Neek Mason dropped by the design studio to find out exactly why it takes five hours to make a Ginew Belt. We share about our space, materials, and process as we make a belt with a hand-fabricated & -forged buckle. What we do is different, it is unique; we would not have it any other way.
The Ginew design studio is a bright & airy studio in Northeast Portland, Oregon. The light in the mornings is fantastic. During the summer months, a soft morning light shines through the windows to the East and South. The white walls are calming - with intermittent decorations carefully chosen along our journey. The studio is where we go to create and dream - a place which limits distraction and draws us comfortably into a place of contemplation and creative energy. Our mornings begin early before most of Portland awakens, but not until after we have made RUBY Coffee or visited our friends at BARISTA. The air is crisp and quiet, perfect for taking things slowly. Thus, ensuring we are completely focused on the immediate experience of designing and making.
Below are a few of the hand-tools we use to make our belts - punches, edger, and great-grandfather's rule. All of the products we use are 100% made in the USA - Herman Oak and Horween leathers - and lastly, our custom hardware fabricated at SmithShop in Detroit, MI. Much like each product we make, we focus on USA materials and intentionally including details from our history. See our wool-lined barn coat (Heritage Coat), wool blanket lined wax canvas vest, and our wax canvas jacket. Each belt has minimal external branding in order to show the quality of construction and premium materials used. Look deeper; open things up; turn them over...and you will see the subtle detailing we include.
We use pre-industrial technique while making our belts - no machines - no electric motors - just our hands and simple tools. A handful of our tools date back to the 1880's, while others are new and sharpened. Bees wax from our friend's apiary is used in the final step to condition the edges. The process is the same - focused, intentional, and present. We choose the slow path to ensure consistency and quality. The sound and texture of finishing someone's belt by hand is meditative - soothing. No motors, no burning of the leather; simply intentional construction.
We choose mindfulness - to be present and intentional during our process - as we make a belt specific to the person who ordered it. It takes longer, but we are also able to dedicate more attention to the final product, while making a belt that is truly one of a kind.
Our buckles take at least three hours to hand-fabricate & -forge. Ginew buckles are individually made by our friends at SMITHSHOP in Detroit, MI. We wish you could feel the weight of each buckle. Resting in your palm, you can feel quality - attention - effort in each buckle. WATCH OUR BUCKLE being fabricated by our friends Amy & Gabriel.
We delicately form the leather around the buckle and soften the leather so that it does not suffer small splits. The final step of attaching the buckle involves hand-hammering each Ginew rivet in a circular pattern. SmithShop hand-fabricated our ball-peen hammer (yup, they MADE our hammer) and adorned it with designs from George Levi.
All told, over five hours goes into making each belt. And our shop dog "Stinky" approves of the final product as it is finished. Thank you for making the time Ms. Mason!