For the past few weeks, we’ve been following portrait photographer Arden Wray on a road trip across Texas, stopping into the beautiful studios of some of the state’s west elm LOCAL makers. So far, we’ve said hi to multimedia artist Alyson Fox, illustrator Leah Duncan, soap maker Ginger Griffice, and watercolorist Shae Spaniola. Today, we’re paying a visit to the Austin studio of Natalie Davis, the owner and maker behind the leather goods company Canoe. Inspired by vintage work wear and the workhorse quality of leather, Canoe is known for its melding of traditional craft methods and contemporary, modern forms. A strong presence in Austin’s creative community, Natalie has collaborated with a number of regional makers and co-founded the popular Feliz pop-up market. Take a peek at Natalie’s process in the photos below!
Natalie’s work is part of the west elm LOCAL assortment at west elm Austin.
Tell us about your studio space.
Our studio space is 375 sq ft in a complex filled with fellow artists and designers. I’m very grateful for a 9’ wide opaque wall panel that streams light in the morning. We have 2 huge work tables to roll out hides for cutting, dying, and assembly. In the corner, I have my tooling bench where I hand tool our products. There is an industrial sewing machine in the other corner for production. We have lots of plants and, of course, a dog bed with toys for our studio pup.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
The studio kicks into gear with a cup of tea and our to-do list. The mornings are often spent following up with customers via email. Every day is different, so I may spend the afternoon hand dyeing leather, assembling products, sketching, or in a meeting with a client. I pack orders at the end of the day and try to get out of work before rush hour for a gym visit (if I’m being good) or sometimes happy hour with a friend. Sprinkled throughout the day are dog walks and lots of podcast listening.
Where do you seek inspiration?
As a designer, I think you just have to keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere—the silhouette of a dress, an interior spread in a magazine, a conversation with a friend. I try to read a lot and travel when I can. I’m a very curious person, so I tend to go down rabbit holes when something peeks my interest.
Why do you love Austin?
The creative community is incredibly supportive. Folks look out for each other and that kindness makes a world of difference. There is a positivity to Austin that’s very infectious, too. I love how green our city is, filled with parks and public swimming holes to help cool off during the summer. Also, tacos.
Photography by Arden Wray