WORDS: MakersFinders Staff PHOTOGRAPHY: Christian Torres
Earlier this year, the MakersFinders team took a trip to the Jacob Javits Center, here in NYC, to visit NY NOW. The bi-annual trade show and leading market for home, lifestyle, and handmade products. With over 1,000 exhibitors featured, finding Makers whose stories were as unique as the Makes themselves could only be compared to finding a needle in a haystack. Without further ado, here are some Makers2Know!
Andrew Leary is the founder of Look Optic, a New York based glasses company specializing in over-the-counter reading glasses that are "fun, fashionable, and fearless." Because practicality is never an excuse not to be stylish, Andrew commits to designing glasses that give us a better view of what we see, while looking good in the process.
On Look Optic:
Look began out of necessity. My eyes started going bad and I purchased a pair of prescription glasses that were very expensive. Rather quickly I realized that I didn't need prescription glasses. All I really needed were readers. But the selection of readers were so poor I saw an opportunity to create something. To provide styles and colors for every occasion at a price where a someone could collect multiple pairs.
We're also partnered with Charity Water. They're a non-profit organization based here in New York that builds wells all around the world. Polluted water is the number one cause of preventable blindness so a partnership with them really hit home with us. One of the things they do that's really unique is raise all their administration money separately. 100% of the charity money goes directly to the building of the wells.
On why he makes readers:
Anyone who gets old enough will need reading glasses. By 50, almost 70% of Americans needs some sort of reading glasses. Look is my way of meeting that need.
On what makes Look Optic readers unique:
The quality of the glasses really differentiates it. We have a beautiful Italian spring hinge which, for anyone who knows glasses, is really the most important part of any eyewear. It's a hidden hinge in the glasses that prevent the frames from being stretched out.
On NY NOW:
Since we're a new brand, this is our first kind of unveiling. NY NOW is helping us get ourselves out there.
On the Sullivans:
The Sullivans are our larger frames. It's actually up for one of the new product awards here at NY NOW. Reading glasses typically are very small frames that people wear on their heads or their noses. But what we see is people, especially women, wanting bigger frames, so we've created this very unique sort of size for a reader that make wearer's feel stylish.
Roberta Schilling is the Brazilian-born, Miami-based furniture designer behind Roberta Schilling. Roberta's namesake company that imports the best hand-made furniture and home goods Brazil has to offer to the States. Her knowledge of high-end contemporary furniture, passion to showcase her country's unique take on design, and ability to navigate the market, positions her as the premiere filter for which the brilliance of Brazil shines through.
On how Roberta Schilling started:
I started 22-years ago bringing hand painted furniture that I designed made out of old reclaimed wood from old barns in Brazil, from colonial times. As time have passed, I felt like the market was looking for something more modern and contemporary, so I decided to reinvent myself and create a new line to continue to do what I was doing, which is to keep showing the best that Brazil has, and laying our own way.
On why she does what she does:
I love it. I cannot even picture myself doing anything else. I started so young and this is all I have done and I love working with my people, I love the idea of giving back. It just makes me so proud to show all we can do.
On NY NOW:
NY NOW has been one of the most rewarding experiences for us. The people who come here really get what we're doing and appreciate it!
On the Nautical Rope Line:
We recycled plastic bottles to make nautical rope to create this. Coke bottles, Pepsi bottles, all turn into this. We make them in all these colors, so we make the rope and there are color options. We're so driven to the designer world. Everything can be customized, so people can have their own things done and it's a more personalized. By changing things, changing colors, sizes, and materials, you can create your own thing and that's what I think everybody's looking for nowadays.
Frank Abbenhuis is the Amsterdam based Maker behind Witloft. A Dutch craftsmanship company specializing in handcrafted leather aprons and accessories. Even though leatherworking is a serious endeavor, Frank carries out his task with a joy that's both captivating and contagious.
It started as a joke sort of. I was making furniture, and decided to make myself an apron to work in. I ended up really loving it. Two and a half years later: we've made more than 100,000!
On why he makes aprons:
It's nice to make aprons for people who really have a passion about cooking or making furniture. I like making things for people who do things with passion.
On the Witloft apron:
Everything is easy to clean. With a special coating over it that lets you wipe off the spots or the grease. And the nice thing about leather is it becomes more flexible, and conform to your body. So you and your own story. That's the nice thing about leather: it becomes more authentic to the person who wears it over time.
On NY NOW:
I think the US market is ready for really beautiful hand-crafted goods. We do everything from our own showroom. Make all the aprons ourselves. It's all about the passion again. That's the most important thing.
As Makers, and as people: we are what we do. This makes Dana and Laura Putnam two of the sweetest, down to earth people we've ever met. Based in Hudson Valley, NY, the couple created Finding Home Farms, a company that thrives on making business personal with a diverse assortment of homestyle products that range from Christmas ornaments to maple syrup.
On Finding Home Farms:
Laura: We were always trying to find home because home is not just a place to us. It's a feeling, and we wanted to create a business that gave people the feeling being home.
Dana: We were always doing maple syrup as a hobby, and then Laura started a very small interior decorating business called Finding Home in 2004. It into a really successful blog about interior decorating, home, lifestyle. I was traveling a lot all over the world corporately and we kind of stepped back and asked ourselves what we really wanted to do, and what brought us joy. Our home did that so found a way to turn it into a business.
On why they do it:
Laura: Dana is a fourth generation sugar maker. He's done this his whole life. When we have those six weeks of the year [where he's making syrup], even with all the corporate and all the hours and all the travel, he's the happiest. Our house was always full. The whole neighborhood would come over, and we'd just have a huge potluck in our backyard. Most of the year we had 20 people over for dinner on Saturday's. This is just something we love and we're passionate about.
On the story behind the maple syrup:
Dana: As Laura said, I'm at least fourth generation doing this. My grandfather made syrup until he was almost 90. Not knowing much about maple syrup, late winter is the time of year you make it. Just as it's starting to warm up a little bit. It's always cold, wet. It's kind of miserable weather when you're out there. Occasionally you get good days, but you know there's just something unique about it. Something magical about it. You're getting something that's coming out of the tree. It looks like water when it is coming out of the tree but then, if you do it right, it's this.
ON NY NOW:
Laura: We feel like what we represent matches with what NY NOW is trying to accomplish. It feels like a good place for meeting all the right people.
In the labyrinth of Borne, one of the most renowned and prestigious districts of Barcelona, the Rayerbag team handcrafts some of the best felt handbags fingers have ever touched. And when we met them at NY NOW it was no different. Rayerbag is not a person but a team of people where every member brings its portion of creativity and originality. The main designer, Pavel Corbu, was away but Valentina Dogo, the company's assistant designer, did a wonderful job of showing why there really is no "I" in "team."
Rayerbag is a felt bag factory where the quality of Italian tailoring is expressed in a unique design, celebrating the personality of Barcelona folklore through color and its multiple variations of combinations that gives life to our wide range offer with a lot of personality and unique details. Color always catches the eye. Patchwork colours combinations make our work different and unique.
On why they make handbags:
Because bags are friends, companions, and keepers of our secrets. It contains our private micro-world. The owner is almost always the only one to know its contents; it is, however, a carrier that we like people to notice. That plays around with colours, shapes, and materials. There's a double value in this “interior” and exterior dimension that makes it such an interesting object, that attracts people without disclosing its secrets.
On NY NOW:
We participated in another big trade show in Milan last year and we were contacted by an agent of NY Now. He invited us to apply to the event and we were very excited to introduce ourselves to the United States.
One of the biggest challenges in food nutrition is understanding something that looks, smells and tastes good is not the same as it being good. Rising to this challenge is Alak Vasa. The founder of Elements Truffles, the New Jersey based artisanal chocolate company, making raw and organic chocolates that are kind to the "body, mind, taste buds and environment."
On Elements Truffles:
The name, "Elements Truffles," was primarily derived on the signs of Ayurveda, which is derived from the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Based on that, we just thought these chocolates could introduce the world to these five elements and bring them in balance, and help people live a healthy and happy lifestyle.
On why she makes chocolate:
I've been meditating for the last 15 years and as I started meditating more and more, my awareness increased and I incorporated a whole Ayurvedic way of living. I saw so many benefits of that so I thought, "The world needs to know more about this and why not introduce this whole concept to the world through chocolate, which is so much easily acceptable and take it out there?"
It's a 5,000 year old ancient science which focuses on inner well-being by balancing and being aware of what you're really feeding your body and aligning it with nature.
Anthony C. Titus is the amazing Atlanta-based Maker (and mind) behind Marcel Miller, a luxury bedding company that hand-crafts high-quality linens, shams, throws and blankets to uplift our collective sense of comfort. Anthony tirelessly works to brings us the best in bedding, just so we can sleep well at night.
On Marcel Miller:
I started the line in a collaboration with a classmate of mine from Peru. His family are third generation Italian Peruvians. They used to do the textile trade in Italy and they had these vintage looms that they imported down to Peru and started working with local Peruvian cotton and alpaca.
As classmates we collaborated on an MBA project, and came up with the brand name Marcel Miller. Marcel is the nickname my classmates gave in my French class because I used to be pretty bad at French. Miller's my mother's maiden name. That's how we got the name.
On why he makes bedding:
I was a tailor's apprentice, I grew up with textiles. I knew good textile, I could tell authentic natural fibers, versus synthetic fibers, because tailors are very knowledgeable about fabric. And understanding that bedding is something that's very personal and intimate, I wanted to make sure the most intimate part of people's lives felt good.
On NY NOW:
The world comes to New York. We actually won the best new product award, at the first show that we did in New York, in 2008.
On the story behind the cable knit throws:
Cable knit is something that's cultural, it's been around for decades. This particular cotton is actually Indian cotton and it's hand loomed. Everything we do is a small workshop; six to twelve people. Owned and operated. We collaborate with the artists.
If you're looking to bring some dynamic color into your life with canvas, Akiko Oguchi is the Maker for you. She is the San Jose, California-based Maker and designer of Good Company Wares, a handcrafted homeware and accessories company that was born out of Akiko's travels to the South and Central Americas.
On Good Company Wares:
I make home goods; planters, pillows, baskets, tote bags; things for people's homes. My design comes from my travels in South and Central America. I loved the culture there and I've experienced a lot of warmth from people. I'm kind of marrying that feeling and experience with my Japanese roots and the minimalist style of the Japanese culture.
On why she makes home goods:
I feel like I come from a line of very artistic, creative women. My grandmother makes porcelain dolls and she makes all the clothing for them out of silk kimono scraps. My mother is an embroiderist. My aunt does painting. I was taught at a really young age how to sew, and so I've been sewing all my life making stuff, woodworking and textile work, and it kind of evolved into this naturally.
On NY NOW:
This was my goal show, and it's crazy the amount of exposure that I get from NY NOW. I'm meeting really cool people here.
On the story behind the planters:
This is my newest planter. I feel like it brings in so much life into a space, and there's so many different types of plants. I love taking care of them. I'm kind of like a nerd when it comes to plants. I just love having them everywhere, especially hanging them up. If people don't have a lot of space, it's nice to figure out how to bring more outdoors into the indoors.
Time is money. This is something that New York based watch, clock and calendar Maker Thomas Bai understands. From "brainstorming the creative design concepts, components, and colors to evaluating current home and lifestyle changes," Thomas Bai Designs stand out from the crowd because of their high production quality and lasting value, but also because Thomas knows that time is ultimately more valuable than money. Whereas there's always money to be made, time is something we never get back.
On Bai Designs:
The brand represents time actually. Watches, clocks and calendars all involves time. I'm a designer so I design the case, the dial and the hands. Every one actually is a little different but viscerally they are quite harmonized.
On why he makes clocks:
I want to create clocks that look good, and practical. A lot of my clocks have numbers because a lot of people want numbers on them. Even in my college thesis at Pratt, somehow I stumbled upon clocks. That's how I started.
On the story behind the "perpetual" calendar:
I was with an advertising agency during lunch time. I was bored and sketching some designs. Usually Sunday is on the left side and then Saturday and then the calendar just moves around. For Mondays they were different. Instead of doing that, I moved the weekday. It's a unique way of documenting the days. It works on gravity. No batteries.
On where Thomas Bai Designs can be found:
If there was nothing else Phuong Thanh knew as a child, it was that she wanted to be her own boss. That knowledge took her from her hometown in Vietnam (where she born) to Singapore (where she got her Masters in Marketing) and finally landed her in San Francisco where her childhood dream, of being her own boss, would finally come true. Her company, Tourance, prides itself on making faux-fur pieces that are "soft, sumptuous, luscious and lavish" to the touch.
On why she makes:
I wanted to be my own boss. It's been that way since I was a little kid. I'd sell candy to my neighborhood friends. I was just used to being in charge. When I moved to the US with my Marketing Masters, I worked for a design company. But I didn't want to work for anybody for too long so I took a risk and started this.
On where Tourance can be found:
*Note: Additional images courtesy of Roberta Schiling, Finding Home Farms, Element Truffles, True Moringa, Marcel Miller, Good Company Wares, Tourance.
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