Cathie Anderson

Sacramento woodcarver’s key to success? Never watch the clock

Almost every worker looks for ways to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a task, but woodcarver Diana Kwan found that to be a really dangerous preoccupation for an artist.

“I would put down in a little book how much time I spent working, 15 minutes here or there,” Kwan said, “and by the end, I figured out that it took so long to finish a piece that the next time I was designing something, I thought, ‘If that took so long, maybe I’ll just make it a little simpler.’ But that’s not right.”

Decades ago, Kwan decided she couldn’t take shortcuts or use a formula because it limited her vision and sacrificed the art. Her pieces often take months to plan, carve, and paint or finish.

“I decided whatever comes into my heart and my mind, ‘This is what I want to do,’ I’ll just go for it,” she said. “Otherwise, I’d be doing little tiny blobs because I don’t want to put in the time.”

Her decision has paid off. She’s won “best of show” several times at the annual Capital Wood Carvers Show and at other shows around the nation. Kwan will again be competing and showing her work at this year’s show, which will be May 3-4 at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., in Sacramento. In Kwan’s carvings, gingko leaves appear to float on a breeze, butterflies flit across the wood and chrysanthemums tease you to touch them. Her woodcarvings, which range in price from $45 to well into the thousands, can be seen year-round at The Artery artists’ collaborative, 207 G St., in Davis.

In the 1990s, wealthy patrons paid Kwan $12,000 to carve mantels for their homes. At the palatial home of Constantine and Katherine Pappadopoulos, Kwan spent more than a year carving mantels, chandelier fixtures, dowels for curtain rods, kitchen cabinet doors, as well as 13 newels and dozens of balusters on the staircase.

Of course, the couple later were convicted of burning down the mansion to get insurance money. A friend phoned Kwan early on the day of the fire and told her that her house was on fire. An alarmed Kwan gasped and looked around her home until she realized that he was referring to the Pappadopoulos’ home. After Kwan delivers a piece to the person who commissioned it, she said, she no longer thinks of it as hers.

“When I first started, I couldn’t part with anything, thinking they were the best in the world, but then I thought, ‘Look, what do you want? Do you want to sell as an artist? You’ve got to have a different frame of mind. It’s for potential sale. If you’re lucky, someone will buy it.’ ”

Investors’ ‘sleep number’

Two things struck Aaron Klein as he worked for a company building risk management tools for options traders, the Evel Knievel daredevils of the stock and commodities market.

“One, the tools frankly weren’t that sophisticated in the grand scheme of things,” he said, “and No. 2, they were only touching a tiny, tiny sliver of the world’s assets. Very few people trade options for a living, and it just struck me that there was a solution needed for the broad investor who is either on their own or being served by an adviser.”

Ultimately, that is why Klein teamed up with investment adviser Mike McDaniel and technology whiz Matt Pistone to create Riskalyze up the hill in Auburn. With their software, financial planners can put their clients’ risk tolerance into actual dollars and cents. Each investor gets a risk number from 1 to 100, with 100 being the riskiest.

“You have someone with a million-dollar portfolio,” Klein said, “and they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, I can handle my portfolio going down 10 percent in six months,’ and you go, ‘Well, could you handle $100,000 disappearing from your portfolio over a six-month period?’ ”

Their reaction is: “Oh, heavens, no!”

People react more to dollar amounts than they do to percentages. The Riskalyze software calculates the dollar amounts at risk and the potential dollar gains. The customer can see that they’re willing to risk 15 percent, or $150,000, for the chance to gain, say, 30 percent or $300,000.

“The net effect is, and we hear this from advisers all the time, ‘Oh, my gosh, the clients that used to call me when the market went down 3, 4, 5 percent, they’ve stopped calling because they now understand what normal is for their portfolio.’”

Thousands of financial planners have signed up to pay Riskalyze $99 a month to use their products, and this year Phoenix-based United Planners and other midsize firms are signing deals. Employment at Riskalzye has risen to 21 from four a year ago. The company has patented its technology, and has introduced a product that lets planners assess the risk of the portfolios they offer. The reason is, Klein said, that many planners couldn’t accurately calculate the risks. A year of testing Riskalyze with consumer portfolios, however, showed that it nailed how their investments would perform.

This week, the Riskalyze team will introduce a new product that they call Retirement Map. It allows planners to instantly show clients how much money their portfolios will produce by the time they retire, and if clients don’t like what they see, planners can show the impact of what happens if they take on more risk, withdraw less money, retire later or save more. An on-screen graphic shows up in red if goals aren’t met, green if they are.