016 - Erik Meek

Erik Meek is currently a detective at the Albuquerque Police Department. His new venture, Black Hammer Designs, deploys his creative talents and neverending pursuit of acquiring new skills. He utilizes CNC equipment, hand-work, and laser work into his furniture and product designs. In this podcast episode, Erik shares his insight into living a life of duty, service, creativity, and commitment.



https://www.instagram.com/blackhammerdesigns/

Erik's Website

https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlackHammerDesigns


Transcript:

Alex Velasquez  0:00
Welcome back to the Apollo Road podcast joined with Erik Meek today. Welcome.

Erik Meek  0:06
Thank you appreciate it.

Alex Velasquez  0:07
Of course. to start off we met officially what couple weeks ago you can basically take this as an example of business that happened purely over Instagram. Just I don't know how I found you on Instagram but followed you... does Nice work I just happened to be a spot where I needed some laser work done you know reached out you got back to me right away. got the job done. I was like alright, cool. I like working with Erik he's just prompt, upfront. And all that because of Instagram. You know, I think today we usually kind of shit on social media and it's easy to see the negatives of it, but absolutely every now and then it's like hey, you make make new friend make new contacts you just so that's the intro for today. Yeah, but um, yeah, thanks for doing the podcast and it's not a lot of people would jump right in and you know, from the initial acquaintance to Hey, let's do some, you know, let's do some media something.

Erik Meek  1:12
Yeah, I was a little nervous about it. But I think it'll be cool. So let's give it a run.

Alex Velasquez  1:21
Yeah, right on. So laser cutting is not your primary avocation. You're a longtime APD employee and, and service member. How's that been in Albuquerque?

Erik Meek  1:38
You know, it's, it's every day is something different, that's for sure. I started back in 2003. I moved here from St. Louis, Missouri. About a week before the Academy started actually, and jumped right into it. And here I am today almost 18 years later and I still love the job. I do. But the climate has changed so much that it's time to time to shut it down.

Alex Velasquez  2:16
Yeah, it's uh, you know, the phrase 'hold the line' is I think that you could speak far more to what that means to you and you know, that's a rough it's a rough way to make a living and to constantly be putting yourself ahead of everybody else so I would say you know, hats off to you for sticking that that job out for so long.

Erik Meek  2:42
Thank you.

Alex Velasquez  2:43
I know it's you know, most people can't imagine how like you said how different it is and how tough it is. But yeah, so a career in the police force and as you always wanted to go into police work?

Erik Meek  2:59
No, what's funny is in college, I was computer science major. I had a a scholarship to Bradley University went to Bradley for about a year and learned very quickly that if you don't go to school in class, like you should, they tend to frown upon that so I ended up leaving Bradley and started the electricians apprenticeship for local 34 Union electricians back home, excuse me. And graduated a five year apprenticeship worked for another three years moved to St. Louis. work started getting slow and I kind of got a wild hair. And I thought let's let's try police work. Yeah, and I loved it. I mean, fell into it. And and here I am. So

Alex Velasquez  3:56
that's cool. Now that's cool. It's it's, every time I do this podcast, and I talk to people, it's always an interesting path. Everybody has sort of the zigzag path right and there's always an interesting kind of in are they just people you know, always they say, Yeah, I fell into it, and it just happened to work and for a long time, and that's, it's great to hear.

Erik Meek  4:21
Yeah, I you know, I was home back in Peoria for a weekend and I ran into a childhood friend that works for APD and she says hey, they're hiring. And you know, I'm sitting here thinking, Okay, well that doesn't mean anything to me but and I kind of you know, I kind of marinated on that for a bit and it I finally called her and said, Hey, I'm gonna come down, check it out. So came down to visit met some really cool people down here, and next I knew I was putting in my application. And it was, you know, about a three month process.

Alex Velasquez  5:07
Is it the standard Academy? It's it is right. It's like 12. Is it a 12 week?

Erik Meek  5:13
process? So ours is? It was 26 weeks we say, Okay,

Alex Velasquez  5:16
yeah, okay. Yeah. And Is that all? at once? Or do they kind of chunk it out into semesters or

Erik Meek  5:23
no. So when when I first started, it was we started at around 6:30, in the morning, Monday through Friday, and we were there until 4:30, 5:30, sometimes 6:30 in the evening, and it was a combination of physical training, academics, a lot of disciplinary stuff, firearms, training, defensive tactics, things like that.

Alex Velasquez  5:54
That's a lot is a lot for, it's the school's hard enough. I mean, I was always I always struggled with school and sitting, sitting still for a couple hours at a time. But yeah, I can only imagine when there's so many physical and just the sheer pressure of like, what you have to study is like, we got to get this right. And, you know, that's got to be long days.

Erik Meek  6:15
It was funny too Alex because when I moved here, I knew one person and that was it. And I literally knew how to get from my house, to the Academy. So that was my, my day. And there would be some mornings, I'd wake up at about five and lay in bed and think, what am I doing? Like this is, you know, but at the end, it was it was one of the best decisions I made.

Alex Velasquez  6:46
And I was cool. Yeah, that moment, were like, oh, what have I gotten myself into? But at the fact is, he stuck it out clearly and had a, you know, successful career? And it's been great. And, yeah, and, you know, it's, I think that is a I mean, you could speak more to this, but just the, the skill and the, there's the trait of service, consistency, you know, there's, I like the term civilian these days, just because it's people don't really talk that way anymore of, of be having your, you know, duty as a citizen, Your duty as, you know, somebody on the front line, whether that's police, healthcare, military, anything, it's a distinction, but it doesn't mean that you don't have any less duty and other it's still important to be a good citizen, important to be, whatever occupation you find yourself. And I think, ultimately, it's like, if you can do do the best you can, and know that you're helping other people like that sort of what I think is lost a little bit these days. And absolutely, so just great to like, you know, meet somebody that really upholds that and has lived it. And and, you know, now that you're transitioning, I guess into more more furniture and, and design. That's must be a nice breath of fresh air.

Erik Meek  8:13
Yeah. Well, what's funny is to is about five or six years ago, I had actually started doing remodels. So I fell in love with that there for a while. My father in law, he lives in Indiana. He's a general contractor. And he was a furniture maker prior to so he was the one who kind of got me kind of planted that bug. And so I really kind of got a little bit of passion for it. But I had opportunities to do remodels, you know, small remodels and in homes. So I went with that and it took off, and I worked a lot of hours. And so it was tough having my my work schedule plus doing remodels. You know, it was it was my wife had the patience of a saint there for a couple years because you know, it was literally working after hours through the week working weekends sometimes. So then a short while after maybe about three or four years, I kind of went back into doing the furniture making the industrial furniture because I love the metal and wood. Didn't really jump into it too heavy but then COVID came around and it kind of gave me an opportunity to really run with it. Just you know having a lot of I'm at home. And it worked out great because I wasn't gone on the weekends, I wasn't going after hours. I was that, you know, just out out on the property in the shop, right? working so

Alex Velasquez  10:13
and so you've got a nice setup in basically like in your, in your garage and your garage opens two bays, so it feels like you can you can spread out and you can get some bigger pieces of furniture or steel or raw materials in there, right, which is nice. And just having it, you know, kind of in your, in your backyard is saves you the time and the commute. And it does. So when did you start Black Hammer Designs before COVID? Or was it during COVID he sort of started to brand it and figure out Alright, this is you know, I've got something here?

Erik Meek  10:46
During COVID. And it it was kind of a I won't say a knee jerk decision, but it was something where I just excuse me, it hit me. Like the the passion for it just it was so relaxing. You know, for for me to go out and create. And then I would find myself almost 24 seven there was something going on in my brain about I should try this or, hey, I can you know, this would be really cool. A cool little creation. Like I said, it was mainly furniture. And then once it hit me I just happened that somebody called me about doing a cutting board. And I said yeah, I mean I can I can do a cutting board. And the next day I knew I had about 50 orders for cutting boards. And that was when I said you know what? Black Hammer Designs. So I'm gonna I'm gonna kick it off there. Yeah.

Alex Velasquez  12:00
So man, that's, that's always that that is always nice when you get a stack orders and you're like, Okay, it's funny, because that's sort of what happened to me in college. I designed a titanium spatula. So we had a we had an aluminum cooking spatula that you know, using the, in our dorm and in our apartment and stuff, right? One day, just snap, you know, it's like, yeah, and I'd always liked exotic materials and motorcycles and cars, and it was sort of, so I was like, man, I wonder I wonder how hard it would be to make something out of titanium because I was just like he said, it's you just get that bug in your head. Man, what can I work with this and long story short, I ended up making a few prototypes, and I kind of like convinced the waterjet to just Hey, I just have this one little piece of material can use knock it out. Just knock it out. You know, it's kind of like an out I was like a college kids or a gash or, and they charged me like, you know, just not a full amount. No minimum or anything. Right. So I got the first ones made. And, and sure enough, you know, I was like, oh, then I got to stack orders. And I'm like, all right, knee jerk. And I do and I went, you know, full tilt. I was like, I got an LLC and I started the whole process. And I think I started couple years too soon, but it was a learning experience. And here we are.

Erik Meek  13:19
Yeah, I can relate to that. For sure. I I kind of did the same thing jumped in kind of have the cart before the horse, you know, LLC, logos and but it smoothly kind of all balancing out now I'm getting caught up so

Alex Velasquez  13:38
good. When did you jump into laser work? Because you bought like a kit. And those kits are not easy. It's not like you just open that thing up and push go. I mean, there's there's a lot of setup, there's building the thing, there's making sure it's square, then there's all software side and learning. How did you jump into that? Well,

Erik Meek  14:02
again, it was putting the cart before the horse, you know, I bought my first or tour laser. And it wasn't very expensive, but it was, you know, one of the smallest ones they made. And I told myself, you have no idea. No idea really what you're doing. So I didn't want to go in debt, a whole bunch of money. So started out small. And I taught myself the software LightBurn. Pretty easy to use, but it was every project I did was I learned something that I made a mistake on or whatever. So so it was kind of trial by error a little bit then I really got comfortable with it. And then I bought a little bit bigger one. So now I run two and it's kind of the same Same thing with the with the woods CNC. I bought that Bob's CNC machine had to put it together. My daughter, she and I sat and I think it took us about six hours. To put it all together she would, she would take all the screws dip em in Loctite, prep them for me, you know, and yeah, we got it together. And same thing. I had no clue what I was doing. And taught myself the software. And

Alex Velasquez  15:33
now that's cool. That's um, yeah, that rings some bells for me too, because we have the ShopSabre CNC, and it was kind of same thing where we got it set up, you know, we called tech support, just to get the Hey, how do we get the initial set up, and they walk you through it? But from there, it was like, oh, like, you know, it's

Erik Meek  15:54
real nice. Real. Yeah.

Alex Velasquez  15:56
Now, it's funny, as... How long have I been trying to think a couple of years, maybe five years. Just running CNC equipment. I always thought that I was doing something wrong. I was like, man, I feel like I should know how this works. And then you talk to everybody. And even like the people that run it day in and day out. They're like, you know, like, I messed this thing up the other day. And yes, there's, you're always, you're always on that line of, you know, something's easy. And then you mess it up, and then you have to relearn. And then Oh, yeah. So I'm starting to realize, I think that's just how it is you just jump in, make bunch of mistakes.

Erik Meek  16:37
Absolutely. I said even. And I think for me was I got comfortable, maybe a little cocky thinking, this, you know, I know what I'm doing this easy. And you're in, you'll get them, you know, a piece set up. And totally forget something, you know, something small. But the next thing you know, your routers cutting out on the wrong side, you know, the wrong end of the piece. And then, which isn't that bad on some of the less expensive wood, but you know, you get some of your expensive like olive wood or something in there. You hate to screw that up. So been there.

Alex Velasquez  17:17
Yep. Yep, in there. And it's see what I liked about your setup. Is it? He built the he built the box around it with the Plexi.

Erik Meek  17:24
Yeah, it was a game changer. Yeah. Ours

Alex Velasquez  17:29
doesn't have that. And you know, like, I got glasses, but I know that if that carbide snaps, I mean, you're basically it's a missile, you're getting hit? Yeah. So I'm always like, you know, I'm always sweating when I'm operating that thing, even in the winter. Oh, yes. All right, you got to make sure. But you know, once you get in the groove, I mean, I think it sounds like you've got some bread and butter with just like smaller wood items. It's like, you know, what, just you just run it, you run it, and you get comfortable with it, and you know, where your mistakes can happen? Absolutely. So what's it like, you know, having the orders keeping things going? And are you still looking ahead? Like, can I get a looking at a bigger, anything bigger, and looking at upscaling a little bit or?

Erik Meek  18:15
So, you know, being right now I'm about six months from retirement. So I'm comfortable with where I'm at. Because it's still kind of part part time. But yes, once I retire, it would be great to get a bigger CNC get a bigger laser, too, just to be able to do some bigger pieces. And, you know, timewise to shave down some of the work time. So

Alex Velasquez  18:47
yeah, yeah, cool. And it kind of connects the dots. He said he kind of went into computer science and in school and it sounds like you already had an inkling for how how that stuff worked. I mean, that stuff's like, the kit stuff is really intimidating to me. I've never really been able to get my head just into like wiring and electronics. And so that stuff I've always sort of just like been really hesitant to do, but it sounds like you kind of already had like a knack for it. Or maybe it's it's something that doesn't, it doesn't intimidate you too much. Well,

Erik Meek  19:23
I think, you know, it's been a combination of things. The the computer background for the computer science. Ever since I was a kid I liked working and tinkering on things, was always very mechanical, and then becoming an electrician. That was where to this day. It's amazing because as when I was little I could hardly my dad would ask me to go get a tool and I'd have no clue. Absolutely no clue. The most basic tool So it's just kind of funny that I ended up, you know, working with tools on the regular. But But yeah, the, you know, the building the constructing of the lasers building the the CNC was I actually really loved it. You know, I mean, six hours was a long time, but it was almost therapeutic.

Alex Velasquez  20:19
Mm hmm. Yeah, that stuff can't had suspected that stuff can't really be taught. I think the if you if you get if you're able to get lost in it in the work, it's just that sort of who ends up doing that kind of stuff, right? Yeah, so what? What's it like combining? You know, the creative side with, you know, you have these orders, you have deadlines? Because I would say like, you're obviously, you're a creative, even though your whole, your current. And, you know, the last part of your career was in the police force, right? Which is very, you know, the creativity is not, you don't have a lot of room for creativity. It's sort of like things got to be done by the book, right? Yeah. So how does it How does it go, moving from that industry that line of work into, it's like, you're your own boss, you get the orders out, but you can do it however, however you want, you know?

Erik Meek  21:33
It's so my creativity is, it's kind of in a box, somewhere, in some ways, as far as the way I see things. So my wife is very artistic. She, she, her creative mind goes way further than mine. So it's funny, because she will, she will just kind of describe something to me, like, Hey, we could do this on certain projects. And what she's describing to me is totally different than what I'm seeing, right. So we kind of laugh about that. A lot of my creativity just comes from, you know, looking at other, I follow a lot of other wood shops on on Instagram. So I see some of the things that they construct. And then I just kind of add my tweaks to it, or look at it and say, Okay, I like this little piece of it. But I would do it on a totally different scale. Right. So, yeah, I never thought I was a creative person when I was younger. So this, this is really cool to be able to, to not have to be that I won't say a robot when as far as law enforcement, you know, but in a way you are, right. It's, it's been for 18 years, it's it's this pattern that you have. So, like you said, Now I'm my own boss, I can, you know, I can basically do whatever I whatever I feel like for the day, which is it's very satisfying.

Alex Velasquez  23:16
Yeah, sure, I can imagine. And that's, you know, you've already kind of hit on all the nuances that I find that when I talk to people in the creative, whatever creative field it is, it's whether it's, you know, just craft furniture or pure art, painting, when not, it's always like that sort of, it's easier to channel your creative side when you have some sort of boundary or limitation where it's not just okay, I have all the money in the world I have all the time in the world, what now, right? Yeah, don't too daunting. There's too many options. And I'd love to get your opinion on what you think of this you know, the world that we live in now with everything is on the phone on Instagram online. Because I have a hard time on Instagram because I actually I don't really follow too intensely like all the other shops and creators because when you know my mind is I have a hard time reining it in right so I see something I see Oh, that's a really cool idea. Let me and I'll before I know it i'm i've already like gone down a rabbit hole in the kitchen. So what do you what do you think is a good balance?

Erik Meek  24:32
You know, it's, it's hard to say because, you know, for for a really long time. I wasn't really into the whole social media. I mean, I had it to kind of stay in communication with some people back home, you know, buddies I grew up with and things like that. Once I started Black Hammer, it really it grew exponentially as far as how often And I was on it. And I think some of its good, some of its bad, right? I'm on it a lot, which obviously, that's not good. But when I'm on it, it's more for like the creativity side of it. Right, just seeing all the new things that are out there. Tools. tools are my downfall. Yeah. But, but also what I'm learning is the networking, right? So the networking is huge. So I find that there's a lot of communication for amongst other wood shops, tool shops, things like that. And I think for me, it's been amazing. It really has, you know, just being able to get my work out there. And the feedback that you get, you know, it's, you try not to be that person that wants to look and see how many likes you got for a post, but you know, it, there are times when I'm looking like, Okay, well, obviously, that was a popular piece. And then before you know it, you know, the website starts getting hits, and it's, it's, in turn, you start getting more sales. So for me being a small shop, social media has been pretty, pretty damn good.

Alex Velasquez  26:25
Yeah. No, I'm glad that that's it's like worked for you. And, you know, just thinking about it. My parents used to have a retail store. And the way I've started looking at your Instagram, your store for lack of a better term is that really is like almost like your retail store now and you get 1000s people that walk through there every year. And it doesn't matter. It's just the ones that make contact. Yeah, you can then shake their hand on by name. It's. And yeah, that's how we met. Yeah. Yeah, it's like, look at the numbers. It's but that's not it, it's, you'll, you'll get the people through that, that you want to work with. Yeah. And that gives me hope, too, that it's you can see it as a positive. And I'm more talking to myself, because I just I get jaded pretty, pretty easily. But the other thing too, is it? You know, you mentioned that there was this other supplier - wood supplier down in Corrales, right? And you saw him on his gram. And it's like, oh, so it was like, boom, boom, boom, we just made a new connection where I probably wouldn't have heard of them. Otherwise, it would have taken a long time. But just that connectivity, like you said, is, can be beneficial.

Erik Meek  27:45
Yeah. And in the funny thing is, is I literally passed that woodshop daily for I don't know how many years, you know. And I met a guy networking through Instagram, Marco Vayas. And he and I just kind of started talking. And it was kind of along the same lines, it was about the laser engraving, because he had wanted me to do some engravings for his logo. And so he and I had just kind of stayed in communication. And then he brought up the, the woodshop up there, or the mill. And I was like, wait, it's on Corrales road, really, because I come to find out it past it everyday for who knows how long.

Alex Velasquez  28:36
That's funny because I, this area of town, we're kind of right in the middle middle of town just because of the freeway intersections. I'm always amazed that every time I drive, just around the neighborhood, oh, there's like a plastic place where you can get acrylic polycarbonate, like I didn't know that was there, right? Yeah, like pottery kilns. There's all these really like niche sort of specialty businesses. That's crazy. Like, how would I ever find this? And unfortunately, like, a lot of them are sort of like old guard, older owners that you know, they're not on Instagram and see, it makes you wonder like, how much how much commerce is going on that you don't know about? And then also, it kind of makes you realize, Oh, you can you can forge your own way and, you know, get your slice of business that supports your family and it just takes the proactive side. Yeah, absolutely. So is that have you ever thought about getting a getting a shop space here in the next Yeah, brick and mortar,

Erik Meek  29:43
um, you know, my mom and I had talked about it a couple of years ago, just strictly we were just talking right it was before I'd even really started making anything but for whatever reason But that conversation came up. You know, it's it's tough because so with my career, I've been a detective for 15 years now. I've always been kind of my work and my personality. My exposure has always kind of been in the shadows, right. I didn't like necessarily being in in public, per se. Unless I was working, right. So when I went home, I was home. I was peace and quiet. Yeah. Right. I'm with my family. So this whole thing of marketing myself has been really it was difficult in the beginning, right, making the videos and things like that. So for right now, online, through social media, it's comfortable for me. Yeah,

Alex Velasquez  30:55
it's still a separation. I

Erik Meek  30:57
There you go. Yeah, yeah. So hopefully, once I retire, you know, it might get a little easier for me and get the volume of sales to where it would be beneficial to.

Alex Velasquez  31:08
Yeah, that makes sense. It's, um, I only asked out because it's, it's sort of a weird time once people move into Albuquerque, which, it seemed like Albuquerque always always lagged the general the general market and all of the growth was always in the bigger cities. And it's always been behind always been behind. Yeah, now this time is different. Because all the coasts are moving in inward and everyone from Texas is moving around, and California. They all just, you know, the people that get pushed out of those cities come here, because we have mountains and hiking and river and we have all the outdoor activities and in land is and was cheap. It started the...

Erik Meek  31:55
Alex if it wasn't for the crime, Albuquerque would be the probably one of the best places to ever live.

Alex Velasquez  32:02
And that's, they hit the nail on the head. I mean, you know, there's just, it's the baggage in Albuquerque just makes it not for the faint of heart. Oh, yeah. We have a friend and artists who moved from Louisiana. And he, he was, see where was the I'm blanking where he, where he lived and worked for a while, but he was like, No, I'm used to, I'm used to, like, you know, rough neighborhoods, and, you know, having a shop and just, and so he ended up buying a house in a studio here. And he's kind of near the Warzone. And my dad's like, you know, avoid this part of town, avoid this part of town, you probably want to go here. And he's like, now I'm good. And that first year though. He's like, man, Albuquerque something else?

Erik Meek  32:56
Yeah, it's it's legit, that this the the crime and the criminals here are... they're real.

Alex Velasquez  33:06
Yeah. And unfortunately, and yes, I don't know. I don't know how that changes. Other than just time. You know?

Erik Meek  33:12
Yeah, we can, we can only hope because like I said, if if it wasn't for the crime, I mean, our weather is amazing. You know, I To this day, I still don't own a winter coat. Really? Yeah. I mean, you know, winter here, from what I'm used to what I grew up in, in Illinois, and it It's nothing, so. Yeah, I mean, it's, it's amazing. But, I mean, it is where we're at right now. So

Alex Velasquez  33:43
yeah, I think, you know, fingers crossed over the next couple of years. It's just just with all the change is just a bunch of people moving in and people moving in people moving out, money's changing just in the country as a whole. I mean, everything's just shifting in the way I work. And I think, I mean, you're in a good spot, because you've, it seems like people are really moving back towards that local, they want to keep the money in their community or in their city. And you know, you're probably in a good spot, because you're position yourself pretty, you know, solidly right now. And you can really only grow from here.

Erik Meek  34:23
Yeah. And, and, I mean, if there's anything positive that came from COVID is exactly what you said. People are realizing, supporting local, look at all the businesses that people have started, you know, during COVID. So, we can only hope that that that will produce a lot of positivity throughout the country.

Alex Velasquez  34:47
Now. Talk the line between craft and creativity, especially when there's clients learn to get orders. I find You know, like I mentioned earlier, it's hard for me to rein in, you know, my, my thoughts and my creativity. Absolutely. Sometimes I get like a project and I'm like, oh, let's, you suggest things to clients, and hey, let's try this and this and this. And then you realize how well you know, they're paying for it. So. But with furniture, you know, because furnitures kind of unique in that. It's sort of like architecture where the main functions and size has to be very specific spot on, you got some leeway in sort of how you connect things, or how you design the connections, right? And how you scale and the proportion, the material choice. So how do you walk the line between designing something and then building it?

Erik Meek  35:41
So I've so in the beginning, you know, I was I was the guy that if you said you wanted it this way, hey, okay, I want to get it done exactly the way they want it. Mainly, because you're, you're trying to get that positive feedback from that customer saying, This is exactly what I wanted. They did it this way. And you're trying to drum up the business, right? So as I went along, my, my tattoo artists actually, Manuel Vega with Custom Tattoo. When I would go in to get a tattoo from Manny, I would show him Okay, man, this is what I like. And he would look at me and say, yeah, we're not gonna do that. Right? Or, hey, we can do that. But we're gonna, we're gonna tweak it a little bit. And in the beginning, I'm kind of thinking, well, this is what I want, right? I'm the customer. And fortunately, I had known Manny for years. So it was a little bit easier for me to be like, Dude, what the hell are you talking about this? Right? And Manny would say, hey, just trust me. And every time it was spot on, I liked it even better than my original design. So So with that, I kind of started adopting a little bit of that, just as far as suggestions, right? So yes, you know, I'd like this. I'd like this board, whatever design and then I would suggest, okay, well, how about this, you know, and then there's some people that'll just call me and say, Hey, surprise me, which is always cool, because then I can really just kind of let loose you know, yeah. And now with the furniture, I'm actually currently working on a big bench for the lobby for Fit Scrubs. They've got a brick and mortar now, up in Rio Rancho Arthur Lucero is the owner. So Arthur says, Hey, I, you know, this is what I'd like. It was kind of a basic design. I threw some things together. And hopefully it'll be done by the end of next week. It's it's what he wants, but it's got a little spin to it. And it looks sharp, precise.

Alex Velasquez  38:08
Yeah, I did see that. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that's coming along nicely. What? What's your response? Usually, when you get a customer that, hey, I want this and your right away, you're like, that's not gonna work. It's, you know, I don't think you understand exactly what you're asking for. Because my dad gets it all the time with furniture requests, and they say, hey, I want I want to cantilever this table top and make it a cool desk? And it's always like, Well, you know, that's gonna tip over or that gonna snap or it's going to be too heavy, or, I'm sure you get requests all the time. And you kind of have to almost give people mini design lesson or just pure cost versus materials versus weight versus practicality. And especially now with materials prices, they're, they're through the roof. It's, you know, you kind of as a as an artist, you kind of have to dodge and weave and it's,

Erik Meek  39:09
yeah. You know, and I know this may sound kind of harsh, but there's times when I've just had to tell somebody flat out. I can't do that. Right. Because, and again, it goes back to Manny. His name is on his work, right? I kind of feel the same way. Yeah. So if I'm producing something that is going to eventually somebody's gonna say, Hey, you know, I fell off this damn chair that you designed. So yeah, and, and then of course, you try to be tactful at times too, right? Try to walk them through it like you said, just say, you know, okay, well, we can do this, but why don't we? Why don't we do it this way. And let me explain to you why. And usually, you know, the feedback is good. It's like, Okay, well, that makes sense. So

Alex Velasquez  40:12
yeah. And that's, that's something a very important, important point is reputation, especially now that we've mentioned like this whole kind of shift back towards local localism, supporting local businesses, it's like, it's easy for the customer to really take that for granted. Like, there's always going to be a new, you know, if that taco shop goes out of business, they're just gonna be another one, right? But as the proprietor, your reputation is, that's your income. That's your livelihood. And absolutely, yeah, you're absolutely right. That's sometimes you have to, you have to be selective, and know that it's, you know, you got to do a good job and everything because yeah, you're taking on all the risk. And,

Erik Meek  40:54
yeah, (excuse me) And, you know, Alex, I think I've been fortunate because when I started it, I have a full time job. So it was a little bit easier for me to pick and choose. I was still thirsty, right, I'm hungry, I want to drum up the business, I want to, you know, I want to get the name out there. But being able to be selective, was probably has probably been a lifesaver for me.

Alex Velasquez  41:29
Yeah, that's that mindset is a good spot to be like he said, it's working full time, it's always easier to turn a hobby into a side project, because the financial pressure is front of mind. And I personally, I mean, the way I when I mentioned I started minding my business too soon, it was heavily influenced by...I was bartending, you know, part time in college. And I was like, oh, man, I would love to just do this. And that was sort of where I was maybe misbegotten initially that, oh, I can just jump in. And that'll be my other part time to fill in the income and right, inevitably, it just leads you to make bad choices when the pressure is on for making money. And yeah, it's I'm glad that you brought that up. And you knew that, that that's, that makes a world of difference.

Erik Meek  42:25
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And, and, you know, there's times to even, like, so like, for me, in the beginning, also, I had, I had an issue with rushing things, right, because I wanted to turn out this this cool product, and to be able to tell somebody, hey, I can have it done in two to three days. And

Alex Velasquez  42:50
I still do that. Oh, yeah, I do that I catch myself every week. And like I should added, you know, always at 30%. That's been my some Yeah, I always sell myself short. Or it's the time coming on like, nope, you just have to make a rule. Yes. You know, push out both sides of it. Because otherwise you're, you know, yeah,

Erik Meek  43:09
yeah, you know, you run yourself ragged. And, and again, you know, it would be one thing if I was in, in my shop, trying to meet that deadline every day, as opposed to go into a full time job. And during my downtime, I'm sitting there thinking, Okay, if I get home by 4:30, you know, I could spend some time with the family, and then by 6:30, I need to be out in the shop. And so, yeah, that trying to do better.

Alex Velasquez  43:41
Yeah, yeah, no, that's, I think, I suspect that's going to be a lifetime balancing act. Yeah. And now that you mentioned it mean, having a family is no joke, either. I think that gets taken for granted a lot. That's, you know, that is a full time job and I'm always impressed and I admire people that take on I mean, you've got basically three full time jobs. And, you know, and you're still have your head on shoulders, and, you know, you're (not always) but at least in you know, for the, for the most part of the most part, you know, it's like people that can do that and keep it together is important.

Erik Meek  44:21
Yeah, it's, um, you know, I think I've been fortunate with you know, when I met my wife, I was already a detective. And so she came into it knowing my schedule, my crazy schedule back then especially. And then, you know, once we had our kiddo she, and I don't know if this is good or bad, but she grew up in that schedule. And she she was always understanding, you know, really level headed child. was probably saving that that saved me from having that stress of, you know, being that absent dad. And I think that was another reason why a lot of the time, once I got home from work that was like I was home, you know, to make sure I was there. And then it didn't hurt that my daughter loves. she really enjoys being out in the shop. Now that she's Yeah, she's got a creative mind. She's mechanical like me. smarter than me. But, but yeah, she'll come out there. And you know, she's she's built some things. And there's times when I'm out there. And so ask, Hey, Dad, is there anything I can help you with? So that that makes it a lot easier for me? For sure.

Alex Velasquez  45:52
Yeah, that's great. And, you know, it's funny, that's, I didn't really know that ahead of time, like before we ever met. But like, I realized, Oh, we have a lot of similarities. And then like, yeah, I've kind of, I've always been a part of my parents business, like, what back and they had a retail store. And my dad was traveling, basically, I think he said he got up to like, 175 days a year, just do an art shows on the road on the road. You know, it's like, three days out. Three days show three days back. Yeah. He would drive as far as Seattle, Baltimore, Chicago. (That's impressive). And, you know, I would do that in the summers. Yeah. Ever since I was a baby, you know, they'd throw me in the crib in the back of the booth. And, and yeah, so it's all I've always been in that schedule. Not as not rigid. Like, you know, in law enforcement. It's not set. But it was always something it was always every two weeks or what have you. And yeah, just growing up not only child in that you're like, this is Oh, this is the way the world works. Yeah. It's clearly not all the time. It's It's so different, you know. Yeah. But yeah, just being a part of, it's nice when your family sort of works together in a cohesive fashion.

Erik Meek  47:11
Yeah. It's it's a game changer. Because I, you know, I think about it sometimes Alex and I'm thinking, if it wasn't for the ability to, you know, start this business alone, along with my full time job. The the crazy schedule of that, I probably would have never done it. It would have just made things you know, too, too difficult. So, yeah, I'm thankful for that.

Alex Velasquez  47:42
Yeah. Well, great. What are you looking forward to these days? Retirement? Yeah, actually easy question. That's right on the horizon. Oh, yeah. Yeah, so you're probably just homestretch.

Erik Meek  47:57
It is. It's, it's a really good feeling. You know, I've paid my dues, and time to pass the torch to the, to the young guys to come in and do it.

Alex Velasquez  48:10
Hey, that's it. It's, you know, I think that's a good, good spot to end. today's podcast is, you know, there's always you always got to put your time in and be humble. And yeah, you know, I gotta say, Thanks for doing that kind of work for so long and absolutely, and coming out the other end and ready to start something new.

Erik Meek  48:34
Yeah, the in you know, I think another little quick piece to that is the support from law enforcement. Right. With from following on, on Facebook and Instagram, to, you know, purchasing products and stuff. It's been, it's been great. And I really appreciate all the brothers and sisters in blue out there. So, yeah, that's all

Alex Velasquez  49:02
I'm glad to hear. Glad to hear. Yeah, any any parting words? words of advice? Any?

Erik Meek  49:11
No, I wish I had something really wise to say right now other than man, you know, just do what makes you happy. Yeah. That's for me that that's been the the end all be all, you know, from law enforcement to to the woodworking. It brings me joy, relaxation. And so if people can find that, you're, you're ahead of the game.

Alex Velasquez  49:39
Awesome. Erik, thank you so much. Thanks, Alex. That's what we'll do again, for sure. Yeah, that's awesome. Well, we'll keep going. And we'll I'm sure we're gonna have more projects to collaborate on and all the links and all the websites we're gonna put up in the notes and then everything else, but your website. People can probably follow or find through Instagram or

Erik Meek  50:02
right. Yes on Black Hammer Designs on Instagram and there's the link in the in the bio.

Alex Velasquez  50:09
Yeah, that'll all be up and yeah. Well, I look forward to working with you more and absolutely. Thanks for doing this. Appreciate it.

Erik Meek  50:17
Thanks. Alright.

Alex Velasquez  50:18
Peace out.

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