I stumbled upon the fine craftsmanship of Garrett Kautz on a fashion scouting mission a while back. This Santa Cruz leather craftsman is at the top of his game, selling his wares locally at Stripe MEN and also in San Francisco at Unionmade, among other places. It had been a while since I chatted with Kautz so I wanted to discover what he was up to lately.
When did you start Strawfoot Handmade?
I guess I "officially" started Strawfoot in late 2010 when I had my first wholesale order to Unionmade in San Francsico and then things ramped up from there. It was never a conscious decision to start a business but more of a glorified hobby that stemmed from my desire to make a quality bag that fit my needs. I wanted it to look a certain way and I could only find aspects of that specific style in old army bags. Sewing became a creative outlet for me when I purchased a vintage industrial sewing machine and was able to incorporate heavy waxed canvas and leather into the bag construction. It's still really challenging and exciting for me.
How has your business grown since then?
I have an online shop, a few more wholesale accounts and am still able to build custom bags for people all over the country, some internationally too. But, the business isn't too scale-able because it's just a one-man operation and I like it that way. I want to continue making the bags because it's fun for me and I enjoy working with my hands. It wouldn't be satisfying to me to have my products made in a factory, even domestically, because I want to be the maker, not a business manager.
What types of products are you making these days? Any new additions to your line of work?
I still make my standard waxed canvas tote bag the most, but I've started making roll-top tote bags and backpacks, standard rucksack-style backpacks, and a shoulder satchel similar to a small messenger bag. I've also gotten to work with Josh Muir of Frances Cycles. He's a local bicycle builder that specializes in custom steel cargo bikes. I've made a bag design that fits his new large cargo bike frame and we've also worked together on a handlebar bag for bicycle touring. It's been really great to work with such friendly people on fun projects.
What's your inspiration as well as the mission for why you do this work?
I've always been enthralled with the idea of a cottage industry and how specialized skills were passed on. So many great trades are passing away and so is the knowledge of how things are done. Think about upholstery or tailoring, they're dying arts and I want to learn that stuff. Where have all the cobblers gone? Bag making has been a way for me to get to know a skill that I hope will transform into a specialized knowledge or trade that I can pass on. I'm completely into sharing knowledge and ideas.
To learn more, visit strawfoothandmade.com.
Above photos by Keana Parker