January 09, 2012


“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. The solution for a lot of the world’s problems may be to turn around and take a forward step.”— Yvon Chouinard

There was some philosophical discussion over the winter break about my pattern of leaving the city to work. Something obvious and necessary to what I do. But words had never been put to the idea of it. I only knew that when I drove out through the open prairies and rice fields that separated my city home from my work that there was a shedding of a skin. An opening to a connection of something more elemental.

I find one is more mindful of resources when they are harder to come by. A stark difference from our flip a switch daily convenience. Ingenuity has more time and space to grow in places like these.

Physically things are harder here. There are no bots to automate repetitive tasks. Work is done by hand and many days blood is drawn and the first aid kit is mobilized.

There is no heat and thermostat controlled air. The roof leaks on one corner like a sieve. Bones creak when the wind blows. Roosters crow. But the place and the work plugs into a deep part of my soul.

Then a friend came to visit me working at the factory and suggested I watch 180º South.

And I did. You need not be a surfer or climber to appreciate this film. Beautifully rendered. Simply stated. It gave me pause to consider the year ahead of me. The idea that there is so much more out there than the postage stamp we call home and that sometimes our greatest potential lies beyond our front door and certainly beyond what we may have imagined for ourselves.

And I also started reading Let My People Go Surfing : The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Choinard. 

Last year was interesting. I had been seeking a space to expand to and I had a vision of what I hoped for, but I would never have dreamed that I'd have the opportunity to work in a century old mattress factory.

There was discussion about growth. I had some dreams of PR and expansion. I traveled. I was invited to wholesale market. I kicked myself because things didn't seem to be happening fast enough. I worked 7 days a week. I grew a list of potential wholesale vendors longer than my arm. I found and began to train a few folks to help. We launched headlong into production. But things weren't right. We'd begun to push the river.

There are thousands of people making millions of bags. I've always been clear about one thing. Though I dearly love what I do, I have no desire to be 1,001. Just making more stuff.

So I stopped. I turned around. I took a step that I realize now was a step forward for me. I pared back to just me building. Occasionally I bring back the people who I know love what and where we are creating as much as I do.

And I realized that maybe for now it is enough to work with a waiting list. To make elemental beautiful things for people who really plug in to who I am and what I do. To only use resources when they are certain to be used in a product that someone wants. Less speculation. No buy-backs. And that weekends are necessary to recharge. Because whatever you do, it is simply not worth it if you don't have time to live your life.

Oh, I still work weekends but fewer and usually only before our thrice yearly appearance at Urban Market. I'm not sure exactly where 2012 will take me but I am certain that I am looking forward to the journey.