Metro makers continue to benefit from the “Mahomes Magic” nearly a half-year after the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory.
But it was the Miami-bound mantra of another Chief that helped sales skyrocket at Wee Woodworks — landing the intricate laser-cut creations of Chris Conway a spot at Made in KC’s flagship store on the Country Club Plaza and city-wide recognition as an up-and-coming maker.
“I was with my girlfriend and I was talking about [creating mixtape-styled pieces] and then she was like, ‘You should do one [that says,] ‘You gotta fight for your right,’” Conway, owner and sole maker at Wee Woodworks, said of the Travis Kelce-inspired nod to the Chiefs and the role it’s played in growing the small business — especially helpful in the days of COVID-19.
“I was like, ‘Oh that’s perfect,’ and so I just made a bunch of different color options for that and that’s been my best seller for months,” he added, detailing the custom, laser-cut, actual-size wood cassette tapes, which come complete with a customer’s favorite song title — like the Beastie Boys’ classic “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” — etched at the top.
Check out Travis Kelce’s championship quip that inspired Wee Woodworks’ winning product, then keep reading.
“People love that and it’s fun.”
The pieces are equally as fun to make, Conway said, noting his approach to creating is to lean into childhood nostalgia and let whimsy drive his woodworking.
“I never want it to be really clean and bright. I always want the pieces to be a little bit vintage,” he said of his process and pieces, which include such products as ornaments and wall art — many with a slight macabre feel and rooted in a fascination with the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs.
“I want to start making larger pieces, but my inspiration comes from doing small stuff. … There’s just something about putting red paint on something and having the wood grain come through. I never liked just flat color. There’s something about having a little bit of age to the pieces and the depth is another thing that really kind of makes it.”
Click here to shop Wee Woodworks collection of art pieces online.
Many of Conway’s works are also layered for a sophisticated feel, he added.
Indicative of its small-sized creations, the company’s name serves as its own point of interest for customers who frequent Conway’s booths at local craft and maker fairs.
“People always try to buy my signage that says, ‘Wee,’ and they always have a story where they’re like, ‘Oh, we used to call my uncle Wee,’ or whatever,” he laughed, noting the name also comes from a fondness for the Scottish form of small or little.
“I just want it to have like a really cool vibe to it.”
And vibes are what Conway doest best, having spent nearly a decade in the graphic design game — most recently at Hallmark.
“I was wanting to do their Hallmarket, which is where Hallmarkers [current employees and retirees of the company] can sell stuff,” he explained. “That was the first time I had been kind of messing around with laser and layering wood and I made a few pieces and sold them.”
More than an opportunity to sell his own work, Hallmark fostered Conways creativity, he added.
“I really got acquainted with using the technology and using lasers and CNC routers. The resources there were great. You get to learn a ton of stuff and you could really become an expert.”
Skills obtained on the job coupled with a lifelong interest in the creative space made for a perfect transition to freelance creative work and added focus that now fuels Wee Woodworks.
“The one thing I do love hearing is, ‘Whoa! I haven’t seen anything like this before,’” he said. “When somebody connects with the product and it’s very specific [to them] those are the things where you’re like, ‘Oh this is cool.’”
Up close and personal, Conway will soon have even more chances to hear customers’ reactions as he joins the lineup of local retailers on display in Made in KC stores.
“It’s very exciting. I’m really looking forward to setting up my own little storefront within the marketplace and I think it will be great exposure and a perfect spot for those visiting KC to pick up a souvenir or gift,” he said.
Wee Woodworks is expected to complete its booth install at the retailer’s Country Club Plaza location in the coming weeks.