Nothing excites me more than a great new accessory. Nothing makes me more content than wisely investing in quality and design. Then, lovingly and tirelessly using that item day in and day out. Labels and price tags aren't the heart and soul of a piece I'm coveting. I look for functionality and give careful consideration to how it was made. I'm a huge fan of brands that focus on craftsmanship and clean, elegant lines. There's something about discovering why something was stitched a certain way, or why this particular leather was used, and how the thickness of straps greatly affects how comfortable or wearable a bag will be. Also, if you really think about it - it is much harder to design something amazing with less, than it is to just pile on extravagance. Refined and understated is pure luxury in my opinion.
I recently was introduced to Christine Marcelino - the talented designer and founder of Materials + Process. Her leather goods embody exactly what I'm talking about - I'm coveting everything from her collection. All the products are timeless, thoughtful, well-crafted and locally made here in California.
One of each please!
A little Q&A with Christine:
We love your aesthetic and how you’re blending minimalist form with livable, everyday function. Why leather goods? As an industrial designer, what sparked your interest in working with these specific materials? How did you learn about the craft?
As an industrial designer I’ve worked with a lot of different materials from wood to plastics. What draws me to leather is the emotional response tied to the material, its that instantaneous "Ooo” you get when you’re around it. From its smell to its feel, you can’t help to feel a sense of luxury.
I first started working with leather when I became a freelancer. I had the time and flexibility to work on parts of the design process I enjoyed – the front-end materials research and making things with my hands. I got some leather scraps from a leather-maker friend and kept them with me as inspiration. Carrying them around, I realized that they had changed color from a light blush to a darker caramel brown and I became intrigued. I delved into learning more about the leather I had and found that the material was vegetable tanned leather. Naturally preserved with tree bark and vegetable roots, this material has no coatings leaving it a blank canvas. From the items I made, I started to realize that exposure to the environment and the natural oils from my hands changed the texture and character of the pieces making it truly unique. I started creating smaller pieces and eventually challenged myself to make the backpack that’s become iconic to the brand.
Leather is a craft that requires a lot of patience. Once you make a mark, there’s no going back. At first, I learned by just experimenting with the material but then learned more from reading and watching videos online. Eventually I fell in love the process and so I took more formal classes here and abroad.
Tell us how you got your foot in the industry, how Materials + Process was born. We’d love to hear about your current team.
The name Materials + Process was actually for a zine I wanted to do exploring the history and future of materials. The actual line of leather accessories started with one bag. I wanted to create a comfortable pack that I can wear to a client’s office but also be able to zip around the city with all my creative gear in tow. Leather has a huge learning curve and is also very expensive. I wanted to recoup some of my costs from my learning experience so I started an Etsy site and borrowed the name from my zine. More and more people wanted my designs so I decided to give the business a real go.
The team – Me, myself, and I. For the last 3 years I have been making, selling, and growing the business with my own hands. I am fortunate enough to have received a lot of help from very talented family and friends that believe in what I do. And for them I am grateful for and would not be this far with out them.
Let’s talk about the process and artisanship. What comes first - form or function?
Actually I always start my design process with “the user”. I believe in creating enduring products and in order to do so part of it involves solving a need. The proposed solution becomes the function. So long story short I choose, “function.” But there can be beauty in function. For example, the iconic “V” strap from my pack was actually designed as an alternative to the 2 strap closure you see in many messenger flap backpacks. It’s a simplified way to hold the pack flap down evenly and it’s also designed to hold items. I’ve carried everything from a jacket on a hike, to packages from the post office, and even bolts of leather.
Where do you source your materials?
All of our hardware and leather is all sourced domestically. We get our hardware from the Midwest and the leather from East Coast tanneries.
Where do you gather inspiration?
Travel! Travel for me can be a weekend hike along the coast or a long-range trip abroad. When you travel you get so much perspective.
Who is Materials + Process for?
I like to say that Materials + Process is for modern frontiersman. We design enduring modern classics for those venturing on their own path.
What’s your favorite product and why?
I like to think each product that I design and make are my babies. But my favorite design is actually the Earhart Carrycase. I either keep my iPad in it or a good and head out to the café. Either way, every time I pull it out, I get butterflies and I think to myself “this is a good design.” Something about the softness of the leather and its minimal appeal still put me in awe many years later.
Describe your personal style and lifestyle.
My style is modern and minimalist but in a classic sense. I am always running around and I’m also a new mom so I like to stay on the comfortable side but always confident and chic.
You can find Materials + Process at Need Supply. Check out Christine's video and Kickstarter fund here. Help spread the word and support the campaign (and snag some amazing pieces) so she can reach her goal!
** This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. Photos provided by Materials + Process.