Good Thursday morning!
The weekend is almost here, and today is like my Friday since I am working this weekend, so I’m excited. I am even more excited to take you behind the design of Molly Virginia Made! Molly and I have known each other for many years, as we are both Richmonders. My aunt and uncle even lived on the same street where she grew up!
Since I love supporting local artists and business owners, when I discovered Molly’s IG account full of her beautifully crafted vegetable dyed leather goods, I knew I had to share.
The Belle Melon: Why did you decide to start your own business?
Molly Virginia Made: I don’t think it was really a conscious decision, more a gradual realization that I wanted to keep creating these quirky, fun leather goods, constantly improve and share them with my friends and family. The idea of working for yourself and setting your own standards has always been a very appealing concept; since I was really young, sharing the creations I love with the people I love has made me completely giddy (weirdly though, the Chocolate Blob business I started when I was seven never really took off…). Molly Virginia Made is sort of the love child of my my love for painting and my fascination for sewing, design and fabric design. After the process of designing products, working with the leather, figuring out how to work with the dye and seeing the strange and beautiful results–I was hooked…and I couldn’t resist sharing!
The Belle Melon: How did you define what your business would be?
Molly Virginia Made: I probbbbably should’ve started with a business plan, but since I’m more of a “go with the flow” kind of gal, Molly Virginia Made happened pretty organically. After creating my first batch of leather goods, I decided it was as good a time as any to create a website, update my easy account, design a brand and begin solidifying a (digital) space for my goods. Designing the website definitely helped me further define my business–I wanted to create a brand identity that incorporated the quirkiness and freshness that I loved about the leather goods but in a clean space that highlighted their color and uniqueness. Photographing the wallets and clutches for the site emphasized design issues that I had previously been unaware of and helped me rethink a lot about the quality of the leather. It’s funny to admit but I think creating an online presence was the most helpful action in defining my product, aesthetic, audience and “real life” quality control.
The Belle Melon: What is the best piece of advice you were given when starting your business?
Molly Virginia Made: The best advice I’ve received yet is to just keep going. There are a lot of highs but also a ton of lows–times where I felt totally inadequate and insecure, however, pushing through those moments is so important. If you believe in your product and love it, keep going forward. You may have to slightly adjust your thinking, your marketing, etc. but being flexible (whilst still being true to yourself, of course) and not giving up will only make your product (and your confidence!) stronger.
The Belle Melon: What has been the most challenging part of your business so far?
Molly Virginia Made: Patience! So often when I make art I rush, rush, rush. While this style works for painting, now that I’m producing something for others to actually use, I have to constantly remind myself to slow down and concentrate on the details (I’ve definitely had nightmares about my work falling apart). I also have a tendency to want to cut the leather as fast as possible so that I can start dyeing–huge mistake. There are not enough fingers in the world to count how many pieces I’ve ruined just from slicing templates too fast. So since my art brain always says go!!! I’ve had to tap into my right brain to access a lot of quality control.
The Belle Melon: Who is your key customer?
Molly Virginia Made: Gals like me. I’m pretty low key in terms of accessories–the whole reason I created the first leather wallet was to have something super small but still cute that I could stick in my pocket and take with me to dinner, bars and brunch. I can be sooooo unorganized when left to my own devices so I wanted something to declutter my space and carry just the essentials. My hope is to appeal to women who appreciate a fresh aesthetic design, but who are trying to organize their life a little more efficiently and get back to the basics. …And let’s face it, they probably have a thing for bags too (don’t we all?).
The Belle Melon: You have such a unique look to your leather goods. Can you tell us a little bit about the dying process and how the fluidity of the colors comes about?
Molly Virginia Made: Sure! The process starts with the raw, vegetable tanned leather which is oiled and broken down to create a softer, butter-like texture. The dye is dripped over a “size” (a gelatinous medium on which the dye and can sit) and then manipulated with various tools to create the cool marbling effect. The leather is then placed down on the dye and the pattern is immediately absorbed! My favorite part of the whole process is watching the dye hit the size and start expanding in crazy, kooky ways. Every single batch of dye acts differently and, while it can be frustrating not to ever repeat the same look, it’s so fascinating how the colors and shapes constantly change in totally unexpected ways.
The Belle Melon: What time of day do you get your best ideas?
Molly Virginia Made: I love this question. My favorite time of day is when I’m climbing into bed and snuggling under the covers. It usually takes me awhile to get to sleep but it’s often the best time for me to review the day and reevaluate the work I’ve been making. I am SUCH a vivid dreamer and I really feel like I’m influenced a lot by my weird mind-wanderings pre dream-state. I’m no longer thinking about the stressors of the day but rather letting my thoughts float–totally open to any sort of bizarre and creative ideas that appear. Jumping out of bed at midnight to start a new project, design or art piece is definitely not unheard of…
The Belle Melon: Your work comes from many different materials. What is your favorite material to work with and why?
Molly Virginia Made: Since I went to school for painting, my soft spot is for the dyeing process. I love the mixture of the supple, strong leather with the vibrant, always exciting colors of dye. When I first started working with this medium, I used darker dye but the leather absorbs colors so beautifully that it’s hard for me to resist the louder hues. The leather itself too, is so lush; the hide starts out so stiff but can be manipulated and worked until rich and smooth. For me, it’s all about the magic of the transformation in raw material to buttery leather, thrilling organic shapes and electric color.
Thank you so much Molly!! If you’d like to see more of Molly Virginia Made, check out her site at http://www.mollyvirginiacampbell.com.