making by hand


This past weekend, when Marcus, Alex and I were decorating our house for Christmas, I opened a box, revealing that our 10-year-old Christmas stockings were a ripped, tattered mess.  

"We need new stockings," I said.

"Clearly," responded Marcus.

I stopped everything to get online and look for Christmas stockings.  None of them seemed right, and the ones that I did like cost a kidney.  Exasperated, I took to Twitter, mentioning I was having a really hard time finding Christmas stockings (preferably monogrammed), that I was open to spending the money on.

Almost immediately, my friend Cheryl responded.  Cheryl is the owner and main designer behind Stash, a local company that makes -- all by hand -- some of the most beautiful leather and canvas bags I've ever seen (I've written about them before).  "We're actually working on some unique Christmas stockings right now for our pop-up shop that's opening on Friday," she said.  "And monogramming is easy.  I could teach you how to do it."


It's not that I necessarily wanted a Stash Christmas stocking -- after all, at that moment I had no idea what they looked like, or if I could even afford them -- but I suddenly realized that what I wanted was to simply be around Cheryl's energy -- she's one of the most creative people I know.  So I quickly made plans to come see her while she was busy getting the new pop-up store together.

It might seem obvious why I enjoy being around Cheryl -- watching creative people create (especially beautiful leather goods with awesome tools) is always exhilarating.  But it's not just that.  It's the courage it takes to do this.  I don't know about you, but I feel particularly vulnerable if I make something by hand for someone else to appreciate -- and it can be anything, too:  a piece of art, or a slice of cake, or even a print of one of my photographs (and for some reason, I feel far more vulnerable when someone holds a print of one of my images in their hands than I do having people see my work online -- isn't that odd?).  The fact that Cheryl (and her team) quite literally take her sketches and bring them to three-dimensional  life -- a process that takes a couple of days for each piece -- and then actually sell each bag or camera strap or journal just seems so brave to me.  And that they're finally to the point that they've taken the risk of opening a holiday storefront is just thrilling to me.

I understand, of course, that Cheryl has done this for a while now, so each time she comes up with a new design, it's a pretty calculated risk:  she knows her strengths, and though her demeanor is generally quiet and gentle, she is meticulous about her work, fanatical about detail, and uncompromising about the industrial strength of her bags and other products. Yesterday, as I photographed the shop-still-in-progress, she talked with me a bit about her creative process, and as I listened I felt more and more inspired to take a leap and experiment with the art I keep wanting to create, but am to afraid to do. 

2014, baby.

Anyway, her stuff is just so gorgeous:


In the end, I did go ahead and get the Christmas stockings ... 


... not just because leather Christmas stockings are kind of awesome, or that they're going to last until my grandchildren have grandchildren thus making them a family heirloom, but because I hope they remind me that sometimes toying with a creative idea, even one that seems outlandish and silly, can result in a truly beautiful product.

Thanks, Cheryl.  I owe you big.


If you're in Houston, consider stopping by Stash's holiday shop, located in the West Avenue shopping centre (which, weirdly, is nowhere near a road called "West Ave," but rather on the corner of Westheimer & Kirby -- the store is A118, between Langford Market and Jonathon Adler).  The store officially opens on Friday, December 13th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and then on Saturday, the 14th, they're having an official launch from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- with live music, champagne, and pie.  I mean, you can't resist pie, right?

And of course, if you're in the mood to create things with your hands, consider joining me for CREATE.2014 for a great start:  we'll be art journaling, vision boarding and mindmapping.  A great way to frame the new year ... with your hands.