Kimmo Pohjapelto

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Nice place you have here! Can you tell us a bit more about where we are exactly? 

Well, we are in Tellakaranta Konepajahalli, one of Helsinki’s old shipyard buildings. It was constructed in 1916 and was used for the manufacture of ship parts until the early 2000s, when the shipbuilding company closed it. I moved in last fall after the building had been renovated, and I absolutely love it here! I really like that this old building has been kept pretty much how it used to be and still has the feel of the old shipyard days. The atmosphere here is perfect for taking pictures of the products I sell online. I could not have dreamed of a better place for my showroom!

Where does the name ‘Roomage’ come from?

‘Roomage’ comes from my favorite band Descendents. They have a lot of songs that end in ‘-age’. I have always been a big fan of the band and I thought it would be fun to use this in the name of my store. ‘Roomage’ also refers to the store itself: as I just explained, the store is located in an old building – an old space. Another word for space is room and a synonym for old is age and combining the two makes Roomage. Of course, I also sell vintage/old furniture, so this is also reflected in the word ‘age’. Later, I found out that ‘to rummage’ means to dig for something and garage sales are sometimes even called ‘rummage sales’, which is actually a nice description of what I do with my business.

As your favorite band played a part in naming your shop, you must really be into music! Can you tell me a bit about that?

Music has always been a part of my life and I started playing in bands when I was 16. I used to watch MTV and play records with my brothers, which made me develop a taste for a certain type of music and bands. There is a big chance I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t listened to the music I was listening to. I guess it all has to do with trying to be a little bit different than the rest. Back in the day, we were all looking for those new, cool bands and it was a lot harder to do back then than it is nowadays. So it’s quite similar to the way I look for the goods I sell. But I play music the whole day long, whether it is in my home, my car, or my store. It’s a really big thing for me. Punkrock always was and still is all about individuality and I guess that’s something I take as a life goal. My band Sur-rur has been playing for 20 years, though right now we are on a small break. We still exist because we never wanted to push it too much. We always played just for fun, and as long as people listen to our music and we enjoy making it, we will keep it up.

So Kimmo, can you tell us a bit about your passion for vintage goods?

I had never really thought about this before I started the store. I have been asked this question a few times now, so I had to dig deep into my memories to find out where this fascination comes from. The first memories of old things I had a connection with are from the late 80s/early 90s, when my mom decided to sell some of our old stuff on a local flea market in Vaasa. That must have been the first time and I was immediately interested and intrigued by all these cool, old things. When I started studying, I would go to flea markets to decorate my room and I even bought my clothes there. I was able to find rare pieces of furniture and unique pieces of clothing, so I could be just a little bit different than the rest.

I guess you are just born with this interest. I have been buying and collecting used stuff since long before I started Roomage. On holidays, we always tried to visit the cool flea markets and we would always come home with some vintage pieces. So before Roomage, we would buy old furniture and stuff to decorate our home and we still do that – but now, having this store, I can always put items in there, too. I’m always on the lookout for new ‘old stuff’.

How does one get into buying and selling old vintage interior products?

It’s a tricky business and there is not really a school to learn it. You just have to be creative. Before the internet, the only thing you could do is browse the markets and visit collectors or private sellers. Now you can find connections just by being online, but you really need to find the right people and some you find online and others you need to meet in person. So yes, it got easier in a way, but also harder because there is so much out there, it’s sometimes hard to filter. So browsing the web is one thing, but visiting markets and garage sales is still a big part of the job.

Do you find all of your furniture in Finland?

I actually go all-over the place to find items for my store: 75 percent I get from abroad, and the rest is from Finland. Finland is such a small country that I have to go to Central and Eastern Europe a lot to find the things that you can’t get here in Finland. But I do get into my car and visit my contacts here in Finland, too, to find some good stuff.

Who are your customers and how do you approach them? Or how do they approach you? What kind of projects do you take on?

Of course I had to make a plan on how to make this work. When I started, I wrote a business plan in which I estimated my target group to be my age plus/minus 10 years, so young adults between the ages of 25 and 45 from Helsinki. But it turns out that my customers are people of all ages and from all over the country. I have also done some projects looking for special items for hotels, bars, and restaurants.  Most clients approach me. I like to use social media to promote the products I sell in the store, which has been working really well. Sometimes, things got sold from a photo on Instagram before they even hit the store. So people usually approach me after I post on Instagram and Facebook.

What are you looking for in the products that you sell in your store?

It’s a funny thing, I just trust my instinct. The golden rule I have is that if I would put it in my home, I will take it to my shop. So the store really feels like a second home to me. I try to find better and nicer stuff, items that the other stores don’t have. I’m looking for those unique things that people have never seen before. The items do need to be old and rare, but ultimately, the feeling is probably what is most important. All the products I have in my store fit my idea of what Roomage means to me perfectly.

The environment is a big issue nowadays. How do you approach this?

It is a big issue for me and I don’t say this as a marketing pitch, to preach to people that they should buy second hand. Most of my ideas on this topic come from my childhood; my parents bought good quality design furniture from e.g. Artek. And not because we were rich, but because they wanted something nice and durable – and most of the furniture is still in my parents’ house and in good shape. I know that in the past, products were built to last, so if you treat them right, you can enjoy them for a long time. Repairing is definitely something people should be reminded of, especially the younger generation that buys cheap furniture that they will replace when they break it. If you have or find an old piece of vintage furniture, it is always worth reupholstering or repairing it and making it look brand new again. When I’m decorating my apartment, I want to find that special sofa or those special chairs that will serve me for years to come. I simply don’t understand that people buy things just because they are cheap. If you have to buy a new sofa every few years, it is not cheap! So that’s what I’m trying to do: to find those nice vintage design pieces for people who love them too, and I will do the searching for them. And after all these years, I can say that I have become a pro at it.

What was your favorite piece you owned and/or sold?

I’m way past regretting selling things I was really proud to have. The world is full of nice stuff and there will always be things that come and go. And if it really is an exceptionally nice item and it would fit my home, then I might take it for myself. I do have to say that it’s mainly my wife who wants to keep things. But usually, they will be put up for sale anyway, it’s quite easy once you’ve found the right mindset. This job isn’t for people who get connected to their goods. And yes, sometimes items do make a stop in our home; from movie spotlights to a Danish design chair. But I guess the most memorable piece must be the telescopic Triplex 3m reach wall lamp from Sweden that was very rare and in mint condition.

I see both design and industrial design items in your store. Do these go hand in hand and why or how?

Sure, I believe there are similarities between old industrial items and design items. The industrial stuff that was made in the ‘50-’70s is made from certain materials that are now coming back in modern design items. I remember travelling in the USA with my wife somewhere in the early 2000s. We visited some flea markets, where we found these industrial lamps that we had never seen before. As the years went by, you suddenly saw them everywhere. I started off with industrial items only, but have adapted to the demands of the Finnish market by moving a little more towards design items. I try to sell a good mix of both.

Are there trends within this market or is it all timeless design?

Yes, like with everything else, there are trends. At the moment, the trend seems to be going more towards the Italian ‘60-’70s, with a lot of glass, brass, and copper – and rather colorful, compared to the very plain and clean Scandinavian design that has been very popular for the last couple of years. So the trend right now is a bit more playful and more colors, more cozy and a little less hospital-look.

Do you see a lot of changes? How do you keep up with trends and where are they going?

I don’t want to stress out too much about trends, but of course I do also get my inspiration from Instagram, movies, etc. But I would still like to buy and sell the stuff that I like. In my opinion, that’s how everybody should decorate their home, so your home will reflect the owner(s)!

What is your dog’s name and does she always come with you?

Her name is Mila. She is always with us, either in my store or in my wife’s office, she is the best dog to have around. She is a really nice, loving dog that loves all people. Mila is part of Roomage.

 

ONLINE: www.roomage.fi
Instagram:  @roomage
Facebook: RoomageVintageInteriors

Chastity Brown

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Chastity Brown is a Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter acclaimed for her impassioned, rhythm-driven sound. Spanning genres, Chastity’s music gracefully blends blues, country, and soul. Her songwriting is piercing, looking both inward and outward to lay bare personal hardships and dissect societal injustices. Chastity’s fiercely genuine presence on-stage and off embodies the strength we aim to honor in the Red Wing Women’s Collection.

We’re all about process when it comes to building footwear. Could you talk a bit about what your songwriting process looks like?  

The approach to writing a song is different every time for me. Sometimes I feel like I’m chasing down a melody that’s stuck in my head. Other times, an arrangement or set of chords can evoke an image or emotion that I then try to dig into and describe in detail. One constant question: Does this story feel true? If the answer is yes, then I just go with it.

What have you been turning to for inspiration recently?

I’ve been turning to the idea of personal growth and radical self-love.

There’s a lot that goes into creative projects that goes beyond final output. Between swirling logistics and constant digital inundation, how do you deliberately make time and space for yourself to create?

I’ve been on a North American tour for the past five months. I steal away moments between curtain calls to write. And there are hours upon hours that I spend in the car just singing to myself.

How do you stay grounded, happy, and healthy while touring?

That’s a great question. It’s been helpful for me to develop a malleable routine: yoga or a walk in the morn, keeping in touch with my dear, sweet friends and those that know and love me, and eating healthy. I try to keep in tune with the basics of what my needs are.

You can only take so much with you on tour. What do you take into consideration when packing clothes for both onstage and off-stage outfits?

The longer you’re on the road the less ya’ wanna carry. So, I try to take outfits that I can mix and match to be rad on stage and chill and comfy off. Since we’re in a different city every night, sometimes I’ll just wear the same thing for two or three days!

How would you describe your personal style? Is your presentation of self an extension of your creativity? More utilitarian? A blend of both?

I am quite particular when it comes to clothes. It’s most certainly an extension of creative expression. I like neutral solids… A pseudo monotone palate. I often wear vintage breeches that I get altered to fit my curves. Lately, black, grey, creamy white, and green are my go-to colors. And then I throw on a pair of my Red Wings, and boom: ready to rock.

Nina Simone famously said that “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” How does a critical and reflective approach to the world around you inform your work?

I love Nina. She is everything. I’m not a reporter, but I feel like a collector of stories. Ones that I have lived and ones that I hear in the community around me. I try to write with a sense of reverence for the human experience. Whether that’s a struggle with mental stability, a long drive through the backwoods and getting lost in nature, substance addiction, or my own struggles with self-acceptance. I feel that I’m always learning how to be a better writer and stay true to the African American lineage that I’m a part of.

What do you have in store for the rest of the year?

I’m just wrapping up this five-month-long tour. This summer I’m playing Bonaroo, Rock the Garden, Edmonton Folk Festival, and a bunch of fun shows yet to be announced!

 

Chastity is pictured wearing the Harriet in Black Boundary, the Inez in Honey Chinook and the Clara in Black Boundary.

 

Follow Chastity at chastitybrownmusic.com or on Instagram @Chastity_Brown.

Ingo Keller

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Ingo Keller is a well known cobbler in the Red Wing world, who started working as a cobbler in a traditional shoe repair shop in Cologne, Germany at the tender age of 20, just after finishing his shoe repair apprenticeship. In 1996, he decided it was time to become his own boss and he took over ownership of this shop. Today, he has over 30 years’ experience as a cobbler under his belt and his repair shop “Schuhmacherei Ingo Keller” is famous for its quality repairs and the customizing of Red Wing boots. During his long career, Ingo has gained the respect and the trust of many regular customers, some  of whom jokingly gave him the nick name ““Schuhgott” (German for “god of shoes”).

We visited the Schuhgott in his workshop to take some great photos of the space and of the machinery. Later, we met Ingo again at a traditional Brauhaus in Cologne called Haus Schwan. During some traditional German food, we talked about his shop and the cobbling world in general. Unfortunately, the meeting took place on a Friday during lunch time and we both had to work afterwards, so no, there were no Kölsch (typical Beer from Cologne) involved! 

Q: How did you get to know Red Wing?

A: About 10 years ago I had a customer, an actor, who used to come to my workshop and kept telling me: “Ingo, you have to start repairing Red Wing Shoes, they are really, really good.” This customer always drove to the RWSS in Frankfurt to get his Red Wings. At that point, I wasn’t really aware of Red Wing as a brand yet.

I became an official Red Wing cobbler when, by coincidence, I bumped into Guido and Sascha Wolf, who own the RWSS in Cologne. Naturally, we started talking about footwear and before I knew it, 4 hours had passed! Towards the end of this conversation, Sascha told me they were looking for a cobbler to support the RWSS in Cologne. Of course I did not hesitate, as I remembered how passionate some of my customers were about Red Wing and how well I got along with Guido and Sascha. I feel like this meeting could not have been a coincidence!

Q: Can you remember your first pair of Red Wings?

A: Of course. It was the 8113 Iron Ranger that I am wearing right now. I have rebuilt my pair using a leather midsole and the Vibram 430 mini-lug outsole.

Q: What is your favorite style?

A: That is impossible to say. I personally like a boot with a heel and have a very narrow foot, so the Iron Ranger is a good fit for me. But I would not be able to choose which style I love the most. When worn, every boot is beautiful in its own way.

Q:  What do you like about Red Wing?

A: Of course, I like the history of the brand and the long list of famous and non-famous people who have worn them, e.g. Jack Nicholson in
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest”.

I also really like the setup of having RWSS offering a unique service and customer experience, paired with selected high quality retailers, and
a network of cobblers, who offer a premium repair service.

Most of all, however, I really like the people who actually wear Red Wings. The way they love the brand and identify with it and your products fascinates me. Every shoe is different, due to different wear, different care, and just simply because of the person who wears the boot, and that’s what I find really interesting. When I receive a pair for a resole, I am always very curious about the story behind the boots. Whenever I get a chance to meet my customers, I always try to find out what stories surround every boot.

Q: Where do you receive most repairs from?

A: Most pairs are dropped off at the RWSS Cologne. I usually go to the store once or twice a week to pick up boots that need a resole or repair.

Besides that, boots are sent to me from all over Germany, especially from the Ruhr Valley Area with its great and vibrant biking scene, but also from everywhere in Europe and across the globe. Even customers from the US and Malaysia have sent boots for a resole. I guess most people become aware of my Instagram account and simply get in touch.

Q: What is the most requested repair service?

A: Most of my work for Red Wing is still resoling. I don’t get a lot of repairs or defects. Most customers don’t realize just how much work actually goes into what seems to be a simple process of resoling, though.

During every resole, the full sole construction is replaced and renewed. I fully deconstruct every pair, replace the cork filler if needed (this can become brittle from years of wear), and replace the midsole and outsole. And I also clean all parts of the boot. This takes a lot of work and skill.

Q: What do you think of the quality of Red Wing? You must also see and repair a lot of other footwear?

A: Red Wing uses extremely high quality leather. This is not only great for wear, it is also extremely easy to clean and repair. I think Red Wing offers great value. Of course you can buy more expensive boots, but in Red Wing’s price category, it is very difficult to find another boot of such high quality.

Q: How has the profession of cobbler changed?

A: In the 80s, all a cobbler did were repairs and resoles of lower quality footwear. Your work was expected to be cheap and quick. This has changed, as more and more people are spending a little more money on a good pair of shoes and understand that good things have their price and also take some time. This is true for shoemaking, just as much as for any other job. Fortunately, I have more and more customers who are willing to wait a week longer to get the quality of service they expect. 

Q: Your son also works in your workshop. He is 19, right? How do you think business will be when one day he will take over?

A: Yes, he is 19 and has 1 year of (cobbler) education left. I hope one day he will choose to continue running the business here in Cologne. 

I think there is a trend that will continue for a long time. Even though there are still a lot of people buying throw away items, there are more and more people that are interested in a more sustainable lifestyle. These people are also interested in a good pair of denim, a high quality shirt, and a good jacket. I think that this group is only going to continue growing in the next couple of years. 

Q: Do you still have a professional dream? What do you dream about? 

A: You know what, actually I am very, very happy at the moment. I was fortunate enough to have a great teacher in my cobbler education, who always told me that I should not only make the customer happy, but also myself by the time the customer left the shop. This is a valuable lesson I learned early on. My customers rightly demand a premium service, which takes time and also has its price. If the customers and I both realize this, both sides will be happy.

But I also apply this lesson to my work in general. I understand that my employees sometimes work 12-hour days to help me maintain a high level of quality. I therefore need and want to pay them accordingly. In a small, family-run business of 4-5 people, the personal relationship you have with employees is really important, because you spend so much time together, in our case in a really small space.

Q: Any advice you have for Red Wing owners or fans?

A: I think the most important advice to any Red Wing owner is to care for your boots and to respect the product you have purchased. Many people don’t use care products or are scared to use these products. Some people are even scared to clean their boots. To those people I would like to say that the leather Red Wing uses is made to withstand a lot of wear and tear, but it does also need some care from time to time.

Q: Any general rules of thumb in regards to care?

A: Please give your boots some rest from time to time. Ideally you set your boots aside after intensive usage to let them dry properly. I recommend using cedar or beech wood boot trees as they absorb moisture well. If you don’t own boot trees, you could also use newspaper, I guess. But boot trees are better.

In general, you should be able to tell when your boots need care. This depends on how much and in what conditions you wear your boots. The leather will start to look and feel dry and you will notice more creasing in the leather. This is an indication that you should apply some care product. If you are unsure which product to use, simply visit the care section on the redwingheritage.com website, then choose CARE GUIDES. After selecting your style, you will be guided to the right products and detailed care instructions.

On the other hand, do not overprotect your boots. Similar to your own skin, leather can only take in a certain amount of product. The rest will just stay on the surface. You should be able to identify when the leather is saturated by the leather’s ability to absorb the product you are using. Don’t use too much!

Please just make sure you use quality product on your boots. I always tell people: “If you own a Porsche, you would also choose a high quality oil for its engine. The same is true for your boots.”

Website: schuhgott.de

Instagram: @schuhgott_custom_shoe_repair

Facebook: Schuhmacherei Ingo Keller

Emily Vikre

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Emily Vikre is the co-founder and president of Vikre Distillery in Duluth, Minnesota. Blending a love of tradition, penchant for pushing boundaries, and inspiration gathered from Minnesota’s North Shore, she and her husband Joel have built Vikre into a nationally acclaimed distillery. Emily’s affinity for meticulous process is echoed in the Red Wing Women’s Collection, and we’re proud to showcase her passion for craft here.

You and your husband quit your office jobs to dive into this work. Could you elaborate on the calling that drove you to be more hands-on for a living?

With a lot of work, the further you advance in your career, oftentimes the further you get from doing hands-on work with real things and real people. And while my husband Joel and I are both idea people—we can’t stop ourselves from brainstorming and exploring non-concrete realities—we both become more alive when we ground ourselves in making. While none of us need a lot of things, we do need some things, and the world is such a beautiful, meaningful place, it seems to me that things should be beautiful and have intention and meaning behind them as well, if at all possible.

What sparked your passion for distilling, specifically?

It was one simple, fateful conversation. Joel and I were living in Boston at the time, but we were in Duluth on a frigid January night to visit my parents.  That night we learned the story behind a Swedish whiskey: a few guys from Sweden were fishing in Scotland and they got sick of hearing the Scots brag about how they have the best grain and water and peat, and therefore they make the best whiskey in the world. They thought to themselves, “We have all those things in Sweden, let’s go make whiskey.” So, they did! When we heard that story, we instantly thought, well, we have all those things in Minnesota! At the time, my passion lay much more with wine—and I am still definitely fascinated by wine—but as I started to research spirits, I fell in love with the history and traditions and creativity that good spirits are imbued with.

How does Vikre blend tradition and innovation to produce compelling products?

Tradition is often as much a mindset as it is an actual set of prescribed practices. So, you can take traditions and apply that mindset of making something carefully by hand, or using the ingredients grown on the land nearby, and you can keep the tradition fresh by adding contemporary things that are meaningful to you. We honor the traditional practices of making whiskey, but I may reach for unusual grains or try combinations of barrels that no one has tried before. Or, all of our gins include the backbone of traditional flavors that you’d expect in a gin, but then I push and pull them in new directions with local botanicals and other unusual flavors. We’re inspired by how it’s done elsewhere, but because there hasn’t been a particular “northern style” of most spirits, like gin or whiskey, we can pave our own way as well.

Vikre is a triple bottom line organization. How does this direct your work?

Joel and I both came from a background of working on social and environmental issues through academia and non-profits, and even though making booze seems like a pivot from that, we’ve found that a business inspired by Lake Superior can actually be an amazing platform for focusing on the environment and community that we love and rely upon. We are a zero landfill company. We source all of our ingredients organically or locally or both. We developed a closed-loop cooling water system to reduce our water use by over 70%. We pay a living wage for all employees and provide earned sick and safe time for them.

Vikre sources locally and creates tastes that reflect the terroir. Why is this important for you?

Terroir has long been important in the world of wine, and as we have emerged from a weird era of whipped cream and blue raspberry flavored vodka, terroir is starting to become something makers are exploring in spirits as well. This idea that the nature and culture of where a product is made can influence its flavor has always been critical to Scotch and some bourbons. Every place is unique, and terroir honors that. Instead of differentiating your products with flashy branding and micro-targeting a customer’s desires, you differentiate yourself in a tangible, place-based way.

Does your affinity for localization and thoughtful process inform your decision making when it comes to products or organizations you choose to support your personal life?

For sure! We try to have fewer things and have them be things made by people and companies we know personally, or at least whose practices we know. Joel builds a lot of our furniture. We focus on buying and cooking local foods, and we recently planted a little apple orchard and berries in our backyard. I’m passionate about art, and love to surround myself with it, so our house is filled with pieces from artists I’ve met around the state and around our place in Norway. I also work to support our local opera, ballet, and theater because I think the way the arts reflect life and bring people together around our shared humanity is so incredible and important. And, of course, we work to support local environmental organizations and projects.

What lies ahead for Vikre? Where do you hope to take things in the next few years?

Our hope is to continue to expand our distribution footprint, but to do so in a way that is intentional and sustainable. We are planning to add more products, but again with intention. There’s sort of this expectation of craft breweries and craft distilleries now that we should constantly be releasing new product. While that is fun and creatively stimulating, it’s not so much my style. It usually takes me quite a while before I’m happy enough with something to release it. But, we do have a few products in the works that I’m really excited about. And, we want to keep tackling new environmental goals, greening-up our whole supply chain.

To learn more about Vikre Distillery, you can follow them on Instagram
@vikredistillery or visit their website at www.vikredistillery.com

 

Emily is pictured wearing our New 3368 Sand Mohave Iron Ranger as well as our New 3435 Colorado Atanado Hazel.

Gustav Frich

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Not so long ago, we heard the story of Gustav Frich, an 18-year-old guy from Copenhagen, Denmark, who went on what the Australians call a “walkabout”.  He had decided to walk across Scotland from coast to coast in 10 days’ time. This by itself would already be a cool story, but what drew our attention especially was that he did it in a pair of 9016 Beckman boots. Three years after this hike, we bumped into Gustav, now 21, in Copenhagen while visiting the city and attending a Red Wing event. We sat down with a good glass of wine to talk about his experience.

Q: It came to our attention that 3 years ago, you hiked across Scotland in a pair of Beckman boots and that you even did some mountaineering in them! Why did you decide to walk all the way across Scotland in the first place?

A: I grew up with an anglophile grandfather, who, when talking of his youth overseas, always emphasized his hunting trips to the Scottish Highlands. Growing up seeing his photos and hearing his stories, I suppose the place got an almost mythical appeal to me, and when I turned 18, I thought, why not see for myself?

Q: Then of course the next question is why you walked in a pair of 9016 Beckman boots? Generally, they are not the first choice for some serious hiking or for climbing mountains!

A: I did the hike with a friend of mine, Valdemar, who already had some experience in hiking and mountaineering. He suggested we do a test hike to see how our gear held up, so we did. That’s when I found out my hiking boots were just not going to work for me – my feet were wet and sore, and there was no ventilation whatsoever because of the membrane.

So there I was, a week before the trip, with no boots and no money. That’s when I turned to my neighbor Anders, who works for Red Wing. Lucky for me, he had a pair of 9016 Beckman boots that were a bit too small for him, but a seemingly perfect fit for me. So I left the hiking boots at home and went with the Red Wings.

Q: I heard that during the trip, you did not actually go from town to town or use a professional navigation system, but that you had set a few GPS coordinates beforehand and just walked in a straight line wherever possible. On some days, you did not even see a single person. How did that work out and how did you find food and water?

A: It was tough, but rewarding. I’m very thankful my friend did some preparation with the GPS, as otherwise we would have been utterly lost. He brought some filters as well, so we could drink straight from the springs. We mostly ate freeze dried meals I had stuffed in my 70s rucksack at the last minute. I guess I thought we’d have more opportunities to re-stock – instead, we ended up losing an unhealthy amount of weight.

Q: What about the mountain you climbed? What was the mountain called?

A: Ben Nevis, it’s the tallest mountain on the British Isles. We decided to avoid the crowded main path, and tried to scale it from the other side, off-the-grid. It was irresponsible, but the views were amazing.

Q: How did the boots hold up during the trip? We are so curious! It’s not the first boot we think of for a serious hike…

A: The few other hikers we met looked baffled when they saw me in a pair of classic leather boots. But I couldn’t have been happier – they stayed dry when they had to, were never too hot, and my ankles didn’t break when climbing. I’ve given them a lot of abuse, but they’re holding up nicely – I’m actually going to wear them again this winter.

Q: Are you planning other hiking trips in the near future?

A: We’ve been talking about Iceland. We’ll have to stock up better on food this time, though. But the 9016 Beckman boots will be back on my feet for the hike!

 

Thank you for your time and for sharing your story with us, Gustav!

Britta Lynn Kauppila

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Britta Lynn Kauppila is a jewelry designer and metalsmith who lives on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota. Through fire and hammer, she manipulates metals to bring to life pieces that are distinct in appearance and rich with meaning. Fueling her sought-after work is a drive to create by hand that has grown stronger throughout her life and career. This passion for the detail and dedication of craft is a cornerstone of the Red Wing Women’s Collection, and it’s what drew us to Britta to learn more about her creative process and the parallels between her work and our own.

What initially sparked your passion for this work?

As a kid I was interested in geology, archeology, and history, but as I entered college I was more interested in art. I was surprised to see jewelry in the fine arts department, and looking back now it was obviously an “a-ha!” moment. Jewelry combined everything I loved into one medium: geology, art history, and of course art. I loved the stories and history jewelry could tell. Humans have been adorning themselves with bits and pieces of nature for as long as we’ve had tools. That’s never lost its significance to me.

What was the professional trajectory that led you to where you’re at with your craft?

Once I discovered jewelry in college, I immersed myself in it. I got a job at a local, family-owned jewelry store, and I took a year off from university to complete a gemology program. Afterwards, I finished my bachelor’s degree while working at a local custom jewelry gallery. It was here that I met leading local, national, and international artists, exposing me to different paths to success as a jewelry artist. With my boss at the gallery serving as a mentor, my studiomates and I were able to support each other in finding our artistic voice. I’m happy to say that we are all now self-supported, full-time jewelry artists. We’ve spread out all over the country, but they will always be my metalsmith mavens. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their encouragement and support.

You have an affinity for ancient metalworking techniques. What draws you to the traditional methods?

This comes back to my love of history and what drew me to jewelry in the first place. People have been creating intricate jewelry for thousands of years, and it’s amazing to me that some of these techniques still live on. I love is granulation, which was perfected by the Etruscans in the 5th century. I mean come on! On a fundamental level, I’m drawn to the dedication and discipline of creating by hand. In this age of fast design and fleeting trends, I appreciate the dedication and discipline of creating by hand. I’d rather focus my energies on creating work that will be part of someone’s lifelong collection, not just the season.

Do you have a favorite tool that you use?

My dad was always confused why I would snoop around his farm looking for old scrap metal or tools. I’ve found that the impact of imperfect surfaces can pull unique texture from metals that creates incredible depth and meaning. I found an old ice skate blade on the shore of Lake Superior that I use to create texture. Seems pretty quintessentially Minnesotan. I also love my parallel jaw pliers and Pediman planishing hammer, which are the work horses in my studio and touch almost every piece. My anvil that was previously my husband’s great-grandfather’s, and I couldn’t be happier to continue its life for another generation.

Could you describe how working with your hands feeds your soul?

I grew up on a farm and the most impactful mantra ingrained in me from my father was “working hands are happy hands.” Although my father’s interests and my own are different, we’re uniting by working with our hands. I love that relationship. Creating with your hands is profoundly meditative and empowering, and I don’t take that for granted.

Jewelry is made to be beautiful, but it’s also meant to be used, rather than just gather dust in a box. Is the aging process something that you have in mind when you’re creating?

Jewelry is meant to have a life. It’s meant to be seen in motion. It’s not static, it’s lively. I love the movement of jewelry, and how it interacts with the body. As we wear jewelry we are burnishing it, which creates highlights and a new patina unique to each wearer. I love how it changes over time, showing the life of the piece.

Where do you hope to take your work in the coming years?

I’d love to have more time for experimental work in different mediums within jewelry. I want to explore wool and clay, and see how what I find might translate into jewelry. Not necessarily to sell as a collection but to grow as an artist.

Do you feel a sense of solidarity with other folks who make for a living? Does this manifest itself in products that you seek out for your family or yourself?

I really enjoy supporting other artists through my business. Whether it’s custom ring boxes or stationary, I’m always seeking out how to support other artists through my work. It’s more meaningful to me, and I think for my clients as well. In my personal life, I’m drawn to handmade goods for their quality and added meaning. Each piece has its own story that makes it meaningful, and I feel creates a more purpose-driven life for me.

Small Leather Goods

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After years of development, we’re proud to announce the release of our line of small leather goods. We sat down with the mastermind behind the new wallets, zipper pouches and lanyards, Danny Karp, Senior Product Creator-Accessories for Red Wing Heritage, to learn more about what went into creating this line.

What are you most excited for with this product rollout?

I’m excited to see these goods that we’ve put so much time into developing go out into the world and get put to work. Knowing that our customers will be able to confidently count on these products every day makes the all the work worthwhile.

How did you decide on small leather goods?

This is a logical extension for Red Wing. Not only do we make the best footwear in the world, but we make the best leathers in the world. Our loyal customers were looking for the next move from us, and here it is.

What were your priorities during the design process?

Stylistically, we knew that these products needed to be classic and timeless across the board, but designed and executed for owners today. From a practicality perspective, we don’t design for the sake of design. We don’t add embellishments and decorative stitching just for the look. Every stitch has a reason to be there, and same as our footwear, is built with purpose.

What was your creative process like?

The research that went into the line goes back a few seasons. I wanted to make sure that we could provide a product that would be globally embraced in regards to concept, design and overall quality. I studied leather goods manufacturers all over the world. Taking note of what they did well and where I saw room for improvement. We made a point to combine heavyweight leathers with long-lasting stitch techniques to create a line that will proudly stand in line with our footwear and bear the Red Wing name.

What was the most memorable part of this process for you?

I can remember walking into the factory for a meeting one morning and realizing that the craftsmen and craftswomen around me had actually begun production of the small leather goods. I took a moment to look around and at every step, you could see them putting their hearts into creating each piece. From shopping globally, to designing and making decisions that eventually became the “DNA” or key details of the entire leather goods collection, it was humbling to see it all finally come to life.

What was involved in the process of selecting and developing leathers?

We worked hand in hand with our Red Wing tannery team at SB Foot throughout the process. This leather was specifically made for our leather goods collection. We wanted leather that’s struck through, meaning that color goes through the entire thickness of the leather. The leather needed to be robust and rigid, and it needed to be aniline or naked, with no protective top coat sealants. All of these factors combine to create leather that can last for a really long time, while developing a unique patina and character over the years.

Some of the small leather goods are made with vegetable tanned leather. Could you share a little bit more about this type of leather?

We started using vegetable tanned leather in the Heritage belt program a few years ago. We source our veg tan leather from Hermann Oak tannery. Compared to other veg tan leathers, theirs is more robust and durable. This comes from the old world technique that they’ve used since they opened their doors in 1881. They don’t cut corners to accelerate die and stain penetration, instead they allow the leather the time to fully make the most of the preserving process. For the leather goods, we decided to use their bridle leather, as it will age and patina beautifully with use. This leather has a very light tan color when first cut, but over time, with the natural oils in the owner’s skin and sunlight, the leather will darken and develop a slight sheen as the oils and waxes come to the surface.

What can owners expect with these goods down the road?

An old mentor of mine had a saying “design with the end in mind.” This has always stuck with me and was the driving force that motivated all of the time on developing the leather, and dialing-in the construction details so that the leather will develop its own unique patina and distinct character that gets better with use. Owners will be able to look back at the memories that they created with their piece and be able to pass it on to the next generation.

What do you hope the legacy of these wallets will be?

Just like our footwear. Timeless, classic and passed down from generation to generation. When our fans talk about Red Wing they share stories through their footwear. This will be the same for the small leather goods–creating stories and memories that can be passed down from one generation to the next.

Red Wing Heritage small leather goods are now available online and at select Red Wing Heritage retailers.

Erika Duran

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Erika Duran is a Philadelphia-based embroiderer whose work is inspired by her upbringing in the desert of West Texas. Duran’s business Eradura is a one-woman shop that specializes in intricately crafted patches and striking pins, many of which stylistically reflect her time spent in the southwest.

“I think the desert landscape, with its spindly brush and bleached sand, not only shaped my visual language and aesthetic, but my entire sense of self,” Erika reflects. “It takes resilience and endurance to survive in a place that can be harsh and lonely.”

This hard-earned toughness prepared Erika for the challenges of her work and is unmistakably a foundational characteristic of the Red Wing Women’s Collection. It’s this resilience, coupled with Erika’s passion for craft that drew us to her as a kindred spirit of our women’s collection this season.

Erika traces the genesis of her passion for making back to watching her grandmother sew dresses growing up. When she took the plunge into independent embroidery, it was a saying of her abuelita’s that inspired confidence: “Que no se te cierren las puertas.” Meaning, “Don’t let opportunities close on you, there’s a way.”

“My abuelita’s work gave me the initial belief that I could be an independent maker. Her immense work ethic, creative vision and dedication to her craft all coalesced between the four walls of her backyard shop. She was a commander of the room, and I fell completely in love with that idea.”

A defining characteristic of Erika’s embroidery is how she brings her designs to life entirely by hand. Eschewing machines, she relies entirely on unwavering hands and patience for the intensely meticulous and time-consuming needlepoint process.

“Maybe it’s a bit of my own stubbornness, but the actual making, the handwork that goes in to every little bit, is what I feel gives an object its soul,” Erika says. “The unique textures and irregularities that come from needlepoint create a visual map of how a piece came together– the slow crawl of a stitch, seemingly impossibly, eventually filling space.”

Erika’s appreciation for the detail and process of craft is echoed in her affinity for Red Wing.

Erika is pictured (in order, above) wearing the Clara – Oro Legacy, Inez – Black Boundary, Pecos – Amber HarnessPecos – Olive Mohave, and the Iron Ranger – Black Boundary.

Our fall collection is now available online and in select stores.

Check out Eradura to shop her online collection and learn more about Erika’s work.

Travel Care Kit

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The Red Wing Leather Care Travel Kit was conceived of and curated for Red Wing owners on the move. In designing the kit, we set out to balance the demands of proper leather care with travel practicality. Pulling from the staples of Red Wing’s leather care lineup, we assembled a utilitarian kit capable of maintaining every type of Red Wing leather that conveniently fits inside a small Red Wing leather pouch.

Inside the pouch, you’ll find a small buffing brush, 1oz Leather Cleaner with sponge, .5oz Leather Cream and a Care Cloth. The Leather Cleaner can be used on all Roughout, Smooth-Finished and Oil-Tanned leathers, and the Leather Cream can be used on Smooth-Finished and Oil-Tanned leathers. For more in-depth info on leather care, consult our leather care page.

We’re particularly fond of this kit’s versatility. For starters, it’s a perfect purchase for a range of folks. Red Wing owners with established leather care routines will appreciate the compact travel setup. For those who are newer to leather care, the kit is a beautifully streamlined introduction to the processes and benefits of caring for your leather. And across the board, it makes a highly practical gift for any Red Wing leather owner.

One last point that we’d be remiss not to hit on: The leather pouch, by design, also doubles as one seriously stylish clutch. Made from Red Wing leather, it’s as rugged as you’d expect, with a super clean and classic look. So, even if you’re not into accessorizing, we bet you know someone who is.

Cate Havstad

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Intro

Cate Havstad is full of bright, contagious and committed energy to her craft as a custom hat maker. She lives on a small farm outside of Bend, OR and draws inspiration from her surroundings and her supportive community of creatives.

We had a few days to spend with Cate as she worked on filling a tall stack of custom hat orders, helped out with the local Organic potato harvest, attended the farmer’s market and talked about her path.

What is your first memory of wearing a cowboy hat?

My first western hat came to me when I was 21 years old. I was thinking about dropping out of school for a while to go on tour with songwriter Willy Tea Taylor and help film a music documentary he was working on. I was nervous about the decision and perhaps knowing this or just out of kindness Willy Tea showed up one day with a flat brimmed vaquero style hat for me. When he gave it to me he told me it was my “movie making hat” and encouraged me to follow the inspiration that way to be found on the road. I decided to go on the trip and I wore that hat every day, it became a piece of a new and evolving identity. It was the beginning of my journey of finding that which truly inspired me.

What do you think is the biggest challenge about being a woman hat maker?

My little fingers keep me from making nice creases… NOT! I once had an older male hatter tell me this is why women hatter’s aren’t as good, not even kidding. You should have seen my face. The biggest challenge for a female hatter is hearing misogynistic comments like the above, unfortunately some our society is still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to equality and respect. Luckily, I don’t have to interact with these types often but they are out there. Other than that, I don’t feel like there are any challenges I face that a male hatter doesn’t face.

What do the “X’s” mean in the hat band?

The X felt grading system is not standardized so it means different things for different hatters. I adopted the felt grading system of one of my first teachers in which 10x is a European Hare fur felt, 50x is a Beaver/ Hare fur blend, roughly 50/50, and 100x is 100% Beaver fur felt. As of this year I am only working with the 50x Beaver Blend and 100x Premium Beaver fur felts as they are the qualities I believe are truly lifetime quality, and I only want to build lifetime quality hats.

How do the felts get dyed?

Some of my felts come dyed from the manufacturer, and for the last couple of years I’ve also been working on a Naturally dyed hat collection. By using High Desert plants that are wildcrafted, a dye bath is created with the plants and the felts are dyed with this plant dye. The resulting hues are a really amazing soft desert palate that I’m in love with. When I am working on those hats, the steam unlocks the smell of the plants in the felt and it fills my workshop with the smell of sage or rabbitbrush or juniper.

What boots do you have and why did you pick those?

I have the Clara boot in the Oro legacy leather. I’m so in love with these boots because they embody a feminine grit that is exactly my style. The boots have a slender mock toe for that classic Red Wing look but with a moderate heel adding a femininity to the boots profile. While I’m certainly a feminine woman I also am utilitarian in what I wear because I’m either on my feet all day working in my hat workshop or I’m helping out around the farm I work on, often transitioning from one to the other and having a functional boot that can play hard and look good is key.

Where is your shop?

Currently my workshop is parked at the farm I live on, Juniper Jungle Farm. Last year I bought a 32 ft airstream, gutted it and built it back up as my hat workshop. I took the airstream workshop around the country last fall, logging about 8,000 miles in 6 weeks. Since that hat-tour I have had my workshop in town parked next to a couple of local businesses but I found that I prefer a more private, quiet work environment which is why I’m now working from the farm.

Where do you find some of your most powerful inspiration?

My most powerful inspiration comes from the landscapes I’m surrounded by, the regional styles that are so distinct from one another, and my customers are very powerful inspirations to me.

Each hat is custom made and built to suit a particular person. In this way, the stature, style, family history or a new life endeavor that the customer happens to share with me might inspire a new hat style that I have never done until that person inspired it. Right now I’m interested in working more with my Hues of the High Desert hats that are naturally dyed, the plant hues are so unique and very inspiring.

Was there one defining moment when you realized that you were going to commit to making hats?

After I had decided to leave my first teacher’s workshop and strikeout to start my own workshop, I had a lot of self-doubt. The start-up period is so difficult for so many reasons, but one of the biggest transitions after leaving an apprenticeship is learning to do it on your own with no teacher to turn to when you hit a wall. The first public forum I sold hats at was at Bandit Town in California. All hail Bandit Town! Frankly, I was such a fresh baby hatter, that first collection I took to sell was terrible. I mean, it was terrible in retrospect but it was my first solo effort as a hatter, we all have to start somewhere and in those first years the key was make, make, make, I learned so much through just spending countless hours in my workshop with lots of trial and error.

That first day at Bandit Town before the vendors area was officially open I had two women walk up to my booth and each bought a hat off the wall and each ordered a custom hat as well. That moment was it, I can’t even describe the feeling I had. One of my best friends from childhood was helping me that day at the booth and at the end of the day he looked at me and said, “Cate, you’re doing it, I’m so proud of you” and I remember sitting there so exhausted after a hectic day of sales, I took a breath and thought, here we go. There was no going back after that first day of public sales, and my hunger to improve and dedicate myself to the mastery of this trade has been insatiable ever since.