When you write a blog that features and highlights cool new things and also develop products and retail assortments, you inevitably get tired of “stuff.” After a while everything feels the same and you lose motivation and interest… until something new comes around that makes you think, or possibly makes you smile.
The new collection from Scarr isn’t revolutionary but what matters (almost all that ever matters) is that it’s really, really good. Sonia Scarr has taken classic materials and shapes and combined them in ways that feel new and exciting – and everything is done by hand. I’m most drawn to the leather goods for the home, with interesting mixed material applications and thoughtful hand-stitching, but the personal accessories benefit from thoughtful details as well.
A few months ago I noticed that many of my favorite New York makers were collaborating on something called the WorkOf Apartment as a part of Design Week… the Apartment looked amazing (more images here) and was a true collaborative effort that allowed designers to showcase exclusive and new work.
I spoke to WorkOf founders John Neamonitis and Charlie Miner to learn more about their work – the goal of WorkOf is to build a comprehensive platform of independent, locally made design that simplifies the process for both the customer and the designer. John and Charlie were frustrated with the purchasing process – they saw incredible design at design shows and throughout the city, but there wasn’t a centralized site to buy the products they wanted. They wanted to be able to shop an alternative furniture store – one focused on products that were original, authentic and ethical – so they created it.
While the platform itself is impressive, what makes WorkOf special is the focus on community. John and Charlie have a deep respect and empathy for makers and designers, and are building their platform with the goal of supporting, educating, and helping makers as they grow their business. As you speak to them and read through their blog, their passion for their work and for the designers they work with is obvious and appealing. Currently WorkOf is focused on New York designers and makers, but they plan to expand to the West Coast this year… one to watch, for sure!
Hopewell Workshop was founded by long time friends Eliza Kenan and Claire Oswalt. Eliza, an art director and quilter, & Claire, an artist, launched a design studio where they planned to brand, package, and create products. That business wasn’t quite right, but that year they decided to make 12 quilts and sell them during the holidays. Though not ready for sale till after Christmas, the 12 quilts that they made became Hopewell Workshop’s first one of a kind collection, released in January 2013. The name (and general mindset) of the studio comes from the Hopewell Exchange System, a Native American trade route through which materials were transformed into handmade goods and then traded.
Claire and Eliza have since expanded into additional quilts and pillows – the Hopewell aesthetic is a brilliant mix of simple, classic, and fun. The bright colors, clean lines and clever prints make the pieces something anyone would be happy to have in their home.
I stopped by the Hopewell Workshop when I was last in LA and had a chance to speak with Claire and Eliza about their work and their passion for local, ethical manufacturing (they had an amazing list of other LA makers I’ve been following ever since!). Read on for more… Thanks, Claire & Eliza!
TELL ME ABOUT WHAT YOU DO:
We are making heirlooms for the future. Handmade but simple. These will last forever.
We love that we make functional (Eliza), beautiful (Claire) things. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Quilts are the epitome of function and beauty – if women hadn’t made them beautiful many years ago, they wouldn’t exist today.
WHAT MAKES YOUR QUILTS SPECIAL?
We hit on something that’s not in the marketplace. But we know why it’s not in the marketplace! It’s difficult to teach others how to make our quilts – it is a twelve step process.
We made it difficult for ourselves – but in some ways that is good because it is also difficult for imitators to create a lower end version. The bit of ignorance that we had going into it was the blessing that has gotten us this far.
WHY DO YOU MANUFACTURE IN THE USA?
When we launched, Bangladesh had just happened. We were nervous about outsourcing. We wanted to keep our ethics in tact. We don’t take the easy route. We had to try it – and make it work. People are starting to care about made in the USA. We can make a difference.
We care about what we buy. We believe in a local economy and less environmental impact. America is young and quilts are a deep part of American history. Our families have quilted for generations. Staying here felt right.
It also allows us to make sure our products meet our standards – quality control would be incredibly difficult overseas. We like to see the people we work with – we get to know them and build relationships with them.
WHAT EXCITES YOU?
Eliza: Not knowing what’s next. Excitement + nervousness + anxiety are often the same thing… you just have to trust the process.
Claire: Color. Feedback from our fans.