Fast fashion is having a bit of a moment right now, but with the conveniences of mass-production also come downsides like ubiquity and the feeling that everything looks identical. LOCAL maker Molly Campbell of Molly Virginia Made wants to combat the notion that the fashion and home goods you love can’t be one-of-a-kind. To her, there’s something magical in the way that no two of her pieces are ever the same. She passes along this pride to her customers who delight in the fact that their coasters, bags, wallets, and other handmade goods are uniquely their own. Inspired by her surroundings in nature, Molly’s fashion-forward designs and custom-made vegetable dye processes make her goods both beautiful, approachable, and uncomplicated.
We were lucky enough to be able to spend an afternoon in Molly’s Richmond studio space and learn more about what goes on behind-the-scenes and what drives her unique business. Take a look below!
Photography by Alexa Ann.
Please tell us a little about yourselves and your work.
Molly Virginia Made is a line of handmade, hand-sewn marbled leather goods. Each leather piece is crafted by a badass, all-women team in our Richmond, VA based studio. Our goal is to create totally individualized products; each dye bath yields a unique pattern of color, organic shapes and fluid lines such that no two bags are ever the same; MVM is for people who don’t want what somebody else already has.
How did you get your start making handmade leather goods? What is your background as an artist?
MVM was actually very organic in its start — the intent was never to create a business, just to make one small wallet. Once I figured out how to dye the leather, however, creating and designing became way too interesting to abandon. Each piece is marbled individually through a process that I developed earlier this year. The dyeing process is fun but totally messy and it often looks as if a paint bomb has exploded in the studio!
You use leather in such creative and interesting ways. What drew you to leather as a medium for your art?
My background is in painting so I’ve always been intrigued by organic lines and naturally occurring shapes. In my mind, leather is just a new, barely explored, canvas.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Inspiration often comes from the colors and textures I find in my daily routine. I surround myself with lots of plants, beautiful textiles, and bizarre art, many of which continue to push me down different avenues of design.
Tell us about your studio space.
We’ve JUST moved to a new space. Before we were working out of a very, very small studio so the space feels absolutely huge in comparison! It has room for everything we need, offers tons of natural light and is clean and white (…although probably not for long!).
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I’ve yet to figure out a set routine but generally the day begins with a cup of coffee and lots of email answering. The rest of my time is usually spent on production: cutting, dyeing, hand-sewing and finishing as many leather pieces as I can.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
With handmade work, the value of each piece is readily apparent; from the hand stitching to the small mess-ups and odd quirks, each leather product is totally unique. Especially so in they dyeing process as the pieces, while not perfect, are all one-of-a-kind and will never have the same marbled pattern! I think people are really beginning to realize the value and importance of supporting smaller, local businesses. It is honestly a great time to be an American maker.
What do you love most about Richmond, VA?
Richmond fosters an incredibly supportive creative community. Because there are so many amazing artists here one might expect cutthroat competition, however, that’s absolutely not the case. Makers inspire rather than threaten, often providing the backbone of support for each other’s creative endeavors.
Top 5 places you need to visit in Richmond?
For me it’s all about the food! If you’re craving divine sweet or savory pastries, you MUST visit the Turkish-inspired bakery Sub Rosa! Dinamo, Mama Zu’s and Edo’s Squid are a trifecta of incredible Italian food and Stella’s has an amazing Greek brunch (I recommend the Spanakopita with tzatziki and poached eggs over potatoes!).