Meet the Maker: Bag Designer Christine Marcelino of Materials + Process
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Meet the Maker: Bag Designer Christine Marcelino of Materials + Process

Calling all adventurers! Meet Christine Marcelino, the founder of Materials + Process. Her handmade goods and leather accessories are designed to support the cultural nomad. What does that mean exactly? As Christine explains, “for all those finding their frontier, may they go there in style.” I’m hooked already.

From totes and carryalls to card cases and clutches, Marcelino makes all of her products in her SF studio. She works in vegetable dyed leather and believes in materials that have, “no coating…so your history and adventures are embedded in the material of the product.” I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of one of a kind. I’m especially digging her Sacagawea Carryall—it’s the perfect blend of function and style. If you want to check out all of Christine’s goods for the modern frontier, you’ll be happy to hear that she’ll be joining us at Re:Make on October 5th.

Alright, ready for more? Here’s her story.

First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am an industrial designer and maker living and working in San Francisco. I design products ranging from home accessories and furniture to outdoor gear and equipment. I’m originally from Chicago and I moved to SF for the mountains, the ocean, and the food! I joke that I’m a born again Californian, but a Midwesterner at heart. At school, I studied Industrial Design and Art History in Illinois and also in Newcastle, England. During my time in school, I was very interested in user and materials research for finding opportunities for better design. I love the outdoors, biking, and hiking, but I’m also a city girl. I like to be in the thick of things—totally immersed in the zeitgeist of the people and the culture around me.

When did you first realize you love to make?

I’ve always sketched and made things as a kid. It all started with legos. I remember trying to make homes and designing the furniture in it all out of legos. My entrepreneurial spirit came alive in 4th grade when I made headbands and jump ropes out of those stretchy neon nylon loops that look like cut up panty hoses. Someone asked me to make them one. I made a few and started selling them around the schoolyard. Of course, I got in trouble, but that was the moment that I got the itch for making. Whenever I get an idea, I just have to make it. If I don’t, it kind of haunts me.

Why did you decide to start Materials + Process?

I launched Materials + Process at the end of 2011. I started freelancing that year and had the flexibility to explore parts of the design process I enjoyed, but couldn’t take part in fully while working full time. I explored front end research into materials and in using its inherent benefits to create a great product and making things with my hands again. Materials + Process was a platform so that I can be accountable for seeing these explorations through. It was never meant to be a business, but some things are meant to be bigger than you imagined.

How do you come up with your designs? Where do you get your inspiration?

I start with a problem. Then, I do some research and sketch to find ways to solve that problem. Later, I find materials that will benefit the design and help solve that problem. I create specifications for the design and build prototypes. I test and then I refine the design with more prototypes until I get the desired function and look. When I freelance design work, I design hard core camping gear and packs for the outdoor industry. I take the knowledge, construction, and functionality from that industry and refine it into a seamlessly functional and good looking product.

I’m inspired by pathmakers, and creative entrepreneurs alike. Design wise, I’m inspired by the pure process of people and their surroundings, products and spaces alike, the inherent properties of materials, artists like Donald Judd, Georgia O’Keeffe, designers like Dieter Rams and Finn Juhl. I love designers like Marni…and mysterious shapes like the mobius strip.

Which design are you proudest of? 

The Sacagawea Carryall. It was my first and best selling product. I created the Sacagawea pack because I needed a good looking, functional pack that I could ride around with on my bike to the studio or to various client meetings.

I work mainly in vegetable tan leather. The hide is preserved and protected with a tanning process using natural vegetable roots and tree barks, giving it a tea stained blush color. Since there are no chemical coatings, it’s what you would call a “naked” leather. Over time, your own interaction with the product and the environments you pass through, whether sun or rain, alters the color of the hide, caramelizing it to a finish that is truly yours based on your experiences with the product. I’ve seen that process come alive in my own bag.

What other creative hobbies do you have?

I never thought about it. I can’t think of any other creative hobbies. What I do for my work is what I enjoy. I work all the time so I don’t really have any other creative pursuits currently.

How has technology changed and supported what you do?

I wouldn’t have a business if it wasn’t for Etsy. I put my first pack on Etsy to recoup some of my prototyping costs and it got picked up by a bunch of blogs. The rest was history. The support from the online community has allowed me to grow my business. I love how my products go viral on their own, like they have a life outside of me making them, where people enjoy them without even having them in hand. If I had the same technological tools available to sell, and the business and emotional support from a bunch of random people pursuing the same interests when I was in 4th grade, I’d probably be a billionaire right now off of neon nylon headbands.

How do you think the analog world is changing as the digital world continues to boom?

I think it’s pushing it faster than you can catch up with. I think there are tools available now that make it easier to manage your business and life in general. Also makes it really complicated. The transparency and visibility is what is the most interesting. This pushes innovation in a way.  Now you can watch a veteran leather maker teach a technique on YouTube, and depending on who you are, you can interpret that for your own designs or use that process for a totally different application. It is also inspirational to see what other designers and makers are doing right now. This visibility encourages you as a designer to really push the boundaries. Have you fallen in love with Materials + Process yet? Then don’t forget! Christine will be joining us at Re:Make on October 5th. Stop by Fort Mason from 11am-5pm to pick up some of her handmade goods and leather accessories.