what's in your toolbox

What’s In Your Toolbox: Pastrana Studio

by Annie Werbler


“There is nothing worth having in life that isn’t worth fighting for,” insist Julian and Kate Pastrana, artisans who are adamantly “creating and living the simple life in Texas.” Their woodshop Pastrana Studio allows the couple to make the furniture, home goods, and paintings that fit into their own lifestyle — things that they love living with, and will bring joy to the lives of others. Their “purpose-made products” undergo an extensive conceptualizing, prototyping, templating, and building process to ensure the items are not only worth having for oneself, but will be passed down to future generations.

An important step for them, “learning to ‘sit’ on a piece physically and mentally,” allows the design process to remain an organic achievement of learned lessons and observations. “We constantly look for inspiration and continually adjust elements of design,” they explain. Upon recently viewing the early work of a beloved design hero, Julian and Kate took encouragement from the fact that “everyone starts somewhere.” Always striving to offer the best possible goods to customers, the Pastranas are dedicating this year to finishing the design and prototype for some forthcoming barstools, cabinets, and lounge chair pieces — unwaveringly heirloom-quality products developed slowly to last a lifetime. —Annie

Photography by Julian and Kate Pastrana


What’s in your toolbox?

Our whole workshop is our toolbox, but some Pastrana Studio essentials are: a pencil, Bell & Oak leather portfolio, tape measure, hand grinder, sandpaper, and a variety of oils — each for a specific finishing purpose.


Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”

motivated and inspired.


What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Currently Kate is reading Woman in Levi’s by Eulalia Bourne, Julian is reading The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis, and you can always find the latest issue of Modern Farmer magazine nearby.


How do you keep yourself organized?

We draw out a calendar each month to keep in the workshop. We don’t like to use our phones or any digital type of calendar — having something tangible in front of us allows us to physically cross items off or add them on easily.


If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

Time travel, because we could go back in time and see things in person that we are inspired by today.


What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?

Best advice we have received is that there is nothing worth having in life that isn’t worth fighting for.

What we are constantly telling others (and reminding ourselves) is that everyone starts somewhere. It is good to look to masters of your craft or professionals for inspiration and something to strive for, but don’t compare yourself and don’t give up if you are not at that level. We recently got to tour a master craftsman’s workshop — someone we look up to — and we were able to see one of his first pieces. It was very amateur and nothing like the creations he was known for… it was one of the most encouraging parts of the visit!


How do you combat creative blocks?

We try to escape the “day-to-day” tasks by going on a drive through country backroads, small towns, or the city. You never know what will spark an idea, and sometimes we just have to step away from the workshop.


Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?

Our local sawmill is a huge place of inspiration for us because our medium is so dependent on the material (wood grain or live edge). We can walk around and shop for wood that is already beautiful and just needs a good polish. We also live in a very creative town with other makers nearby. Specifically, we go see our buddy Clint Wilkinson, who works with leather, to see what he is up to. We have collaborated on some things and have some other projects in the works. It is very necessary to have relationships with others who can provide feedback and help you out along the way. We are very grateful to have those relationships.


If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

We have been reading about Shaker furniture makers and would love to step inside one of their workshops. They are very disciplined about their craft and we could learn a thing or two about how to be more efficient in our own workshop.


What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?

Always playing…

Gram Parsons, Sturgill Simpson, Townes Van Zandt, Midlake, JD McPherson, and Chet Baker, to name a few.


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  • I always hope for a peek inside workshop cupboards in these tours – what lurks inside never fails to be illuminating and interesting :) Personally I tend to forget what’s inside cabinets so easily that glass-front doors are pretty essential in my workshop (for those who’ll suggest open shelving – not a good option in a woodshop, sawdust everywhere!)

    Also waiting for the day when someone actually cops to some mainstream Top 40 pop on their playlist!