colours and artwork according to her designs and hands it back to Nigel for the final mounting and painting. Each piece of work takes about 3-7 days to finish, making it a unique high-quality piece of work that anybody would be proud to own. “A cut-out has so much more impact, compared to a regular canvas painting; they take on a different look,” said Maggie when asked about what sets their work apart.
The Wooden Koi Company uses the best raw materials to produce a finished product that Nigel claims will last a lifetime without fading. “We make them for outdoor use, it can take a beating in our weather and still be as good as new,” said Nigel. The company has grown from a humble kitchen business to having buyers in places as far as Canada and Holland. “I nearly destroyed our kitchen with varnish; I use to leave a little path to the kettle and toaster for Nigel [in the morning] and used all the remaining space for the art,” said Maggie, who now has a studio of her own, where she creates Koi and animal art in great detail.
Nigel and Maggie make sure their business is very customer focused, they thrive on customer satisfaction and have never to date received any of their work back from dissatisfied buyers. “I did have a return once, it was a man who had purchased a house number plate with Koi on it; he returned it because he was moving house and wanted me to re-paint the house number on it,” laughed Maggie who had always been a pencil artist and found herself painting intricate Koi patterns after meeting Nigel.
The company has constantly been trying to innovate new and beautiful ways for people to decorate their Koi ponds, the latest addition being a wrap-around fence Koi- guard for a Koi pond; an idea Nigel has been toying with for the past week and has garnered over 1,000 views on Facebook for his initial pictures. He also developed the double sided fence, which has two different Koi printed on either side of the fence, adding beauty and variety to enclosures. “We love how people react to our work, it really drives us to produce more,” says Nigel.
The Wooden Koi Company mainly sell their wares during shows or puts products online for sale on their website and on Facebook. Since the products are handmade and individually decorated they cannot mass produced, thus each person gains a unique piece of work and can rest in the knowledge that they are the only person in the world that has it. ”The products sell really quickly; I once put a frame up for sale on Facebook, and on my way back from the computer to the Kitchen, I got a call from Ireland asking me to sell that frame to them!,” said Nigel; he added that they try and not put frames and products online before shows for fear that they will run low on stock during the show.
When talking about their lifestyle change and their ability to follow their dreams both Nigel and Maggie said that while this was a dream come true for both of them, this was a full time 7 days a week job that required all their attention, all the time. “It is like a runaway train; I have to pinch myself to make sure it is real,” said Maggie, who feels blessed to be able to follow her art. There is no time off with all the orders pouring in; especially so close to Christmas which is proving to be a busy time for them. They have plenty of new designs and different ways to pay for those designs on their website and Facebook page.
Maggie and Nigel have followed their passion and found a willing and niche market for their products; they have also started The Wooden Wildlife Company to incorporate wildlife cut-outs into their artwork. Make sure to check out their website and Facebook page if you want to get your hands on this year’s stock before they sell out! It is no surprise that Nigel and Maggie are absolute delights to talk to and would make it their mission to satisfy your need for Koi art.