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Q&A with Blackhorne

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A dream conceived while honeymooning in Spain, Blackhorne was born from a shared love of elegant, durable pieces designed to survive life’s many adventures. Handmade in Washington State from materials of local and US origin, we love Blackhorne’s ability to look perfectly at home both on the streets of Seattle or in the trails of a nearby misty wood.

Hot off the heels of a move from Seattle to Gig Harbor, we took a moment to connect with the design duo behind Blackhorne: Elliot and Cat Padilla.

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Can you walk us through how the dream of Blackhorne came to fruition?

We spent about a month in Spain, following our planned elopement to Barcelona. Over the course of the month we had a lot of down time, in which we discussed dreams, goals, you name it. At the time, both of us had just come out of management related positions within a corporate company, where we felt uninspired and unfulfilled. We both had a very strong desire to be our own boss and to create something for ourselves. We basically sat down, had a few glasses of wine, and asked each other what makes us happy and what are we good at. Somehow, that transitioned into the idea that we should start a leather company. The original plan for Blackhorne was for Elliott to be the creator and Cat to be the business. The next day, we applied for our business license, and upon our return to Seattle we hit the ground running and never looked back.

What is the meaning of the name Blackhorne?

We created a long list of potential names for the business and they all seemed to be within the same general theme. Blackhorne is a combination of our general aesthetic, being on the darker side, and ‘horne’ is an ode to Twin Peaks, which in turn is an ode to the Pacific Northwest.

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Have either of you had previous experience in leather crafting or accessory making?

Elliott has always tinkered in different crafts and mediums, which eventually lead him to leather craft. He had been working with leather as a hobby for a year or two before we started Blackhorne. His first project was a leather tool roll that he gave to me for our first Christmas together. He bought a hide, dyed it on my living room floor, and taught himself to hand stitch. After that, he went on to make a few wallets – which he sold to friends – and a tufted leather seat for one of his mopeds. We were living in a tiny studio and our kitchen table was always covered in his leather projects. I had some previous sewing experience, but definitely no experience working with leather.

Were you self-taught or brought up in an artistic environment?

In the realm of leather craft, we are both self-taught. Rather, Elliott taught himself and then passed it on to me. There has been a lot of trail and error. He’s got a gift for figuring out how things work. His dad was a mechanic, so as a result he grew up figuring out how to take things apart and put them back together. Elliott can look at something and break it down into pieces, which I’ve always admired. He has always had a strong desire to create and build, but never streamlined his focus into one form or medium until we started our venture together. He worked in architecture for several years, which was just another form of creating and building.

We had completely different upbringings. Both my parents believed in higher education, and encouraged me to find my passions. I discovered my love for the arts at a very early age and was put into a magnet art school to hone in on my skills, with my focus on visual arts and photography. Unfortunately, my instructor at the time kind of sucked the fun out of art, and as a result I decided I didn’t want to mix my work and my hobby. I gave up potential scholarships to go to cosmetology school, where I excelled naturally but lacked passion. I’ve traveled a long road which has ironically come full circle to where I am so happy to be mixing my work and hobby. It doesn’t feel like work when you’re doing what you love.

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As a design duo, how do you go about getting things started? Do you have a workflow or pattern that you follow?

The beauty of our partnership is that our minds are exactly opposite. Elliott can look at a pair of boots and say “I could make that”, and then break it down and actually accomplish it. Me on the other hand, not so much. I have the vision for our aesthetic, how I want things to look, what items I would like to create. Our approach is also completely different, where I am totally visual and he is totally technical. We can look at potential design, analyze it separately, and then come back with two different approaches. The end result is typically a mix of us both, as we take our own ideas and meld them into one idea that is much better than either of us could create on our own. We tend to create our prototypes together, that way we can both have input.

How do your personal aesthetics differ from one another? What are some commonalities?

Since we met, we have always had similar aesthetics in terms of both fashion and design. I would say my personal aesthetic is a little more ridiculous, sometimes overboard. Elliott is a little more tame. We both gravitate towards black and white.

How do you go about conceptualizing new products? 

We like to create pieces that we would actually want for ourselves. Elliott’s main goal is functionality, whereas my goal is designing within our aesthetic. We have a huge list of items that we are dying to create, but it’s hard to find the time when we can both sit down and work through the process. It is very time consuming dealing with two extremely anal retentive people! In our current design queue, we are planning a few small collections in addition to some standalone pieces.

How do you go about sourcing your materials? Have you any personal connections with tanneries or hardware providers?

We really try to source our materials thoughtfully, which typically means paying a little more because they’re local or domestic. We work with a few different tanneries, which are all based in the US and are relatively small or family run. Supporting small businesses is a big deal for us in all aspects of life.

The Blackhorne Instagram account is really fabulous. What goes into that curation?

Thank you! I put a lot of time into curating our IG account. We like to describe the overall aesthetic as an exaggerated version of ourselves. The subject matter fluctuates but always centers around what we love: leather, mystical forests, and our cats.

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Where do you draw inspiration from?

We draw inspiration from the forest, and the unknown. We recently moved from the city to the woods, because it is our happy place. Being in a quiet environment surrounded by nature is really where it’s at for us. Without the distraction of noise and people, the mind can wander to so many amazing places. We are also constantly inspired by all of the other artists and designers in this amazing community. It is totally infectious interacting with those who love what they do, and are able to make a living by creating.

What other mediums or creative outlets do you each have?

Since the birth of Blackhorne, we have been working nonstop. We try to make time for other creative outlets, but the opportunities elsewhere are few and far between. Elliott enjoys drawing, woodworking, building furniture, working on his motorcycle and vintage mopes, and has been wanting to dabble in metal working. Creatively, I don’t do much outside of Blackhorne. I tend to get overly fixated on things, and dedicate all of my time to that. I’ll occasionally find time to paint, but spend most of my free time doing yoga, reading, baking, and collecting antiques and oddities.

Explore the Blackhorne store

Photos all courtesy of Blackhorne via Instagram