A Day In The Life of Canoe Austin

I first met Natalie Davis when she worked at Rena Tom’s Rare Device shop. Anything associated with Rare Device will always have a special place in my heart because visiting that shop, and Rena, on a daily basis was a big part of my life when I first started Design*Sponge. Rena always had her finger on the pulse of what was new and cool and happening, so it became one of my favorite places to go for ideas and inspiration. Natalie started working at Rare Device in its second iteration in San Francisco where she sold her beautiful wooden apples under the name “Miss Natalie“. Flash forward a few years and now Natalie is living in Austin, Texas where she runs her business, Canoe. Working primarily with leather, Natalie makes key chains, coasters, switchplates and art pieces that combine hand-tooled details and brass elements. I was really impressed with Natalie’s switchplates at ICFF this year, so I wanted to get a peek inside her daily life in Austin. I love getting to see what her process looks like and how her designs come together. I hope you’ll enjoy this peek inside her day as much as I did. xo, grace

Portrait photograph by Chelsea Fullerton. Music in video by Broke for Free.

Click through for the full post after the jump!

8am Wake up: “Our dogs take turns acting as my alarm clock. This morning it’s Mac who jumps up to play and remind me of their breakfast.”

8:45am Breakfast: “Homemade granola and yogurt. Some people have a passion for shoes; I have a passion for granola. This recipe is from my Aunt Bonnie, who makes the best granola in my family”

9am: “Reading, some writing, emails, and a cup of tea. I am trying to get into the habit of writing before opening my email. This is a slightly painful transition, but if I publicly tell you I am doing it, that means I have to do it, right? Review my to-do list. Print orders and get organized for the day.”

10am: “Arrive at studio. Turn on a Radiolab podcast, settle in at my work bench, and start tooling a key chain.”

11:30am: “Take dogs for a quick walk. I love bringing them to the studio because it reminds me to get up and take a break. Also, they’re good listeners when I am working through a problem.”

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“A quick sketch of a new tooling pattern on a scrap of leather.”

“Freehand tooling the straps of the Deep Sky tote bag”

Noon: “Lunch break at Salt & Time in east Austin. Pop over for the Cubano sandwich and to catch up my husband, Ben. We discuss the new menus and t-shirt designs I’m working on for the shop.”

12:45pm: “Trip to Tandy Leather. I need to pick up some supplies and tooling stamps. Get distracted by some beautiful lambskins.”

1:30pm: “Back at the studio. Wake up the dogs for a walk and then start hand dying a deerskin for a new bag I’m releasing in the Fall. I love the dye process because you never know what you’ll get, as each hide takes to the dye differently. Wabi sabi is my mantra.”

2:30pm: “Meeting with J.Hannah to review our upcoming natural perfume blend. I love perfume and recently worked with Jessica to create a signature scent for myself. It was such a fun experience that I decided to collaborate with her on a scent for Canoe. We’ve narrowed it down to 4 blends. I’ll be wearing each for the next few weeks as we decide on the final direction.”

4pm: “Work on packaging ideas for perfume. I save all of my leather scraps and try to reuse them whenever I can.”

6pm: “Pack up orders. After years of hiding packing peanuts, I finally designed my dream packing station this summer. The shibori-dyed bag is on a pulley system so I can bring it down easily for refills. The second photo is a stack of my Luna Coasters ready to be packaged.”

7pm: “Happy hour. Meet up with a friend to catch up over drinks on the patio at Radio, a new bar in south Austin. Then it’s back home to have dinner with Ben and catch up on our day. Then settling in for a night of reading”

  1. Matt says:

    One of the best folks, that Natalie.

  2. Alethea Morrison says:

    You rock, Natalie!

  3. Sarah H says:

    I love “A quick sketch of a new tooling pattern on a scrap of leather.” Is that a custom stamp tool you designed and are using? Or is the design custom using purchased tools? So interested in your process! Thanks :)

    Also, quick note of thanks to D*S for the A Day in the Life series — it relaxes and organizes me in my own creative work, being able to see how relaxed others can be in theirs!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I’m so glad this series is helpful that way- I agree it’s good (and healthy!) for people to see that running your own business can include breaks and relaxation moments as well as the stressful stuff ;)


  4. Carolann says:

    Very inspirational. What gorgeous simplicity in the tooling on the bag handles and coasters Natalie creates. Beautiful need not always = complicated.

    What a nice compilation of photos. I love the details in each one (table under the breakfast, array of tools, juiciness of the sandwich ingredients, luxurious lambskins, tactility of the dyed skin).

    I’m dying to know where Natalie got her earrings (or if she made them). Stupendous.

  5. Leslie says:

    I love those earrings too — and remembered seeing them in a post on Door Sixteen.

    Here they are:

  6. glenda says:

    Where in Austin is your shop located. I live an hour away and would love to visit.

  7. Canoe says:

    Thank you, Grace, for letting me share my day! Carolann, the earrings are by the talented Tiro Tiro; thanks for providing the link, Leslie.

    Sarah H., the tool I am using for the sketch is a standard beveling stamp. My process usually involves using traditional stamping tools in unintended ways to create pattern. Sometimes I will repurpose tools from a totally different field and sometimes I will come across antique tools that will make interesting marks. I’m always on the look out! For larger projects, I will create custom stamps based on more complicated tooling designs, but it always starts with a sketch.

    Glenda, our studio is based in east Austin and open by appointment. Drop me a note on my website and I’d love to set up a time to have you over!

  8. her dog looks just like my dog from childhood, who has since passed away, so sweet!

  9. Lois says:

    I wish I knew of your work earlier. My dad made hand tooler leather goods for many years. When he passed, I contacted several local leather workers but they didn’t really use hand tools. It warms my heart to see your beautiful work and brings back memories of my dad pounding away in his cellar workshop!Eventually I sold them in a sale when I was moving cross country. I hope the new owner is enjoying them!


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