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103 N. Main
Beaver Dam, Kentucky

Maker | J.Stark Carry Goods

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Maker | J.Stark Carry Goods

Heath Stiltner

We are big fans of leatherworkers and totes here at FOLK. Constantly being on the road and carrying a lot of equipment, it's essential for us to have sturdy and able everyday bags. We look to brands like J.Stark for those necessities. Created by Erik Holmberg it is a beautiful line of handcrafted bags out of Charleston, SC. We asked him to tell us more about the brand and gave a couple of the bags a test run.

How was J. Stark created?


J. Stark was created in the night hours and weekends while I had a full time job creating websites. I was looking for a physical and tactile outlet for my creativity that would allow me to connect with people.

I made my first wallet and gave it to a friend. When I saw his reaction once he had it in his hands the feelings I had were visceral. I was immediately hooked.


Were most of the products in the beginning carry goods?

Yes. Most of the goods start with serving a purpose. I think this gives them the best chance of being useful and finding a home. If you chase trends and fashion, I think that model isn't as sustainable as a business.


Who designs your products? Who sews the bags and how do you find able leather workers?

Currently I design all the products, but I'm looking to bring on someone with a fresh eye for women's goods.

I create all the goods first, and then sit down with team members to create it with them their first time. That way I can tell the story of the design and why I chose to create the good in the manner I did. This fosters additional conversations about the craft and how to improve or do something in a different way.


How do you get ideas for new products?

Since almost all J. Stark goods set out to serve a purpose, I think of what people are going to need to go out and live their day to day lives. Or I think about an area that hasn't been innovated on or made as simply as it can be.

What inspires the J. Stark brand?

Utility. Military. Classicness. Timelessness. Minimal pieces to minimize failure points that leads to durability.


How do your hobbies influence what you make?

I developed software for a long time, and to become a great software developer you need to pay attention to all details, even the infinitely small. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the person using your site as well to develop something truly useful.

I bring this same attention to detail to design and creation of products. I make them as simple as possible and as clean as possible.

I also think about how they are going to be used in the real world and try to infuse them with that knowledge.


What has been your biggest lesson?

Running your own business is one of the most difficult things to do, which is the reason not many people do. However, I've always felt that hard work can always match or outweigh talent, so I'm never afraid to put in the hours.


What's your favorite thing about making carry goods?

Seeing people use them and how it makes their lives easier. Getting up every morning and making things with my hands.


What's been your best advice you've been given?

To think about the future of your company before it happens so you can plan for it. Similarly, I'm really big into visualizing the future and what things you want to accomplish. I think it gets implanted in the subconscious then and your actions will start to bend to make it happen.


What's been your biggest challenge?

Scaling. It's hard to find people with the skills and patience to work with their hands. Many people want instant gratification and aren't willing to work on something for 30-40 hrs to get it right.

To learn more about Erik and J.Stark, as well as their amazing bags, visit his website at www.starkmade.com.