We passionately support small business and handmade and local goods. As a visitor of our blog, we thought that you might feel the same way. In our Meet the Neighbors series we're featuring businesses and people who reflect our own values and whom we feel lucky to call neighbors and friends.
For our latest Meet the Neighbors installment we're stepping out of Cayuga County and introducing you to a great company that pushes the boundaries of the word neighbor
. While they're not exactly "just down the road" like some of our other friends, the folks at Moop
certainly are very neighborly
. Being small as we are, we've reached out to a few other small handmade businesses and must say that Wendy at Moop was one of the most friendly and helpful business owners we've met. She was happy to share her knowledge and ideas and for that we are very grateful.
Nice as they are, what we love most about Moop
is their simple and stylish bags which are handmade at their studio in Pittsburgh. Below is a conversation we had with Wendy last week.
How did you get into bag design/production?
Moop began in a converted mill building in Western Massachusetts. I had been studying photography for many years and was always drawn to exploring textiles through photographs. I was particularly interested in garment construction, textile labor practices and the representation of textiles/clothing/garments/women through images. I had been sewing dresses out of non-traditional textile materials such as paper bags, handmade pom pons, tyvek and various other things to use as props in photographs. Out of a purely utilitarian need I sewed a few pieces of fabric together to make a tote bag for school. I received many compliments on it but never took it seriously as something that I would do for other people. About a year later - after our relocation to Massachusetts from Ohio - I was completely unemployable with two degrees in photography and searching for ways to make my practice as an artist make sense with my need to support myself and my family. It was out of this need that I began to reconsider what my studio practice was. I set up shop online and started Moop. At the time I was not even completely sure what Moop would be and my self taught sewing skills were rather rudimentary. But, Moop grew…a lot! So, I started investing in proper equipment, honed my skills and started learning how to really run a business and build a brand.
Your aesthetic is so simple and functional, but at the same time (and maybe because of this) quite beautiful. Is there a design rule or principle that you live by?
I start with the tools and methods that I know how to do. From there, I begin with the basic shape, then features I want to offer, then accessories. The design tends to show itself through this process and is influenced by our production methods. I try to avoid design features that will be difficult to work into our current processes. We're a very small studio producing a large volume of bags for our size so everything must be efficient, always, otherwise we get behind and can't keep up with our order volume. It may sound like a strange way to design, but it creates an important level of restraint and means our bags are a cohesive collection, one building upon another.
What drives your commitment to keep bag production in house?
Labor. My practice as an artist always dealt with issues of labor in textile production. It was something that resonated with me from a very young age. Learning more about how the things we buy are manufactured, the conditions of laborers worldwide, how that has affected job development and opportunity and how we are all plugged into supporting these practices weather we like it or not. It's nice to think of an off the grid lifestyle, but it's not very realistic for most people. I think all of us have to pick and choose where we feel we can make an impact on things we believe in - environmentally, socially, sustainably, educationally, gastronomically, etc. For me, Moop has been a way that I can implement many of my convictions while also growing a business and way of life. What started as a practice of one (me), has grown into a practice of several. It's immensely satisfying to be able to provide a job and income not just for myself, but for those that work with me as well. And even more satisfying to know that our customers are supporting us for many of the above listed reasons. Handmade manufacturing has put us in touch with so many exciting, interesting and empowered small business owners worldwide. We're excited to be a part of such a healthy supportive community.
You can view all of the Moop collections by visiting their website
. For more behind the scenes photos, check out their Flickr page
. And of course, if you really want to know more about what Moop is up to, you can visit their blog
and friend them on Facebook
Which bags do you like best?