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Couple creates functional art with sideline businesses

January 21, 2019

Jeb and Jessica Taylor have a lot of energy.

The Rochester couple have jobs (she as a hotel sales manager, he as a machinist), they go to school and take care of their two kids.

Plus they each have used their hands to build their own sideline creative businesses that they hope to eventually turn into full-time gigs.

“We’re busy people. We don’t like idle hands,” said Jeb Taylor as he heated a piece of steel to more than 2,000 degrees in his knife-making shop.

He made and sold 75 to 100 blades last year for Jeb Taylor Knives, formerly known as Raven’s Beak Knives. That’s while working as a machinist and going to school.

Taylor expects to make about 200 knives this year. They sell for $140 to $200 each.

In the other half of the stand-alone building next to their Southeast Rochester home, Jessica Taylor has her hands full of clay. She’s working on coffee mugs with a raised shape of the state of Minnesota on the side.

“I’m just happier when I’m creating stuff,” she said when asked how a director of sales at Rochester’s Staybridge Suites started a sideline business as a professional potter. “I wanted to do what makes me happy in life.”

Both of their journeys to become active artisans started in North Carolina, where Jeb Taylor served in the Army.

While in the jungle of the Philippines, he was fascinated by a local man making knives.

“I thought, ‘I could do that.’ I tried it, and it turns out I couldn’t,” Taylor said with a wry grin.

Back in North Carolina, he started going to meetings of a knifemaker’s guild. That eventually led to an apprenticeship with an expert.

Meanwhile, his wife started taking pottery classes to get out of the house and meet people.

“It quickly grew into an obsession,” she said, looking around her studio filled with projects at various stages of completion.

Now she sells her wares under the name of Pottery by Jessica at the Dwell Local boutique in Northwest Rochester as well as online through Etsy and Instagram.

She posts on social media when she re-stocks the shelves at Dwell. Her pieces, particularly the coffee mugs, sell out quickly.

Jeb Taylor sells his knives directly through his website, www.jebtaylor.com.

“I don’t get attached to them. I sell pretty much everything I make,” he said.

He’s currently shifting his focus from knives for outdoors and general use to kitchen knives.

That approach fits with Jessica Taylor’s style of making things to use versus things to display.

They both make functional art that people can use on a daily basis. Their idea is to create beautiful and useful things to make people’s lives a little better.

Working with their hands is a lifestyle they are happy to share with their two young children.

“I’m glad we can show them that you don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer,” said Jessica Taylor. “Do what makes you happy.”

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