In celebration of our 10th year in business, we take a look back at how much our leather workshop has evolved. Enjoy a look behind the scenes with this photo essay.
Our business began in our garage (as many great businesses do!). We used an old Harbor Freight woodworking bench underneath a window as a worktable, and a vintage leathertop desk we found free on the side of the road.
Our friend Ashley welded this sturdy, one-ton workbench on casters. We cleared space in the west side of the garage, gave away the vintage desk, and lined the bench up against the garage door, opening the door so we had enough daylight to work by day and using a headlamp at night.
Photo credit: pathlesspedaled
The little bench underneath the window started to get more organized. We arranged our tools in easy-to-access wall-mounted pegboard and created attractive and purpose-built little organizers. This was "Santa's workhop" 2011.
The welded workbench became the heart of the workshop, like a kitchen island, in the middle of the garage. The Harbor Freight bench was still going strong with much better tool organization. Surrounding it on the side was a wire shelving unit with more pegboard mounted on the backside. Woodworking tools like the chop saw and drill press got their own bench along the wall next to the window.
The layout in the garage stayed substantially the same. We installed a glass garage door to let in more light but keep in the heat for better working conditions. Behind the scenes, we were expanding into the house. We commandeered one guest room for a shipping center & office and stored inventory in our dining room.
We were at maximum efficiency in the garage and we still needed more working space, so we bought a yurt from Oregon-based Pacific Yurts. The yurt was a creative temporary solution for additional artist space installed in the backyard (and a re-sellable asset when done). The soft light coming from the skylight fabric panel made the whole yurt bright like a lightbox. We photographed the entire Idiot's Guide to Leather Crafts book in the yurt.
This amazing photo was taken by Nicolle Clemetson for Portland Monthly Magazine. It shows the full realization of the garage as a working space, including all our bikes, dyed straps storage, two shelf units with pegboard storage walls, and a little monogramming station on an old butcher block.
In 2016, we moved to the Oregon Coast for a bigger workshop. The photo is from our first week in the new shop. This 2800sqft beauty was just an empty shell when we moved in, we hardly knew what to do with so much space.
One of the first workshop challenges we had to deal with was the weather at the coast. It was so damp, our tools immediately started to rust. We added two heavy-duty dehumidifiers designed for indoor pools (big white box to the left) and then a woodstove (to the right) to dry and heat the air.
We didn't have a layout planned for our workflow when we first moved in, which in hindsight was a mistake. Only a couple tables had caster wheels, so it was difficult to change the layout. One big mistake was putting the shipping station and office in the back (farthest away from the door). But the best part was we now had different tables for work stations (dyeing, cutting, etc), which created enormous time-saving efficiencies. Also, the lighting was terrible.
We installed all new LED lighting and insulated the workshop with spray-foam. Spray-foam was the best choice for a metal sided pole barn like ours: 7000sqft of insulation, including the walls and roof area. We put all our tables and shelves on caster wheels, allowing us to experiment with the layout to a more efficient plan (and we kept the wheels on for the next time we'd want to change the layout!).
Walnut Studiolo crafts original modern designs by hand in our Oregon workshop using only natural materials. We are a family-run company located on the North Oregon Coast. Learn more about us on our website.