Melissa George is one of a kind. She is bright, passionate, and fiercely driven about her work. Her creativity with leather making has given her company Walter & George a unique voice in the design bubble of San Diego, and it has not gone unnoticed. We are lucky to call her a close friend of maven and thought we'd start our Q+A feature by asking how she got started, what's she's learned, and what she sees for the future...
So we know you are from San Diego, but what do you love about it and what made you decide to continue to call it home for yourself?
3 small children (my nieces and nephew) have made me call it home. My family staying here and building lives here is a huge draw, but really in the last 5 or so years San Diego has changed. The city has so much more to offer than it did in my early 20's. The food, the clothes and the coffee have definitely improved which makes it all the more appealing. We aren't just a sleepy beach town anymore.
What first lead you to creating/making?
I grew up in a house where we crafted, so it has always just sort of been there. A couple of years ago I was in place where I needed something of my own, something to help the funk I was in and it just so happened that it was leather. As most people do, I have always loved leather but I had never really thought I could potentially make a business out of it. Then one day that shifted, I made a little purse and my whole world changed.
You've recently made your website into an online shop that also features other makers including a local ceramicist and a jewelry designer, what motivated you to make this change?
Retail is what I know and have experience in and I've always thought it'd be great to have my own spot one day. It only seemed natural to start with my online shop and work with people I know and love. It's great to have my own product that I love to make and sell, but it's pretty incredible to have a platform to promote and sell friends and like-minded makers.
How would you describe your aesthetic? Are there certain objects, places, people, etc that have influenced your work?
In general I'd say I am pretty simple person and honestly, I just make product that I'd want to carry around. My goal has always been to make a simple clean design that hopefully just sort of progresses through time. Leather is trendy in general, but I think it's always going to be at the forefront of fashion because it is long-lasting and durable. I try and keep things simple so hopefully in ten years it's something you could still be using and not date yourself.
The studio you work in seems like a dream. Can you tell us how you got involved into the space and what its like working there?
It is a dream. Just having a space that isn't my living room floor or a garage is a dream. Maggie (my studio-mate) and I had been toying with the idea of getting a space, but neither of us really had money to spend on rent. We lucked out on our studio, it's a great price and just happens to be a beautiful space. It has been pretty wonderful having a studio for other makers, dreamers, and doers to come hangout and collaborate in.
What is a typical day for you? Do you have a routine?
It depends on the day really. I have a job that I work at a few days during the week. I've been trying to create a schedule recently that I should be adhering too, but sometimes that goes out the window. On any given day that I am not working at my other job, I am mostly making product and trying to fulfill orders. I try to start the day with computer work, emails, etc, and then break it up with making the leather goods. I am still making everything by hand which can pretty tiring. I try to break the leather work up into steps and deal with other business stuff during those breaks. There is always something to squeeze in whether it's emails, instagram, or just planning for the future.
What has creating taught you about yourself?
That I am capable of making something out of nothing. I didn't know what I was doing when I started Walter & George. I didn't know how to make leather goods, sell leather goods, build a website, or continue to grow a line of products... everything was foreign to me. I have loved everything about the struggle and let me to you, it has been real at times. I've never felt more capable and totally incapable all at once, but each day ends and somehow I've survived. I'm not sure I really knew who I was before I started W & G. I spent most of my life trying just to make everything work. It's given me the freedom to be me and feel good about that, not embarrassed or ashamed of who I am.
What's next, what are you looking forward to?
What is next??? Who knows, I'm quite the dreamer so just about anything is possible right now. I'm taking the year to develop some new product and really fine tune what Walter & George is and what I want it to be. I'll be continuing to offer more and more product over the next few months that all sort fall into the W & G brand nicely. It should be a great year, it has already been such an wild one I can't wait to see what else happens.
Favorite place to relax: Probably my brother's house, sounds kind of lame but it is the most comforting place for me.
Favorite place to let loose and have fun: Dance party???
Favorite record right now: I'm dying over the new Lumineers album, it has been getting me really good.
One word to describe your present state: Growing