Ask pretty much any climber in Boulder to see their wallet and they’re almost certain to pull out a hot, leather man wallet handmade by Amee Hinkley. The wallets, which she likes to call “mullets” — because they’re business on the outside and a party on the inside — are just one of the goods Amee stitches up in her 100-year-old bungalow in Boulder. Amee launched Ash & Ore, her one-woman venture, last year and hasn’t stopped since. This weekend, Amee will bring her traveling Ash & Ore store to Boulder’s Firefly Handmade Gypsy Farm Market. I would highly suggest you swing by to check out her wares…
A few weeks ago, I got to see some behind-the-scenes action at Amee’s home studio. I ended up walking out with an armful of goods and some great stories. Here’s a few nuggets that I thought I’d share…
Tell me about your name, Ash & Ore. How did you come up with it?
I like to say that I had this amazing idea and story behind Ash & Ore coming to be, but I really wasn’t thinking about anything when I came up with it. I really wanted to combine two words together. I really like the & and + symbols in brand names. I came to really love the combination, and as it turns out the abstract combination speaks a little about my personality or at least about my passions. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life outside rock climbing and running around in the dirt. I feel that Ash & Ore symbolizes the earth — minerals, elements, and particles that spread, morph and change. I feel like that is true about my creative process and my business too.
How did you get into the business of making things, and into making leather goods?
I can’t remember a time when I haven’t made things, but I started making leather goods a couple of years ago in my kitchen. I had a desire to make myself a wallet, I knew what I wanted, but couldn’t find the perfect one. I used leather remnants that I had found at an upholstery shop. I really never thought it would turn into a business, but the more I used it, the more people would ask, “where’d you get that?” I saw the demand and I really enjoy designing and sewing, so I took the leap!
Why did you choose leather as your staple material?
I chose to work with leather for a few reasons: the main reason being that it is durable. At a close second — it feels so buttery and soft, and it also smells good. I also knew i didn’t want to deal with the fraying edges of cotton. Cotton is my nemesis. Me and cotton, we’re not close… at least when it comes to sewing. I rarely line my bags partly for that reason, but mostly because I like the aesthetic raw leather edges and the rough texture on the inside. It feels more organic to me.
Are any of your designs made from reclaimed materials?
When I first started, I only use repurposed materials. I would clean out all the local thrift stores of old leather jackets, which I would then cut up. In addition, I found smaller leather remnants from various sources around my stomping grounds. I really liked that each scrap had, I guess you’d say, worn many hats before ending up in my hands. It started out as the skin of a cow, processed into a huge tanned hide, then cut up to be a jacket or cover a couch, and then lastly into an Ash & Ore wallet. My favorite find was a large remnant circa 1970s from a bowling alley booth seat. It was shiny and bright blue — a real score. Every time I would get a bag of scraps, the variety would inspire a new color combo, or make me wish I had bigger pieces to work with. At a certain point I started going to the local leather factory and picking out sides and full hides. My goods are now a mix of new and repurposed materials.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade is all about community. So often we have no idea how the things we buy even came to be… well things. I feel that when you buy handmade, you are able to get the full story, you can really appreciate the thought and time that went into the item you purchased. I always know that when I purchase from a small business that they are thankful for my business and it makes me feel like I am supporting an economy that I believe in.
What inspired you to start this business venture?
As a creative and active person, I feel that I operate best in the world when I’m self employed. It allows me the freedom I desire, but also challenges me in a way that I haven’t found working for someone else. I find at times I’m quite anti-social, hiding in my home-studio for weeks creating a stockpile of goods for indie craft markets or store accounts, but then I’ll have a couple of weeks to explore the mountains, have potlucks with friends, or take in way too many girlie movies. It’s a nice balance, and just like anything has pro’s and cons. Overall I’d say that people should do what makes them happy, and the rest will follow.
You’re at the Gypsy Farm Market this weekend. Where else can people buy your goods?
I mostly sell my goods out of my studio. I’m currently working on a website and an Etsy store, but I guess you could say I’m a little behind the ball on that. But If you live near Aspen, Colorado you can find a collection of Ash & Ore mens and womens wallets, bags and pouches at the Art Works store at Anderson Ranch. There are a few more opportunities coming soon, but until i can get my techy-ness together, visit my Facebook page or blog for updates.
I slurp copious amounts of fruit smoothies, I frolic with my four-legged fur ball in the mountains, climb rocks, get lost in the aisles of thrift stores — I feel like i can go back in time when I’m there. I like a good book and usually read them cover to cover without coming for air. I’m really into chocolate with sea salt, and I won’t lie, I am guilty of late nights cruising blogs on the internet.
What goals do you have in store for the future of your business?
I don’t try to hard to plan things for Ash & Ore, but my own expectations usually get the best of me. So far this theory has actually allowed for amazing opportunities to knock at unexpected times. As much as I consider myself to be a planner in other realms of my life, I feel like I can only plan so much for Ash & Ore. With that being said, there are a few short-term goals that I do have: I would like to move my 10×10 studio into a larger space, ideally sharing it with other artists. I think that would allow me more opportunities to collaborate and grow as an artist myself. I definitely know I work better when I have different minds to bounce ideas off.
If you’re anywhere near Boulder this weekend, don’t miss Amee at the Gypsy Farm Market. And make sure to stay tuned for her online store…