Looking Back: Eight Months of Makers

Rob Nelson of Mer Bags works on the Mer + Hand & Eye collaboration. 

Rob Nelson of Mer Bags works on the Mer + Hand & Eye collaboration. 

I launched this blog eight months ago with a pretty simple idea: I wanted to document a new group of craftsmen, artisans and creative entrepreneurs often referred to as makers, and celebrate their work in the process. It’s been amazing. 

I’ve constantly been surprised how willing people are to let me photograph them, which usually means totally disrupting their workday, and also by their willingness to tell me how they got started, what it takes to run their businesses and what they’ve learned along the way. 

Behind the scenes, or at least what you see on the blog, I’ve also been working on launching a online shop on this site. We’ll offer a limited run of products produced by these makers in collaboration with the Hand & Eye to support their work and also that of this site. It’s exciting, and damn, the process has given me even more respect for all the business owners featured on the site and elsewhere. But more about that later. 

For now, I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from the last eight months. They are, for whatever reason, the images I like and am most proud of. I hope you enjoy them and I hope you consider signing up for the Hand & Eye newsletter and following us on Facebook and Instagram as well. 

Great things are in the works.

Pepin Gelardi at Tomorrow Lab. One of the first profiles on Hand & Eye. Since then Gelardi and I have worked on a few projects together like the Inc. Design Awards and he used this picture as his Instagram profile pic, a flattering move if there ever was one. 


Technically this is just 3/4s of Fort Makers, the super prolific design collective based in Brooklyn. They are some of my favorite people I’ve met  while Hand & Eye-ing. This was one of the first times I actually asked if I could pose a subject. I generally hate doing this because it feels forced and I prefer spontaneity, but I think this worked in part to the totally wild painted background. 

I met Daniel Moyer at a WorkOf event when I was admiring one of his tables. His degree of craftsmanship is just basically off the charts but he’s also just a great person to be around. There’s a black and white version of this photo on this post here, which may be one of my favorite profile pictures I’ve ever taken. 

Sebastian Errazuriz’s giant golden piñata was loved by all. I’d like to take credit for this shot but it was all Sebastian’s idea. I learned from this that if an artist has an idea for a picture, go with it. 

Thomas Callahan of Horse Cycles is another maker who is really hitting his stride right now. He’s done collaborations with Kaufmann Mercantile, Urban Outfitters and others. It really feels like he’s building something big. 

Moriah Cowles of Orchard Steel has gained a lot of attention for her handmade knives over the last few months, for good reason. They are gorgeous. And while we often think about the metal work that goes into producing these knives, choosing the right wood is just as key. Here she inspects some spalted maple, a light wood that you see more and more these days. She gets the wood for her knives from her family’s farm and friends who live in Vermont. 

Gramercy Tools is all about producing super high-quality tools for serious woodworkers. I love this image because Ben Seltzer, here, is responsible for creating an archive of every tool they’ve made. Here he inspects a saw and he’s looking at features and characteristics that many of us just would never notice. He’s on another level when it comes to understanding what it takes to make tools work well. 

Knickerbocker Mfg. Co is a new brand and over the last year they’ve shown they didn’t come to mess around. They hustle and they’re full of attitude and have a heavy respect for creating quality goods that will last. You get the feeling they’re going to do whatever it takes to build something great. I love this shot of Andrew Livingston. He looks ready for a fight which is sometimes what it can seem like starting a business.

This was another very early Hand & Eye post. I visited P.E. Guerin last winter in a deep snow and getting to go see their warm West Village foundry was a welcome excursion. They do this pour once a week and this is taken at the critical moment when they start pouring the molten metal into the casts. The metal has to be the exact right temperature for it to work. The metal spills onto the floor like lava and it really seems like these guys are performing some kind of magical alchemy.

I emailed Kevin Cunningham at Spirare surfboards in Providence before this blog launched and basically tried to explain the vision of what I was doing and asked if I could take pictures of him. He said sure for some reason and invited me up. I love this picture because Cunningham is incredibly friendly and sort of quiet and you get the sense he’d much prefer his boards do the talking. I think they do here

When it comes to new brands I really admire, Outlier is basically at the top. They had a simple idea to make better bike commuting clothes a few years ago and they’ve proven it can be done while also keeping production close to home. Tyler Clemens is one of the co-founders and here he’s pictured in a closet that has all the designs the brand has ever produced. Most great but some were duds, but that’s part of pushing the envelope and trying something new. 

Jean Yeo has been working at Chelsea Clock for 52 years. And while Chelsea isn’t part of the the new generation of makers I usually feature, I love them because after 100 years of production they’ve shown they have serious staying power which is something we could all learn from. How to last. It’s critical and Yeo is essential to that. 

I could add so many more makers and images to this post, but I'm stopping here. If you want more though, check out the Maker Profiles page. Thanks for reading and thanks to all those who let me come and take photos over the last eight months. It's been unreal.