As part of our Makers Monday interview series, we asked Nora Rogers and Samantha Greaves of Map of Days what it means to be American makers. Discover more makers on the Makers Monday website and on Cool Hunting.
What is it you make, and what should people know about your products?
We make leather accessories: handbags, wallets, molded leather cases, belts, and guitar and banjo straps. We launched Map of Days as a way to share our singular vision of elegant minimalism in American, handcrafted leather accessories. The line features a conspicuous lack of hardware and ornamental embellishment, favoring classic shapes, clean modernist lines and perfect proportions that telegraph effortless refinement without flash or fussiness.
When did you commit to making your products in America, and why did you choose to do it here?
We simply never considered any other option. As makers we strive for perfection in our craft—we trained together, learning traditional pattern-making and couture construction methods, and Map of Days grew out of that pursuit of excellence in our studio practices. We wanted to provide leather accessories that we couldn’t find elsewhere, and despite the challenges, we wanted to handcraft those leather goods ourselves, not outsource the manufacturing. As connoisseurs and consumers, we recognize the quality control, safety and environmental standards of American-made materials, particularly when it comes to leather and textiles, so it was a natural decision to use all-American materials in our work. It also feels good to honor the inspiring legacy of American makers and small businesses.
Where is your business located, and what makes your town uniquely American?
We are located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, an area that boasts a rich utilitarian-textile and craft heritage. Just a few miles away is White Oak, the last remaining manufacturer of selvage denim in the U.S. Also nearby is Seagrove, a rural village that has been home to generations of potters since the late 1700s; we love (and fear) their expressive traditional face jugs. Chapel Hill has a rich, vibrant and collaborative music scene across genres and styles, and UNC’s campus radio station, WXYC, which we listen to in the studio on most days, was the first radio station ever to live stream a radio broadcast!
What got you started, and what was the first thing you remember making?
That’s a tough question—we have been making for as long as we can remember. Between the two of us, our varied CVs include work as cordwainers, timber framers, dressmakers, luthiers, costumers and puppet-makers. We were actually introduced to each other when Samantha was about to move to Chapel Hill from Philadelphia, and a mutual friend put us in touch with an email simply stating: “You two need to know each other because you both make things.” That single email set off an enthusiastic pen-pal exchange, and then as soon as Samantha moved to town, we became creative conspirators and fast friends. One of our first projects together was to cast molds of our feet so we could make the perfect leather sandal.
When you’re not busy at work, where might we find you? What do you like to do with your spare time?
Playing music, listening to records or going out to see live music. Practicing archery in the woods; trading stories, ideas, and bad punny jokes with friends; and spending as much quality home time as possible with our partners, pets, and babies.
Are there other brands and makers that inspire you?
This area has so many talented and inspiring makers that we could go on and on, but to name a few: We can’t get enough of our best budEmily Triplett and her elegant, beautiful and modern jewelry line. It’s formally balanced with a studied understanding of how to complement and adorn the body. We have a lot of love for the record label Paradise of Bachelors (run by Samantha’s husband, Brendan Greaves), which proudly manufactures all their LPs, CDs, t-shirts and other products in the U.S. Nora’s partner Patrick Zung is an incredible artist, craftsman and musician in his own right, making the most amazing stop motion puppets for Laika Films, based out Portland, Oregon.