One of the first items I blogged about on the site was a wallet hand made by MAKR. I first found out about MAKR thanks to Josh Spear, and I have been following them ever since. MAKR started out about as grassroots as it gets, just one guy doing what he loves, creating. Although they have grown some since I first started checking their website, they are still very much a grassroots operation. And they are still making some beautiful leather accessories that I would love to have, although, they are getting a little bit out of my price range. I recently had a chance to catch up with Jason, MAKR's designer/founder, and ask him some questions.
OK, let’s get the basics out of the way so we are all on the same page. How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for your real job.
I’m 24, I live in Florida and I work at a branding/architecture firm.
I noticed on your website you like photography a lot, how does that influence your work?
I’ve taken photos forever. I was really into skateboarding in school and I just wanted to document everything. I don’t know that the photography really influences my work as far as the imagery and production of the leather goods but it is part of my work in the broader sense. The photography is definitely part of MAKR as an identity because of how I represent the tangible goods but not as an inspiration.
What else are you passionate about?
I really love making things in general, food, art, whatever…….I love traveling, listening to things, I’m into lakes and forests and looking around.
You have a great eye for design, do you have any formal training in the area, or does it just come naturally?
I went to Ringling School of Art and Design, but it really doesn’t have anything to do (aesthetically) with what I am doing now. It was more for technical skills…….CAD, VIZ, RHINO, that kind of thing.
How did you get into making leather wallets and bags?
A lot of the inspiration for MAKR comes from summers in Iowa and all of the things that my grandfather had around. He was a private pilot so even though he lived in Iowa he still had these amazing luxury items that he would pick up on his travels. Tons of old cameras and bags and things….amazing things even to this day. I inherited this really old bag from my grandfather and it was falling apart from being in a basement in Iowa for so long. I loved the way it looked and felt so I wanted to turn it into something that I could use on a daily basis. At the time I was working on projects at a firm that owned a Laser Cam for model building. I threw some of the leather in there and cut a crude little wallet. The firm ended up closing and I bought the laser from them. I just kept experimenting with it and here I am.
Click below to continue the interview, and for more pics.
How long have you been doing it?
I started doing it seriously about 6 months ago but I have been messing around with it for over a year now.
What is it about leather and wood that you like so much?
The materials are beautiful in themselves so it’s easy to make something great out of them. I’ve always liked things that get better looking as they are used more and more. I like the way leather becomes this amazing texture after years of use.
Where did you learn your leather and woodworking skills?
Not a clue…..didn’t even read books or anything. I just started making things and the more I made the better the results. Completely trial and error. I have always been able to visualize how things come together to make an object. I used to make a lot of furniture so the concepts transferred over from that.
What inspirations do you draw from when designing a new product?
The majority of the time it is fulfilling needs of my own. If I need something when I go on a trip I make it, other times it will be when a friend asks for a certain item and I design it for them. The boxes and packaging works are inspired by the objects that they are going to contain. The wooden box for the wallets/cardholder has an acrylic element that inserts into the wallet, easy to see the inspiration there. All through school I was designing these experimental environmentally sounds homes and buildings that would have cost a shit load of money for me to actually see the realization of the design. When I started making the leather and wood items I finally felt fulfilled because I could hold these object that before only existed in my mind. It was a quick return on my investigations in form and how things go together.
I see you have teamed up with Chuck Anderson from Nopattern to make a Co-branded wallet, how did you two get together?
I was shamelessly self-promoting to Design Is Kinky because a friend had told me it was an interesting site. Chuck was the one that received the email and I guess the work struck him in some way. We emailed back and forth and talked on the phone a couple of times. I enjoy his work and he expressed interest in having his work on a wallet so I made up a prototype.
Any future plans with him?
We are planning a series of wallets in extremely limited quantities that have more designs etched into them than the prototype. These will definitely be some more elaborate stuff than previously seen on the site.
What other projects do you have planned for the immediate future?
I have been obsessed with travel trailers lately for some reason……I don’t even really know if I am going to do anything with one but they keep getting towed around in my mind. MAKR custom travel trailer…..if Airstream is reading you can go ahead and hook that up. I have some new treatments for the leather that I am planning on experimenting with. Some new stuff for girls….. a new clutch that I am almost finished with, a satchel type thing that I need to photograph. I want to make a row boat.
What do you want to be doing in 5 years?
I want MAKR to be able to sustain me financially…… I want to just make shit all day long, really. We‘ll see. Maybe someone wants to give me a ton of money. I’m waiting for that.
And finally, for all us poor design junkies at Grassroots Modern, What do you think it takes to make good design more affordable, and what are you personally doing about it?
I know everyone isn’t a designer but there are enough resources out there to learn how to make things and create the environment that you want. The barter system is always a good tool. Trading goods and services works really well for spreading style and design. I trade with tons of people all of the time for many different things. I did the identity of a skateboard/clothing boutique that a friend of mine owns and I can go in and grab whatever I need now. A friend of mine owns a salon where I make the leather goods to haircut swap for my girlfriend and I. Trading makes the exchange of goods or services a more personal thing…….you get to see where these things come from and who made or owned them. I always feel more fulfilled buying produce from a farmer than from a grocery store. The feeling lasts longer if you live with that item everyday.