CINCINNATI -- When Lindsey Estes was a young girl, her mother gave her a journal that posed a question for each day of the year.
A month before Estes opened Lucca Laser Workshop on Main Street, Estes was packing up some boxes and came across the journal. One entry asked, "What do you want to do?"
Estes had written the response, "I want to be an artist, I want to be a mom, and I want to own a store."
Two out of three's not bad.
Though Estes isn't a mother yet, at 26 the machinist and designer has created a successful niche industry of her own based on the art of precision wood laser cutting. Estes' technical skills and visual eye have combined to create the meticulously crafted items of Lucca Laser Workshop, which serves as Estes' home base, headquarters and gallery.
She comes by her craft honestly. As a child, Estes grew up in her father's Sharonville machinist shop, where laser cutting was a tool for cutting and fabricating automotive parts and technical metal pieces.
"I spent most of my life in his machine shop as a little kid," says Estes. "I'd go to work with him, he'd show me how to use the machines. I loved the mathematical details the machines were able to create -- very linear, very geometric -- and I began to apply those details and technique to my own art in high school. My dad was my mentor, my inspiration, my everything."
Dropping out of college after a year, Estes left higher education to pursue precision laser cutting as a commercially viable method of production. She purchased her own laser machine and began to show her creations at the urban market City Flea, Oakley's Fancy Flea Market and downtown's Crafty Supermarket, where she was encouraged by the response to her wood-cut magnets, bookmarks and coasters.
After four months of an account with online small-business retail site Etsy, Estes was a featured shop and she was supporting herself through sales of her laser-cut artwork.
"I'd read these blogs which said 'Quit your day job in three months,' and I'd think, 'Oh, I wish,'" Estes said. "But three months after joining Etsy I literally quit my day job and was able to do just this. It gave me the total freedom to just create."
With sales on the rise and the need for another laser-cutting machine imminent to keep up with demand, Estes opened the brick-and-mortar Lucca Laser Workshop in early 2015.
"I don't think many people are creating laser-designed products right now in a way that's affordable, replicable and truly beautiful," says Estes. "While most people who do laser design take one product and run with it, my brain is always going a million different directions. My machine cuts so fine and detailed the possibilities are endless."
She took the name Lucca from an Italian town known for the alder tree, a tree that provides the light, subtly grained wood from which Estes most likes to create.
Her background in graphic design also allows Estes to turn her talents toward marketing, where she uses her techniques to create new lines of products that further a company's brand aesthetic.
"Folders, signage, paper-cut cards -- I've never really said no to a product someone wants to try to make," says Estes.
The work that goes into any single item can be time-consuming. Design work for one intricate design alone can take up to 20 hours before Estes still must sand, seal and create the packaging for the item. Still, Estes' reach is worldwide -- items from her shop can be found in Australia, India and Hong Kong and the workshop's reach continues to grow.
"I don't really believe in bumps," she says.
"She really doesn't," adds Micah Pastura, Lucca Laser Workshop's lone employee, from a nearby worktable.
"She's very confident in what she does, knows what she wants and doesn't set limits or boundaries," Pastura said. "For her, trying to figure out what's next on a large scope is not a bump, only another decision."
Estes said she has been carefully considering expanding.
"I'm very careful with the steps I take to expand, but I imagine that once I make that next move it will be a good one," says Estes.
Whatever the next move, Estes' passion and drive is as focused as the very laser that carves through the wood in the back room of Lucca Laser Workshop, and she's proud of the success and contentment her work offers.
"Sometimes I just don't believe it," says Estes. "Every once in a while, when I come here in the morning and the lights are dim, I'm here all by myself and it's quiet, I look to the front of my store and I think, ‘Wow, this is awesome. This is me. I did this.' "