Monday, July 26, 2010

Field Trip: Billykirk, Jersey City, NJ.

A short while ago, I was invited by the always gracious brothers Bray, Chris and Kirk, out to their relatively new work space located just across the Hudson in Jersey City.
A conversation with Chris and Kirk is a dynamic thing, always shifting and always interesting.
In the space of a few hours, we covered numerous topics, ranging from the disappearance of craft guilds, teenage rebellion, bike riding, jackalopes, Amish country, and of course, what they have in store for upcoming seasons and their expanding product line.
Needless to say, Billykirk's bags and leather goods are known for their quality craftsmanship, timeless design and functional durability. Started in 1999, the Bray's always had a notion that they would work together and that that thing would be called Billykirk. It took a while to manifest, but the result was the combined talents of the two brothers.
There's a good interview over on their site where they talk in depth about the start up and ethos of Billykirk.
Personally, I've always been interested in the spaces in which people work and was so happy to have been asked over to have a look. Two of the nicest guys you'll meet, I caught up with Chris and Kirk as they were putting the finishing touches on Spring '11 and preparing for upcoming market appointments.
A huge thanks to the Brays for having me out and letting me spend some time and take some pictures.


















































































19 comments:

Brian Davis said...

Great post, like being a fly on the wall.

Ryan said...

Wow, a ton of great imagery... Looks like a lot of new bags, new features, and holy belts batman! Thats a lot of black belts... I'm stoked for what looks like a slim leather laptop case, GF is looking for a great bag like that... Keep up the great work gents! James- thanks for sharing...

Chris-Kirk - I'm in your neck of the woods this weekend again, we should catch up!

aheadlongdive.com said...

Seriously man... one of the best posts I ever. Great freaking job on those pics. Billykirk is the truth.

greybreaks said...

great photos, love love love their bags!

ah, jackalopes, truly a cunning and nefarious creature, and cuddly.

thanks for sharing!

Jon Gaffney said...

Per usual, great post James! Looking forward to Billykirk's next line launching.

Everyday Choices said...

A great post. Their craftsmanship is amazing.

Martín GOMEZ said...

incredible works, I'm a fun of BillKIRK stuffs, from Argentina...greats pics too...

cmatta said...

I love their stuff. It's funny... I own two of those Swiss ammo bags in the fourth from the bottom picture. I use them as bicycle panniers: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmatta/4411280515/

Brendan said...

Great post, probably the most thorough look into the inner workings of the Billykirk studio. Love the webbed belts and hickory striped bags.

Josh said...

awesome stuff on here, i cam across your blog from a photo of a greaser i came across on google.

Darian said...

I want that fold over bag near the top. Beauty.

Office of Johnston said...

This is wonderful!
The Depressingly Awesome poster made my day!

Anonymous said...

Nice boys I'm sure, but as someone who has made his living as a craftsman for many years (wood), it depresses me to see so much fawning over guys who've just barely reached what not long ago would have been considered a respectable journeyman level. The sad truth is that they will most likely have a very difficult time maintaining the level of quality they have achieved if they grow their business and lose the hands on approach they they enjoy in no small part because of their cult/niche status.

I'm in no way affiliated with this man, I've seen his work though on many occasions and I'm sure that anyone can see that he is a master leather worker working right here in the good ole US of A.

http://www.pinnellcustomleather.com/

I don't mean to diminish the achievement of the Billykirk boys and truth be told, they don't really play the same game, but they just aren't even close to the same caliber of craftsmen. Time may change that though.

elysemarie said...

I absolutely love what Billykirk does, and that is top american craftsmanship with a fashion appeal. It's amazingly inspiring to see the workspace of other leatherworkers, living their dreams. thanks for the great post.

gavin said...

Anonymous,

If you are going to link a web-site to your argument that these guys are not craftsmen at least have the good sense to add a link that shows goods that are not only made well but also show inspiring designs and have an ounce of originality. The one you linked to surely does not and only discredits your original hypotheses.

WRXTUNER said...

Wow, awesome bags, I need one!

Jersey City Web DesignerJustin Howley

Anonymous said...

Dear Gavin,

If you are going to engage in dialogue in public, please have the good sense to read and understand the posts that you write in response to. My original hypothesis was that the Bilykirk boys, however nice they may be have "just barely reached what not long ago would have been considered a respectable journeyman level." You have done nothing to address that hypothesis and I fear in your haste to respond you failed to even register it.

I agree that it was a mistake to link to another maker to illustrate my point. The vast majority of what makes Mr. Pinnell's work worthy of note, quality of materials, quality of construction, quality of finish, etc. are virtually impossible to experience through a digitally delivered image. That is often the nature of craft.

To illustrate my point about Billykirk's products not being quite up to fawn-able level, it would have been more to the point to simply link to their own website and a typical product there, their nearly $100 wallet, which looks very much like the kits I stitched in Cub Scouts many years ago. I'm a biased witness and my memory is frail, but I recall mine being better stitched even. http://www.billykirk.com/page.cfm?id_product=29472416&type=1&product_group=26613680&xid=53753800

Originality may or may not be a part of what makes for good craftsmanship, but that is for another much more complex and lengthy discussion. I see little in Billykirk's portfolio regardless. They have copied a map case, some pretty basic workmen's totes, belts that are common among horsemen, and the aforementioned wallet among other things. Not bad, but original?

Still I have to wonder, why all the hype?

Yours,

Anonymous

Lance said...

I think the Billykirk ethos has been about less is more. Scanning the above images I saw a quote which basically says the same thing. I can also speak from experience as I have had one of their mechanics belts for around three years. While it may not have a bunch of engraving or some special sterling silver buckle I think the design and quality speaks for itself. Funny I wear it way more than a vintage Hermes belt I received as a graduation gift.

Anonymous said...

Craftsmanship is relatively worthless if in bad taste. Some of the simplest music, sculpture, cooking, etc. is more captivating or inspiring or just plain nice than its over-embellished counterparts. Master-craftsmen can make not-very-captivating things.

I'm not saying these guys lack skills, but their focus and design sense seem to be their strengths.

Ok. One more whiskey and ... bed.