Monday, October 6, 2014

Maker's Session: The Cabin Gift Shop Q&A

Ever come across a handmade item so awesome it leaves you marveling for a few moments? Me too. This is the first post in a little series in which I talk to the people who make these awesome things. Not to steal all their secrets, but to get to know these awesome makers and get a glimpse into their day-to-day creative life.

If you aren't familiar with The Cabin Gift Shop on Etsy then let me have the pleasure of introducing you! Alyssa Nott, is the creator of awesome leather goodies.  My sister, Kali, is her assistant and let me tell you, these girl have a knack for leather crafting - stitching, staining, and stamping everything by hand. Seriously impressive, top notch stuff.  You will like what you see so be sure to check out the shop and follow along on Instagram.

Tell us a little about your creative background. 
Alyssa: First of all Shakti, We want to say thank you for allowing us to be part of your blog!
When I was little my favorite past time was watching people draw.  I used to beg and beg my parents to draw for me, a habit that they quickly found to be less than endearing. As a result, they began enrolling me in art classes.  I started working with clay, charcoal, watercolor and oil paints.  When I was eighteen I received an art scholarship, but ironically after a year I transferred schools with the intentions of being a veterinarian. It turns out that animal medicine is not my calling, and though my degree is in biochemistry, I am thrilled to be able to deviate from that and run my Etsy shop.

Kali: Alyssa and I met at school while studying Chemistry. After five years of studying science, I was delighted to join her team and begin to embrace the right side of my brain once again. My mother, a woman who is the essence of creativity, spent endless years instilling in me the love of art and the knowledge that art and beauty infiltrate every aspect of life. I love working with Alyssa. She is a wee bit OCD about her work and takes great pride in each item she makes; she strives for perfection. Her efforts have resulted in a process that produces high quality leather products and I am proud to be a part of of her shop. Although we are very similar people, our strengths and perspectives are very different which results in a healthy and effective collaboration. I hope to remain a part of The Cabin Gift Shop for a long time.

When did you get interested in leather crafting and how long have you been working with it?
The first leather piece I ever made was actually a knife sheath that I put together from a kit several years ago.  I bought the kit for my then boyfriend (we are very excited to be getting married next August) for Christmas but he took too long to get around to using it, so I did it.  I was hooked! And things have escalated considerably from there. 

How would you describe your style?
Although our marketing style is rustic, our products are polished and professional. We strive to produce a quality product that is both utilitarian and beautiful.

What does your creative process involve?
In the beginning I was very inspired by nature and animals.  As my shop has grown the customers have become the inspiration. They are able to present requests or challenges that push us to make new designs and reconsider our products.

How does an average day in leather crafting go?
We start pretty early, usually around six or seven. First we spend an hour or so doing computer work and after that it’s all leather.  Our process is hands on every step of the way. Cutting, carving, staining, finishing, sewing, and more finishing – it’s all done by hand.  As there are only two of us in the shop there is always LOTS to do and every day is different, which is something we love!

Any exciting projects on the horizon?
We are very excited to be working on our first partnership with a website outside of Etsy. We are finalizing the agreement so I don’t think I can reveal the site yet, but it is super exciting to have the opportunity to expand our business this way.

Who loves your product?
Our products are both utilitarian and timeless so our customers cover a pretty wide variety of people.  We’ve worked with everyone from young students and hipsters to middle aged professionals to farmers to elderly who have proven to be somewhat less than fully computer literate, but very sweet.  I think that one of the great things about Etsy though, it brings people and shops together that would otherwise never consider each other. Our most popular products include our field notes vest, our cardholder and the small Moleskine notebook cover.

Do you have a "day job"?
This is my day job.  Kali and I both do this full time. Which is completely exhilarating. 

What bit of wisdom would you pass on to someone interesting in working with leather?
You will learn from your mistakes and your mistakes will be plentiful.  Also, leather is quite a bit like hair, it has a mind of its own and will do what it wants, best to learn to work with it and not against it.

What is something the creative business has taught you?
When I started working with leather it was a hobby that grew into my job.  I’ve been learning tons about customer service, marketing, and business in general. I love that I am able to make a living doing something I love so much! I feel like I am challenged and forced to grow every day.

A big thank you to Alyssa and Kali for answering all the questions :)
Don't forget that their leather phone cases and wallets make awesome gifts for all the hard to shop for men on you Christmas list! Check out the shop and see all the pretties on Instagram

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