Big things are happening for Jess Goehner and her handmade accessory line, Directive. Directive has been an active participant in the three years of Maker Market’s history and Jess has been building her brand along the way. And now she has taken her small business full time! Directive’s bags are staple pieces that are sophisticated but still playful. On October 1st she will unveil her Fall/Winter line of hand painted canvas and locally sourced leather accessories. This ‘moody’ collection debuts alongside a beautiful new website. Maker Market asked this busy business woman to take some time to explain what it took to take her business from hobby to career and what inspires her everyday.
Maker Market: When was Directive born and what fueled you to start a small business?
Jess Goehner: I’ve always been a maker and learned to sew as a child but I never really found a good fit, business wise, until I tried to make a bike bag for myself in 2012. Before I dove into bag making I experimented with feather and flower hair pins and fascinators in college and selling vintage and handmade jewelry on Etsy for a short while. I’ve been following the ‘yes’ moments and seeing where Directive takes me since Hover Craft 2012. So far so good. The road ahead is still foggy, but there are a lot of directions this can go (adding home goods, clothes, shoes, etc) so I am happy to follow it.
MM: Could you describe your creative process from concept to creation?
JG: Before this current collection my process was a bit willy-nilly and I was using a lot of brain power trying to handle all the options I had. Working with a collection focused model, I will be able to devote solid time to creating a unique and high quality product as well as a cohesive brand for Directive long term. I created the Fall Winter 2015 line with sketches and quick watercolor paintings followed by a color story and inspiration images and a few rounds of pattern making and tweaking. Once the pattern is up to par, I work assembly line style- cutting, painting, serging, sewing, and finishing.
MM: Your focus is in making classic pieces that last. Where do you source your materials and what makes them so durable?
JG: The quality and sense of social and environmental responsibility I have has come a long way since the first bags I made and this is constantly a work in progress. Through the lovely ladies at Tactile Craftworks I was able to establish a solid leather connection with RiverWest based Seidel Tannery. This is top quality leather, made in our city by locals, and made to last. Most of the canvas I use is raw purchased wholesale- from now on I will be dyeing it myself and still using environmentally friendly inks. The majority of my work is lined which provides an extra layer of stability in addition to the serged edges. Long term, my hope is to find someone locally who can cast brass hardware for my bags and to collaborate with some artists to create handwoven fabric or unique prints. Keeping prices low is important but it’s also important to support your local economy.
MM: In the past you have collaborated with Hounds Tooth Wood Werk. Are you still collaborating? And what recent projects have you been working on?
JG: Eric, of Hounds Tooth Wood Werk, and I have collaborated on a number of chairs and stools in the past year. We’d love to experiment with more furniture and upholstery collaborations beyond working on our own commissions and collections. Much of that has been on the back burner but we’ve tossed a few new ideas around for 2016 and I’d love to bring back our sling chairs and stools for next spring. He’s the best at helping me grow my business- that’s a good collaboration for me.
MM: You also do custom orders. What kind of projects have you been commissioned to do?
JG: I have offered custom orders since the beginning. Most of the projects have helped me learn new skills, get a little extra cash, and some have influenced future bag designs. More recently I’ve moved into working with local business owners on custom products specific to their customers –I’ve designed and produced two exclusive bags for locally run online shop Woodbury Lane and am currently working on a custom project bag for Bayview’s newest yarn and fiber shop Wild Haven Fiber Company.
MM: When and why did you decide to take the plunge into Directive being your career?
JG: Making this my full time gig has been a long time coming but in the end it happened right when it needed to. I had been juggling a 40+ hour a week job, Directive, and a part time job working for a high end home textiles artisan for about nine months before I took the leap. I quit my job in special event fundraising in June, picked up some more hours as a studio assistant for Dermond Peterson, and dove into making my first collection. I had to take the leap now, or regret never attempting it. I’ve learned a lot about myself in doing this but have a long way to go.
MM: Your new website and F/W collection is to debut on October 1st. What can we expect to see from your upcoming new line?
JG: Fall/Winter 2015 is moody and much more refined than my one of a kind work- Featuring Seidel Tannery leather in black and brown, black canvas, wine and mint hand dyed canvas, and more refined hand painting and stamping. I will also have cross body bags in two sizes and hope to bring back the large saddle bags in beautiful leather. Everything will hit my online store, www.directivemade.com October 1st but I’m bringing a sneak peek and offering an in-person discount at Newaukee Night Market on September 16th.
MM: Are there any brick and mortar stores that can shoppers find and purchase your line?
JG: Locally I have stock at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, Belle Fiori Flower Shop, Hometown Established, and Orange Gallery. The F/W15 collection will be headed into Hometown Established and Orange Gallery before the end of the month as well. Exclusive products are offered online and at pop-ups for Woodbury Lane and will be at Wild Haven Fiber Company when they open at the end of this month.
MM: How has Maker Market and other markets like it impacted your small business?
JG: Maker Market has exposed my business to a huge audience- it grows bigger and bigger every season and the quality of local creators grows with it. This is a great incentive to keep moving forward as a small business, to try new things, to push myself and see what I can do. I have met so many talented makers over the three years of Maker Markets- I try to make sure I visit each one to say hello to fellow creators and see all of the talent our city has.
MM: What is currently inspiring you? Blogs? Artists? IG accounts? Music? Film?
JG: Instagram is always my go to for beautiful visuals. I try to follow a variety of people- painters, fashion designers, floral artists, food bloggers, and unique shops all with their own style of sharing. Looking and learning from other makers inspires me to find my own style- I’m not bright white and cheery but more shadowy and enigmatic.
While I work I switch between listening to story or small biz podcasts, careening through old series television shows (this fall I’m tackling The X-Files), and a lot of psychedelic, garage rock, soul, and dream pop music (Black Angels, Allah-La’s, Beach House, Lush, etc)
Books are probably my favorite form of escape and inspiration. Lately I’ve been loving memoirs by musicians and Artists (Patti Smith, Sally Mann, Neil Young). My go-to for visual inspiration, fiction, and a bit of crazy is always Tom Robbins.
Get an exclusive sneak peak of Directive’s new line at the Newaukee Night Market Sept 16th and don’t forget to check out her brand new site debuting October 1st here.