ADDRESS Interview with WOOLLY.

Define your craft in 3 sentences or less. We’re a Portland-based leather goods company bringing high technology to the handmade industry. We make premium, minimalist wallets and accessories blending modern manufacturing and traditional craft techniques.From this process, our products are clean, precise and full of handcraft character.

Describe your creative process. It starts with a need to address or a problem to solve. We kick around some ideas and sketch what we’re thinking. Paper prototypes work great for modeling leather goods – they quickly get us to an early-stage proof of concept. Then we go digital. We draw the product in CAD, separating each piece and adding detail down to the last stitch hole. That gets us 90% there. We then laser cut the leather and hand sew sample after sample, playing with variables like stitch density, corner radii, leather thickness, fit and hardware. When we think we have it, we trim, wax, buff and wear-test the product before we call it final.

The digital component is a huge part of our creative process and we leverage it as much as we can. It allows us to test things rapidly, adjusting only where there are issues and keeping everything else pixel-perfect.

Where do you find inspiration when experiencing a creative block? Like any young creatives, we’re constantly scrolling and tapping our way through blogs, feeds and podcasts. But Portland has a prolific creative community that’s oozing with real-life things to be inspired by and we try to soak up as much as we can. We mingle with people like ourselves at craft fairs, pop ups, open studios and maker collectives. And events like the local design week and annual TEDx conference always give us something new to think about, often from the world of business, technology or a creative discipline that’s different than our own.

All of this contributes to a constant intake of new ideas and inspiration. But one of the best ways for us to get around a creative block is to just move on to something else and come back to it. It’s like when a piece of equipment isn’t working, and you try turning it off and on again. It’s amazing how often that works!

What advice would you give to young designers / makers / artists / creatives aspiring to make it in their field? The best advice we can give someone in this position is the same advice we’re giving ourselves. Think big and be persistent.

Push yourself to have a vision and cast that line way out beyond what may seem possible today. Sure, the vision may be blurry and it’ll change as you go (probably many times). But this kind of thinking is crucial if the goal is to “make it” in the end. More and more people are turning their creative interest into a career with easy access to the education, tools, community and consumer trends that support it. With that, we makers have to spend time thinking big and working to clarify our vision in a way that’s as explicit as possible. From there, the whole thing can unravel with meaningful goals and visible checkpoints lighting up a path to the promised land.

And of course, persistence is key. It’s what seems to separate those who do it from those who think about doing it. Turning your creative passion into a success story takes patience, optimism, failed attempts and the strength to power through. At least that’s what we’re banking on!

What’s your dream project? Our dream project is the one we’re just about to launch. For years, we’ve seen how consumers want and expect customization for their handmade goods. And we’ve noticed how inefficient the process of ordering something custom can be for both the customer and the maker. That’s why we’re introducing WOOLLYLAB – a digital customization platform for people to easily design their own high-end, handcrafted wallet. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, we developed a web app from scratch that allows customers to choose their wallet’s leather color(s), pattern, stitching and inscription. Importantly, these custom orders sync seamlessly with our production process allowing us to turn them around in just 48 hours.

With this project, we’re innovating in a traditional industry. Tech and craft rarely mix and here we’re using software and user experience design to connect with the modern consumer and change what “custom” means to the handmade world. In just a couple weeks, our customers will be able to clock in, design their own wallet and then press a button to have it made. They will no longer be buying from us but working with us to make something that’s uniquely theirs.