Peter Maxwell of Made Solid in LA is taking things slow on purpose. Hearkening back to old-fashioned leather production and refining methods, Made Solid cares not just of high quality goods, but of how they can bring the community together and what they could mean for the future of small businesses. Using only natural methods (no sewing allowed!), each piece is oiled, waxed, shaped and stitched by hand. In doing this, he sees real value in the character and longevity of each of the pieces he creates— one that urges the distance between the animal, artisans, designers, consumers, and their environment closer together to form solid relationships. Hence, these connections are Made Solid. As he explains “making a solid connection between the raw leather our hands touch and the well-used pieces our friends love is our constant goal”, while bringing diversity and personal experience to each design.
We were lucky enough to get a sneak peak inside Made Solid’s combined retail and work space on Fountain Ave in Los Angeles, and learn a bit more about the past, present, and future of Made Solid. Read on below!
Photography by Monica Wang.
Please tell us a little about yourselves and your work.
Made Solid was born and raised on the West Coast. We are a collection of leather products designed and handmade in Los Angeles by myself and Mia. Our design is inspired by our history and our surroundings with Western living at our core.
Made Solid uses traditional saddle-making techniques with many vintage tools/methods. Tell us why you choose the ‘Old-Fashioned’ way of doing things and why that is important to you.
Traditional leather working is hands on and uses a series of fairly basic skills, with a basic material (vegetable-tanned leather). You can create almost anything with those basic skills and the knowledge of how to combine tools and technique. It’s also an endless learning/refining process with a connection to generations of leather workers. I love the concept of using time honored methods to create something contemporary as well. We often talk about making connections between old and new, classic and contemporary. We also love the process involved from animal to the Hermann Oak Tannery to our workshop to finished piece and finally the owner/user who is able to enjoy the age and patina for years. All of that is actually where our name comes from – making solid connections.
How did you get your start with this business?
I had been working with leather off and on throughout my life. There came a time about 4 years ago when I decided I wanted to design a few pieces that fit me and that which influenced me, rather than buy some of the more traditionally styled work that was on the market at the time.
Where do you seek inspiration for your designs?
Well inspiration is all around us, all the time. I don’t consciously look for it. The form, color, etc. in MS design is a natural expression, rather than a direct line to one thing or another. That said, there are fairly obvious connections to my history growing up on the West Coast — water, sand, sky, desert, and mountains. Our travels to Japan adds a lot of inspiration, as does music and art, the work of friends, and day to day life. We try to keep it natural.
Tell us about your studio space.
We currently work in a space in the Merrick Building in East Hollywood, on Fountain. The studio/workshop is in the back with a small public retail space in the front. It’s a beautifully restored 1930 Art-Deco building with high, exposed wood ceilings in a fairly untapped neighborhood close to Silverlake, Los Feliz and Hollywood. We live less than a mile away so it’s really quite convenient. The actual work space of the studio is very basic with a large work table surrounded by a ton of leather, tools and supplies.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Usually gym in the early morning and/or out to walk the dog with Mia. Then, I work on projects outside of the studio during the day, along with MS business follow-up, meetings, sales, etc. I also work a bit in Los Angeles social services with the homeless population. So on any given day, I can be running around for all of that! I handle the physical design and creation of our leather products in the afternoon and evening. If you see the light in the back of the studio on at night, I’m in there working!
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
We’ve approached our growth intentionally slow, so for us, it’s great. We’re rooted in deep relationships, so staying positive in those ensures our retailers and customer base are loyal. We’re quite lucky and thankful for that. In the broader marketplace, we’ve seen consumers focusing more on high quality, long-lasting items in the past few years – classics and new classics. Because of our choice of leather, technique, etc, we spend a lot of time educating on why our work is different than what the rest of the market has to offer. Luckily, people are very open. That conversation builds connections, relationships develop, and we keep moving forward together.
What do you love most about Los Angeles?
Diversity of people, location, culture, influence, as well as proximity to the ocean, mountains, and desert. It is an absolutely amazing place. It just needs some time to get to know it beyond the surface level.
Top 5 places you need to visit in LA?
1. Griffith Park/The Autry Museum for an escape in the city
2. Point Dume State Park/Paradise Cove
3. Mt. Waterman Trail Hike in the Angeles National Forest
4. Dinosaur Coffee for the best coffee around
5. Tacos Leo for Al Pastor everything!