west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

Over the past month, we’ve tagged along with portrait photographer Arden Wray on a road trip to some of the west elm LOCAL makers that call Texas home. We’ve paid a visit to the home of multimedia artist Alyson Fox, the drawing board of illustrator Leah Duncan, the Marfa studio of soap maker Ginger Griffice, the house of watercolorist Shae Spaniola, and the shared studio space of leather goods maker Natalie Davis. Today, we’re dropping by the Canopy Studios storefront of Son of A Sailor.

Founded by husband-and-wife team William Knopp and Jessica Tata, Son of A Sailor creates jewelry and gifts, all handcrafted in their Austin studio. “William and I met in San Francisco and had a fairly magical long distance relationship that was full of art projects and creativity,” Jessica says. “When I decided to return to Austin, we were both at a point in our lives where we wanted something more out of our careers.” To pull in some extra income, the two decided to put some of their jewelry for sale online. “More quickly than we ever anticipated, we were met with a wonderful demand, and William and I recognized the opportunity to begin a business creating things together.” Employing modern geometry and sturdy construction, their pieces are both fresh and timeless. Take a peek at Arden’s photographs of their studio space below!

William and Jessica’s work is part of the west elm LOCAL assortment at west elm Austin, El Paso, and Houston City Centre.

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

Tell us about your studio space.

We have a wonderful studio space in a creative complex in East Austin. Rooted in the part of Austin that is most concentrated with artists and makers, we also have the luxury of having a small area of our studio dedicated to a storefront. As you walk into the studio you’re greeted with a bright, airy boutique area, and can see the entire production space where all of our products are made. Our large production tables are chock full of our jewelry and leather-making tools, and the guys hold up the back of the studio with the Supply production zone. It’s bright and open with high ceilings and a clean concrete and white-walled canvas. At this point, though, we’ve actually outgrown our 800 square feet. We’ve filled every corner of the studio and need more space as we continue growing! We are in the process of planning our next space and are essentially trying to create a place that embodies the best elements of our current studio—bright light, open view of our production, and a community feel—just four times the size!

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

What does a typical work day look like for you?

As we have begun to settle into a bit of a rhythm of our business, it’s often about the art of balancing our time. We’re usually driven by the most immediate event at hand—be it the holiday season, a trade show, or the launch of a new collection. We strive to preserve time for ourselves that we can dedicate to creating new designs, while ensuring that we get the day-to-day demands taken care of. As we’ve grown, a lot of time goes into managing a team of people that work together to achieve the goals of the business.

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

Where do you seek inspiration?

As a design team, a great deal of our inspiration comes from our interaction with one another. I appreciate the ways in which William and I work differently from one another; he is a very thoughtful and thorough designer, while I tend to be decisive and prolific. Together, I think we inspire one another to do things differently than we would alone. I joke that if he weren’t around I would never try new things, and if I wasn’t around he would never finish anything.

Outside of our interaction designing, we are both greatly inspired by natural landscapes, the marriage of form and function, geometry and color. The history of our own lives plays into our designs, as well, especially how we decide on products we’d like to make. Increasingly, our travels have shaped the products we make and concepts behind our lines. We try to select one place to which we’d like to travel each year that will undoubtedly inspire creativity for us. We’ve had the privilege of traveling to Iceland, Monument Valley, and Playa del Carmen in the last couple of years, and every trip has inspired us in new ways. So as we plan where we’d like to go in life, we recognize that those places will help to shape our work, as well.

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

west elm - Son of A Sailor studio tour - Photography by Arden Wray

Why do you love Austin?

There’s not room enough to give you our full and unabridged answer, so I’ll boil it down to three things:

Tacos. Mass consumption and undying love of tacos is encouraged here. And we support that.

Collaboration. Whether it’s Southern hospitality at play, or the prevalence of the creative community here that facilitates it, Austin has such a welcoming and inclusive vibe for creative people. The competitive, protectionist attitudes you’ll find in other cities just aren’t as pervasive here.

The Hill Country. Austin is a gorgeous city! From Barton Springs and Lady Bird Lake at the center of the city, to the myriad of beautiful parks and watering holes like Pedernales Falls and Hamilton Pool around town, Austin is a lovely blend of exciting landscapes.

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Photography by Arden Wray

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Laura D. Zajac

February 16, 2016

What a beautiful studio! I love the small Texas cut outs. Congrats on your success!

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