Will Wood, Bag Maker & Rolfer
Will Wood is another great creator we know from the Lena Street Lofts. While we first knew him through his bodywork and Rolfing practice, after a few months we discovered he's also an incredible bag maker and leatherworker. We wanted to find out more, so we met up with Will at his studio. We talked about what makes a good mentor, how terrifying receiving critique can be, how Santa Fe has changed over the past few years, and more. Get to know Will, his work, and his vision - and what's next for him!
SFF: How long have you been doing leatherwork?
WW: I’ve been doing leatherwork and bag making for a year and a half. Sherry Stein, the woman I share this studio space with, actually introduced me to leatherwork and bag making. She’s industrial designer, bag maker, and has done a lot of incredible work in her life.
SFF: Wow, your work is impressive for being so new at it!
WW: Thank you. Sherry told me, “A bag is just a box. Just think of it as a box and then you can do all sorts of crazy things with it.” There’s some way in which it just makes sense inside my brain. But of course, I am kind of a perfectionist. So, some of the first bags I made I won’t let anybody see - it a took awhile to for my hands to accurately translate vision into reality.
SFF: Where have you sold your bags so far?
WW: So far it’s just been friends of friends and word of mouth. In December I participated in the Lena Street Lofts Holiday Market. I’ve had several clients who have also purchased bags for their entire extended family. Recently, I was able to take two bags to Europe to see how they travel. I was really, really pleased with how they did. I’ve also been sending them with friends on their travels for feedback on durablility, weight, aesthetic and general carry. They’ve given me some wonderful feedback. The patina that came back on the leatherware was really beautiful.
SFF: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
WW: I’ve tried to keep it as clean as possible because all the add-ons make me a little bit nuts. With some of the newer stuff, I want it to be as clean and functional as possible, with a little bit of detailing. It doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles and huge zippers, just something functional. For me, if it’s pretty and it’s clean, then it’s beautiful.
SFF: It seems like Sherry has been a great mentor for you.
WW: Yes, having her as a mentor has expedited my process. I’m also really good friends with Aaron Boyd and I work out of his workshop. He gives me a lot of helpful feedback as well. He’s helped me refine my skills and the way I approach bag making and leatherwork in general. The way that I fasten my leather, the hardware I use, the details on my straps and the way that I look at it as a whole have all been impacted by his feedback. I’ve been super lucky and am grateful for both Aaron’s and Sherry’s guidance.
SFF: How did you meet Aaron?
WW: We met through mutual friends, Jason and Crow. I was getting tattooed by Jason, and Aaron came in and asked if I wanted some whiskey. He’s a really funny guy and I loved the way he rolled. Then a few months later I brought him some of my bags and he critiqued them for me, offering advice on changes to design and function.
SFF: Was that scary for you?
WW: It was terrifying. At that point, I had been making bags for about a year. I took Aaron four bags to look at and he was really fantastic about it. As terrifying as it was to have somebody critique my work, it was really a great experience for me. You need people to do that, but it’s also incredibly exposing. That part of the creative processes, at least for me, is very personal, to have somebody tell you what’s wrong with what you’ve created… it can be really hard.
SFF: Do you think that’s part of the reason why you haven’t formally launched your brand?
WW: Yes, absolutely. I think that I can safely say that I am my own worst critic. Weighing what I’ve created with price, wondering if they are going to last, if people will love them.... It’s safe to say that I have a small stockpile of bags as I have continued to refine iterations of designs. One of the great things about Aaron is he has been critical in a very constructive way. It’s been helpful to have him tell me what he would change and then ask me if I actually want the criticism. He places ownership entirely on me, which I appreciate. Then I can take it or leave it. I can explain why I did something a certain way, my motivations, and consider if there are more efficient ways to achieve intended outcomes. It’s just really helpful to have somebody to bounce ideas off of.
SFF: Yeah, and Aaron is someone whose work you really respect. Not just a random person suggesting you change something, but a person who really knows the craft well.
WW: Exactly. He’s been really, really, wonderful. I moved my sewing machine into his studio several months ago. It’s been a great experience for me. I wish I could be over there more.
SFF: So how else do you spend your time?
WW: I also do bodywork. I’ve been doing bodywork for about 15 years now. I started off with massage, deep tissue structural work and a bit of cranial work. Five years ago I went to the Rolf Institute. About 95% of my practice now is Rolfing.
SFF: What exactly is rolfing?
WW: Rolfing is a system of bodywork or tissue manipulation working towards bringing balance and awareness to your body through your connective tissue (i.e. fascia, muscles, tendons, ligaments). As a practitioner, I am able to give my clients a tactile sense of what it means to be fully aware of their body, to have greater insight into what their body is trying to inform them of. Taking note of the changes that occur throughout the day, that may have gone unnoticed in the past, will connect the dots for previous pain patterns allowing for greater control over their long-term wellbeing.
SFF: Cool! How did you get into bodywork to begin?
WW: I was 18 when I started doing bodywork. It’s the first thing I ever did and I’ve continued to do. I lived out of the country for a year and a half in Belize, in a little town of San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye. I worked at a spa and I walked to work on the beach and I walked home from work on the beach. It was the best.
SFF: Wow that sounds incredible. How did you find that job?
WW: When I was just about to finish massage school I attended a workshop on Mayan abdominal massage in Belize. There, I met two sisters who owned a spa and they offered me a job. So, I stayed. When I was 21 I moved back to Minneapolis. Since, then, I've loved all the things I've gotten to do in my life.
SFF: What are some of your favorite things you've done?
WW: Well, I’m a generally jovial person and get excited to do many things. The small amount of traveling I’ve done has probably been my favorite. I went to Europe for the first time in March which was amazing. We were in Bordeaux, France, spent time in London, and went to Oxford. It was rainy the whole time, which was perfect. I’ve spent a good amount of time in Maui, New Zealand, Mexico, I don’t know if Canada counts, but Canada too.
SFF: Have you ever tried any other crafts?
WW: When I was a kid I grew up building motorcycles and cars with my stepdad. I have a certain curiosity for taking things apart and putting them back together. Figuring out how they work. I’ve never really followed formats… with my bags, they’re all patterned on designs I’ve made myself. They’re not stuff I found on the internet or modeled after others bag.
SFF: Do you think you’ll expand your collection beyond bags?
WW: I don’t know. I have a couple of bags that I have been toying around with. My process is to mentally deconstruct and reconstruct them several times. Once I think the design is most efficient and beautiful, I make it. Then I get to see if it works or if needs to be altered. Most of this was born out of my frustration with messenger bags. Either they had 15,000 pockets and I lost all my shit inside them, or they were empty, cavernous, bags with no structure. So, I figured I’d just try to make one.
SFF: Did you already know how to use a sewing machine when you started?
WW: Yeah, from 7th grade Home Economics class. Sherry gave me a tune-up lesson, but I knew enough to make something and to not sew my fingers together.
SFF: What are your hobbies outside of bag making and bodywork?
WW: I read, a lot. All genres, from sci-fi and fantasy, to nerdy intellectual stuff, to kids books and young adult with my son. I love to cook. My favorite dish of the moment is a pad thai stir fry. I grew up in the midwest, mostly eating meat & potatoes, so the whole vegetable thing was a delightful encounter.
SFF: What originally brought you to Santa Fe nine years ago?
WW: My wife at the time. We had just gotten back from New Zealand and were living in Portland, and she got a job offer here. Since I can do bodywork from anywhere, I thought, “Why not move to Santa Fe?” There a lot of things that I love about this place. Especially right now when it’s raining, with bits of green, it’s beautiful. Do I wish there were more young people and more things for young people to do? Absolutely. And I don’t know if I could do the big city thing with millions of people… that seems insane to me. I love that I have a community here and know the people I live next to. And, that I still get to meet new people.
SFF: What kinds of things would you like to see here that would be catered to young people?
WW: It’s hard to say. I feel like you can only survive as a young person in Santa Fe if you’re stoked about being in the service industry, if you are independently wealthy, or you came here with a business. If you’re building your own business and you’re not necessarily dependent on only doing work in Santa Fe, it’s a great place to come and go. I would love to see more opportunities for young people. What Daisy is doing down the road with Better Together is amazing, just amazing. It’s incredible to see somebody making things happen.
SFF: We agree! We hope the community will rally behind her and other young entrepreneurs to support new businesses.
WW: Yes - I love that. Just walking into Better Together makes me feel better. I think what Santa Fe Found is doing is amazing too because it will highlight the hidden and the innovative around Santa Fe.
SFF: Our goal is for local people to really be engaged with each other. It seems like so much of the Santa Fe online content is geared toward older folks and tourists, but if you’re a younger person where do you go to find out information?
WW: It does feel like there are younger people moving here or moving back. It has been nice to see the small ways in which things are changing. My favorite change in the nine years I’ve been here is the food. I was really into the whole red/green chili thing at first, and I still am. But it’s been awesome to see Fire & Hops, Radish & Rye, Opuntia, Iconik, Izanami, Shake Foundation, Taco Fundacion, all of these places emerging.
SFF: What is your favorite thing about your work?
WW: I think for a long time, not having a creative outlet was slowly suffocating in a sense. Now, I can sit at my sewing machine for hours and lose a whole day. I love taking raw materials and creating something beautiful. In my bodywork practice, it’s the experience of getting to see someone else unfold. I have this incredible opportunity to witness people in a state of vulnerability and the beauty that comes with “Ok, we’re going to work together over a course of time, and see what happens.” It’s an incredible experience. I have a front row seat to watching someone step-in and shift the way they’re operating in their life. That’s a huge part of what I get to do in my bodywork practice. When someone shows up, they’re ready for something that they’re not fully able to articulate, and we get to find out what that is together.
SFF: What's next for you?
WW: In August, I will be moving to Portland, Maine to attend the University of New England. There I will be completing prerequisites and continuing on to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.