Here at Design*Sponge we jump at the chance to feature young, independent designers. Alice Saunders is the genius designer behind ForestBound, a unique line of accessories made out of upcycled, recycled, and salvaged materials. Alice spends a healthy amount of time sourcing antique, WWII military fabrics coupled with unexpected textiles such as vintage tents, backpacks, and grainsacks. She is quite the trailblazer on Etsy; her wares sell out almost as quickly as they are uploaded into her shop! Oh, and she moonlights as an organic farmer, in her “spare time”. She truly epitomizes ethical and sustainable American design. Alright y’all, give Alice a big, warm internet welcome!
1. Design*Sponge : What is in your toolbox?
Alice Saunders: So many things! Most importantly are my sewing machines… 3 industrials that I use pretty much all day long. The first machine I got, an Adler from the 1970’s, is one of my most cherished possessions.
I incorporate a good amount of leather into the work that I do so I’m also constantly using an array of leather working tools – rivet press, leather punch, various mallets, bevellers, skivers, etc. At a flea market a few months ago I came across a WWII era grommet setter with a few bags of military issue metal grommets. Since I use so much WWII era canvas in my work being able to incorporate bits of original hardware using the equipment that was originally used 60 years ago is a great feeling. I spend a huge amount of time assessing my materials in their original form and then taking them apart. Most of the canvas I work with originally comes as WWII era (or older) military duffel bags, cots, tents, etc. I’ve also started using a lot of grain sacks and feed bags that are 50+ years old. This means I need to take apart lots and lots of hems. I always use a very sharp knife for this part of the process.
I’m never without one of 3 knives – a Leatherman that I originally gave to my boyfriend as a Christmas present a few years ago but have sneakily claimed as my own, a camp knife from the 1950’s with a stacked leather handle, or a Carl Schlieper eye brand knife. And of course there’s fabric – I never have enough space for all of the fabric that I seem to accumulate. I spend a lot of time searching for and carefully collecting all the material that I use for my bags. These days it’s mostly military duffel bags, antique ticking fabric, grain sacks, old Boyscout packs, WWII era tents and cots.
2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank,”When I am in my studio I feel…”
CLICK HERE for the rest of Alice’s interview (her tips for staying organized + what superhero power she’d want!) after the jump!
3. Design*Sponge: What are on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
Alice Saunders: I’m always inspired by the Japanese magazine Free & Easy, by the photographs of Jonathan Levitt (www.jonathanlevitt.com), and by old military photographs that I come across at flea markets. As far as blogs go I’ve been real into these few lately – http://www.thewilliambrownproject.com/ http://sanforized.blogspot.com/ http://theworldthatsummer.wordpress.com/ http://www.anambitiousprojectcollapsing.com/
4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? Time management is often one of the biggest obstacles for creative minds. Do you have an agenda book and do you make “to-do lists?”
Alice Saunders: When it comes down to it – I’m a pretty unorganized person. I’ve tried agenda books and to-do lists… But I always end up losing them or starting a list that never gets finished. I mostly just have an elaborate, ever changing list in my head (which works surprisingly well!). For the most part I just possess an incredibly strict and rigorous work ethic. I’ve found when I’m working really, really hard all of the time I’m able to get things done in a timely manner and then move on to the next task pretty seamlessly.
5. Design*Sponge: If you could have one superhero(or magical) power, what would it be and why?
6. Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks? What tools do you use to keep your creativity flowing?
Alice Saunders: You know… I don’t think I really experience creative blocks all that often. When I’m not in my studio sewing away I’m usually out searching for new materials to work with. Uncovering a beautiful piece of fabric or leather from many years ago has proved to be by far the most inspiring thing for me. And since I usually experience this on a weekly basis I’m able to keep the new ideas and the creativity following regularly!
7. Design*Sponge: In addition to being an organic farmer and designer, what would you like to conquer next?
Alice Saunders: So much! But right now I’m determined to get myself a cabin in the woods of Vermont or Western Massachusetts. If I don’t come across the perfect old hunting camp I may purchase a bit of land and build something of my own. Nothing too fancy.. just a little place I can escape to.
8. Design*Sponge: Where do you like to shop for inspiration?
Alice Saunders: Going to the flea market every weekend is probably my all-time favorite thing to do. There are a few in New England that I visit on a consistent basis… but there’s one that I hold very dear to my heart. It takes place on Sundays in Davisville, NH and it will forever be the best in my mind since it was the first place I started searching for treasures. Here in Massachusetts I really like Bobby’s from Boston and when I’m in New York I always stop by Stock Vintage for some inspiration.
9. Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio/toolbox of any designer/artist/craftsman, who would it be, and why?
Alice Saunders: I have a lot of admiration and respect for Jason Gregory of Makr Carry Goods (http:// www.makr.com/). He works on beautiful machines and his craftsmanship is impeccable.
10. Design*Sponge: If you could create your ultimate mix-tape, who would you choose?
Alice Saunders: Inspiration mix-tape: I pretty much have these few artists on constant repeat – Bill Callahan, Dum Dum Girls, Leadbelly, Grouper, The Carter Family.
11. Design*Sponge: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? What is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young, aspiring designers?
Alice Saunders: That’s a real tough question — but I have to say that I don’t think it was necessarily a piece of advice, but rather an example I was shown by my Dad over the past 25 years of my life. Not only does he have the most intense work ethic of anyone that I know.. but he puts so much passion into every single bit of work that he does. Growing up with him as my role model has most definitely made me value hard work and the places that you can get yourself to with the right determination.
The best advice that I could give to someone else would simply be to have confidence in your work and stay true to your own ideas
*here are some alice saunders-inspired tools:
leather hardware, prices vary
Carl Schlieper eye brand knife, $59.97
Best Made camp axe, $220