Made Solid – Veg Tanned Indigo Leather in LA
It’s no secret that we are in love with leather. Along with our beloved denim, leather takes on a new life once worn, changing based upon the experiences its owner, developing a patina that tells a story.
Peter and Mia Maxwell, the husband-and-wife hands behind the LA-based Made Solid, not only love leather but have made it their mission to use leather to create truly unique and beautiful pieces which pay homage to a variety of sources of inspiration. Every piece they create uses one hundred percent natural ingredients, from the leather to the water-based dyes to the beeswax and oil used to finish all of the pieces. And every piece from beginning to end is made entirely by hand in their Angeleno Heights workshop—not one sewing machine in the mix.
Peter—who goes by Max—didn’t initially jump right into making artisan leather goods. While his grandfather gave him the basic set of skills, his first leather creations were actually ollie patches for skate shoes. Anyone who has ridden skateboards has dealt with that tell-tale hole on the shoe, developed from intense contact with the grip-tape of a skateboard while doing tricks. Max’s leather patches were developed as a barrier to protect his shoes. He stuck with this for awhile, and the current set of designs only came about in the last four years.
When I asked Max what the impetus was for his current leather work, he said, “I was never able to find what I wanted in the leather-goods market. There’s so much design potential, yet so many people recycle familiar items and construction styles.” The singular pieces he now designs draw inspiration from the natural surroundings of the West Coast, along with Max’s decades-long connection to skateboarding. Although I hadn’t noticed it, Max related, “You can see transitions in our trays and boxes.”
Another striking aspect of Made Solid’s pieces is the inclusion of indigo (and we don’t really have to tell you we’re obsessed with indigo, do we?). Each piece has a completely unique design, a sort of tie-dye pattern that resembles the natural surroundings Max mentioned: water and flowers and trees. The design has become a signature for the brand.
When I asked Max about using indigo, he spoke of the range of color possibilities indigo presents, along with his connection to water. He said, “I’ve grown up on the West Coast—always at the beach, a river, a lake. Surfing with my cousins at Stone Steps (my family lived on Neptune Ave in Leucadia, California, through the 70s and 80s) or Dory fishing at Cape Kiwanda, or trout fishing on the Santiam in Oregon. Water has always been around. The way we use indigo is a direct reflection of that.”
In the actual construction of the piece, Max and Mia try to use the least amount of cutting and stitching possible. The hand-shaped trays (the first pieces Max did) are exactly what their name suggests: pieces of leather that have been shaped by hand and hardened to maintain their form. These are a favorite for Max: in his words, “perfectly imperfect, very simple, and so versatile.”
Max enjoys working with the dynamics of the leather, the way it folds and bends. The pieces are meant to be beautiful but also functional, and each design is the result of trial-and-error, with the final designs being pieces that Max and Mia use themselves and add to the collection.
Made Solid finds its inspiration in nature, and the materials reflect it. In addition to the high-quality Hermann Oak vegetable-tanned leather, its color reminiscent of the sand of the beach or desert; they incorporate indigo, representing water; the stones, a connection to the riverbanks and mountains; and the antique bone buttons, which along with the leather relate back to the animals who contributed to the pieces.
It’s clear in speaking to Max that he and Mia have a genuine love for the craft and the history present in both the techniques and the materials themselves. When I asked Max about what the brand means to him, he said,
“Made Solid isn’t only about ‘solid’ design or ‘solid’ construction. Solid refers to connection on many levels. We use all natural vegetable tanned leather. You can see the grain and see your piece grow. Thank the animal if you’re into that sort of thing—but we all need to remember that this is a hide. We use traditional leather-working technique and many vintage tools. Design is based on clear personal inspiration—nothing is random. We like to think our customer appreciates this depth and can feel that each piece is just a little unique to them as well. As they use it, it softens and darkens and becomes part of their life. That’s what SOLID is.”