Nicholas Hollows - Hollows Leather
Name: Nicholas Hollows
Where do you live?
I live in the Longfellow neighborhood in South Minneapolis.
Where do you work?
In the living room. Or that's what it would be if a normal person lived here.
What are your favorite neighborhood spots?
I'm a devoted regular at Dogwood East Lake, or as the savvy folks know it, Parka. They do a simple thing to an artful degree. Longfellow has nice access to a handful of small parks, and it's close to the Greenway and river trails. I have really high hopes for the Hi-Lo diner that's coming this fall.
Tell us about the spot you picked to be photographed at - why did you pick it? Why do you go there? How often do you go there? How does coming here influence your creative process?
The clandestine river trails are a great spot to pretend that you're not in the city for a few minutes. They have a peciluar flavor of wilderness, not manicured, often dirty, far from "unspoiled". The only people I run into there are dog walkers and bums. You'll find a lot of weird garbage, makeshift trail maintenance, and rogue art projects. If this were the 1930s, that place would be a hobo jungle for sure. It's a lot less boring than a park, because you never know what you'll see. Maybe it reminds me of the places I used to play as a kid.
Tell us about your process - how do you work? What other creative hobbies do you have that we may not know about?
My workflow is strange, sort of a feast and famine of motivation sometimes. When I get going on something it tends to be all-consuming. I lose track of time and emerge on the other side with a completed project.
As far as other hobbies, I used to do a little bit of everything; writing, painting, drawing, screen printing, some really bad music (noise) making. I rarely do that stuff anymore, but a lot of my favorite aspects of it are incorporated into the leatherwork, and the other stuff that I do for the business. I do some design stuff for my website, product photos, product naming and descriptions. There are creative choices to be made in almost every aspect of the job.
For that matter, there are creative choices to be made in getting dressed, or giving a high five, or blowing your nose, if you're doing it right.
Books are a big part of my life as well, nothing encourages a zesty inner life more than reading.
Tell us about a recent discovery/something you are loving?
I'm really into industrial antiques from the 20s and 30s, some day soon when I have time for it I hope to learn a bit of basic wiring and motor repair and do some respectful restoration of old lamps and fans, things like that. I like old things in general.
How are your products made?
I make everything here in my apartment/workshop. It's all pretty low-tech, everything is stitched by hand without sewing machines. I do a lot of bad sketches and paperboard templates to get things right.
How did you get started?
I inherited a box of tools and scrap leather in 2008, made a handful of belts and wallets for myself and friends, and eventually started getting order requests. From there it grew until I decided to take a chance on doing it as my main job, and now here I am. I feel very lucky.
What is your favorite part of your work/process?
There are a lot of things that I like! Laying down a neat row of hand stitches is extremely satisfying. Edge finishing work is super tedious but when it goes well it's a lovely sight. Leatherwork is a series of small rewards, and each finished product feels like a real victory.
What does your workspace mean to you? What do you think it says about you?
I used to have a really utilitarian approach to my workspace, but now that I'm getting old I guess I've got more "nesting" instinct. I spend so much time in there that doing small things like decorating the walls, or having a chair that's pretty as well as functional makes a big difference over time. I don't know what it says about me, but I think that my interests, aesthetic, and priorities are very much on display.
What took you the longest to learn?
Working with leather is something that I'll always be learning. There are whole categories of technique and style that I haven't even touched yet. That's like money in the bank, creatively speaking. I won't ever run out of new things to try, and that gives me a sense of deep, fundamental relief about life in general.
What's the first thing you ever made?
From leather? It was a wallet, made to replace my nasty, sticky, decaying self-made duct tape wallet I was using at the time. It's around somewhere. I still like the design a lot, but man was it ever ugly.
What gets you through the day? What's your M.O.?
I have a big collection of little stolen bits of wisdom that would make good answers for this question. "The way you do anything is the way you do everything" is a good one for keeping a craftsman honest. Lately I try to stay focused on gratitude. As long as I'm not grumping up the place, I really do have the good (privileged) life. My needs are met, I'm reasonably healthy, I'm giving and receiving love, my dog is super cute, and my work is just the right blend of challenging and rewarding. There is nothing to want and plenty to do.
What is next for you?
In the short term, I'm trying to design a handful of small brass objects that will be cast for me by a small-shop jeweler. Brass is my second favorite material to work with, so that's pretty exciting for me. Longer term, I'm working towards getting some kind of permanent home and work space. I'm not sure exactly what that means yet, but I'm pretty sure it'll be awesome.