Ten Questions with Caesy Oney, Owner of Draught Dry Goods
It’s been a busy week, first we came forward with an interview featuring Field Notes owner Jim Coudal, now we release our second interview from our Ten Questions series.
This time it’s with Caesy Oney, the founder of Montana based label Draught Dry Goods. Draught was only released to the public this year but Caesy has made sure that the standards are of top quality, producing leather goods and other bags/accessories all by hand. I really enjoyed conducting this interview, read on below.
1) Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Montana, and currently reside here. I studied art at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon, which is a small and challenging school, with a talented faculty and student body. I will be forever in their debt, as it provided me with a peer group of artists and designers who are all doing incredible things, and have been surprisingly supportive with my decision to move back to Montana and develop a more craft-based practice.
2) How and why did you start Draught Dry Goods?
I was dating a seamstress and artist while in college, who taught me the fundamentals of sewing and working with fabric. Within a few months I started a small bicycle accessory company, mostly out of necessity, as I am an avid cyclist, and began selling pieces to my friends and local bike shops. My first sewing machine was given to me by my grandfather, who was hiding it in the closet from my grandmother after he broke it, coincidentally trying to sew leather. I fixed it, and made all of my first bags on that machine, and still have it, despite the fact that it doesn’t sew straight.
I moved to back to Montana in 2008 and started to make somewhat complicated bags, mostly to prove to myself that I could, which is how I cut my teeth on the sewing machine and took an interest in leather. I sold enough pieces to purchase an industrial machine and a basic set of leather working tools. I got an incredible deal on my machine, as it had been through a fire, and the gal that owned it was cutting her losses. The table has fire damage, but the machine is in perfect condition, and I loved that you could see and feel its history.
It was around this time that I formed Draught, an open-ended project that I could tell my story through. After a couple years of learning the trade and building a studio full of tools and machines, I put together my first collection and released it early this year. I feel proud that the business has paid for itself up until now, and I am yet to borrow money against it.
3) Who and what inspires you? Any designers or creatives?
I draw from a large pool of inspiration in fine art. I am mostly interested in process art, paradoxically, given my work with Draught, and the various movements in the late sixties and early seventies, the rejection of the object, the materiality of concept, and the accessibility of video. The most important concept that I pull from that era is how an artist can communicate the experience of time, place, and material. I believe that this applies to Draught, as each piece that I make has the story of my hand in it. You can see how I strike each rivet, and where I’ve pulled a seam out or made a mistake. If you look close enough the leather tells a story as well.
I am also crazy about fashion and fashion photography, so I suppose I am heavily influenced by a lot of fashion and lifestyle blogs, and the wildly expensive magazines I spend all my money on.
4) Could you explain your design processes? What gets you going through the motions?
My design process comes organically, for lack of a better term. I design products that I want to carry, and will generally draw up the concept or make note of something late at night or on a piece of scratch paper. I really should be better at cutting patterns at this point, but my idea/pattern book is really a notebook with messy drawings and measurements, using the language of woodworking as if I were building a wood shed. All of the samples for my first collection are pieces that I use on the daily and travel with. I approach each piece like a new piece of art, and the idea consumes me until it is fully realized. This is why I cannot start a new concept just before I travel, or the trip will be ruined.
5) How do you go about manufacturing the products? Did you just learn all the necessary skills in your spare time?
I manufacturer each piece in my little workshop here in Montana. I have a lot of good relationships with other domestic manufacturers, so when the time is right I might contract out some of the sewing. However, as it stands I have absolute control over quality and fulfillment. I also like that when a customer purchases a bag, they have certain expectations that I need to meet, which keeps me constantly improving upon my technique. I have been working sixty hour weeks with Draught this year, so spare time doesn’t translate well.
6) How do you go about sourcing the materials? Waxed canvas, Leather etc.
I source all of my materials domestically. My leather for this first collection comes from California, and my waxed canvas is manufactured in New Jersey, at a shop that’s been at it for something like a 175 years. My friends in the industry were really generous with sharing their resources with me when I was coming up, and I realize that this is uncommon. Hopefully I’ll be in a position someday to reciprocate.
7) You’re a big fan of craftsmanship, why is this?
My senior thesis in college was centralized on the concept of work ethic, and how to qualify and quantify success artistically. I did a series of effort-based performances, and ultimately trained myself to go into the studio and work every single day. Blue collar work ethic has a large presence in Montana, as you can imagine, and I have always approached ‘making’ on the principle that quality comes from a place of effort and sincerity.
8) What would you say to other creators who want make their own products? Any advice?
I don’t know if I am necessarily qualified to give advice, but I guess I would say that it is important to understand your relationship both physically and emotionally to the objects you make with your hands. This is something that I am constantly working on. I would also say that you should identify your limitations early, and then make a plan to exceed them.
9) What’s the most satisfactory thing about owning your own label?
Since I started to work on Draught full time, I think the most satisfying part, aside from paying my bills with a sewing machine, would be watching Draught become a part of the international conversation of bags and accessories. The positive reception of my work has been somewhat overwhelming, and feel unbelievably blessed and fortunate to be doing this for a living. I honestly would not be where I am if I didn’t have a family and community that support me unconditionally.
10) What’s next for Draught Dry Goods? Any projects you can tell us about?
I am not sure what information is public yet, so I might glaze over this question a bit, but I have a bunch of really exciting collaborations planned for 2011. I have some goods that will be traveling to London for a pop-up shop in the next couple months, and a capsule collection for a shop in Massachusetts that will introduce some new product and branding.
I also have a few collaborations on the table with other designers and individuals that I have a lot respect for. I love furniture, and am drawing up a chair and a light fixture which will be made here in Montana. I really want to do a shoe or boot, and something in print. Most importantly, I’m just trying to maintain focus, and continue to make smart and beautiful things everyday.