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Upward and Forward


Large arched windows bask studio in light

"There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."

FDR

Light pours through the four arched windows of wavy 100-year-old glass. Street noise—friends calling to each other and a distant train—float up to us and I look out to a ribbon of ocean beyond the train tracks. Wallpaper peeks through plaster in another corner of the studio, and I see that other tenants have drawn in blue pencil on the plaster, picking up the pattern where it had dropped off.

There is history here and layers of artists have added to this space.

I sit comfortably on an antique couch, ready to chat about this leatherworking studio’s move with Found owner, Nicki Lang. (Nicki swears that phrase—comfortable antique—is an oxymoron.) Its velvety upholstery is draped with swags of their spring line.

Found is in a new home. Nicki has moved from the 2nd floor of the 100+ year old Morgan Block Building on 1000 Harris Avenue to studios 13 & 14 on the 3rd floor. Nicki is getting ready for the studio open house this Saturday, March 25th, from 12 to 5.

So tell me about the moves in your life.

I have moved so many times in my life. From Montana to California, from North Dakota to Minnesota to Washington. My dad was a Baptist pastor and was pastoring different churches, so we moved A LOT. I also spent summers in Oregon, Idaho, Alaska. An internship in Florida-- fieldwork all over the West.

I even lived in 3 different houses within 3 blocks of each other in Mount Vernon. We actually carried the couch down the street in one of those moves. 

What type of fieldwork have you done?

I got a masters in Forest Resources, so most of my fieldwork was related to plant ecology, doing field sampling—a lot to do with fire ecology.

I actually talked myself into a back country job, having only been backpacking once EVER before...and that was after I had gotten the job, I thought I had better go backpacking one night to make sure I could do it. I was much braver back then. A friend came with me to make sure I knew how to light a stove and do a bear hang.

I don't know about that braver part. Opening an independent artistic business seems pretty ballsy to me. But speaking of bear hangs, and high up…have you ever moved vertically before?

This is the first time I've moved vertically instead of horizontally.

But I’m glad to move locations with Found because there are some changes that have happened and that I want to make. And it is more than just geographical.

Tell me about those changes.

That 2nd floor space and time was significant in the life of Found. Leah and I worked together there growing the business to a new level. Leah came onto Found about a year and a half ago as my partner. She brought direction and confidence to this small business that I don’t think I could have mustered on my own. And now we are both embracing new challenges, and she’s moved on from Found. So it’s fitting to be in a different space with a new chapter in front of me.

Through the experience of having a business partner and looking at Found as a business instead of just my artistic hobby helped to clarify a few things. Found needs to stay small. In order to maintain the small batch, one of a kind feel of the bags and wallets, they need to be made, well…one at a time. I don’t ever want something to leave the studio that I haven’t inspected every corner of. I also realized that I need to keep the creative spark alive. No matter how many orders I get for Coast to Market totes, I always want to keep fresh ideas percolating on the back burner, ready to come to life when I happen upon a free hour (or four). I had been thinking about making an octopus pillow for well over a year before I put pen to paper and paper to leather and leather to brass. I also want to create more opportunities for my work to benefit others. The Skookum Bags have just been the tip of the iceberg of how I want to reach out in the community. While Emily helps to keep the ‘regulars’ in production, I want to use the edges and castoff pieces of leather to make one of a kind ‘orphans’, with a percentage of proceeds to benefit non-profits in Bellingham such as the Skookum House.

So it's funny, but I feel like this move up is actually a move forward. In this next phase I want to follow my passions and seek advice from the wise people in my life. I have a couple of trusted advisors, creative and otherwise, who tell me hard truths when I need them and honest encouragement when I need that.

 View through the needle

Any moving tips for creative types?

Have a strong husband who does adventure races and works in education. Make sure he has a bunch of snow days when you have to move two industrial sewing machines and a billion boxes up a flight of stairs.

(we laugh…then she pauses for a moment)

If you have the smallest inkling that it is going to grow your business and be inspiring...go for it. That is IF it is within your means.

 But you should go with your gut. Inspiration is so important in creative business. So if you can move to a space that will inspire you more or your customers can understand your business better by your space...you should do that. Watching peoples' faces as they walk into my new space— Seeing the light pouring through the panes of the corner windows— There is more room for multiple displays, for a comfy antique couch for sitting on (we laugh again), and also for my two sewing machines and visitors to see work in progress. I feel like this space is more who we are and who we want to become.

Find Nicki in her new space, 1000 Harris Street, this Saturday from 12 to 5. There are rumors of live music and leather bag sales to make room for the spring line! 


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