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Meet Sadye Harvey of Temerity in DTLA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sadye Harvey.

Sadye, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I suppose I have had many beginnings that seemed to belong to many different stories, but ultimately have led me here, at the start of yet another something new. Temerity was created slowly, bit by bit, from pieces of my life that humbled me, inspired me, challenged me and taught me. It started when I was young, making clothing for my stuffed animals and learning the unique curves of their fuzzy bodies, patternmaking and tailoring to their needs before I knew what those things meant. It started when I decided to study dance in college, reincorporating learning into my body instead of just my mind. Some part of it began in the printing shops of Gujarat, India, where I watched the beautiful lengths of hand printed fabric laid out under the intense sun to dry in the dirt. I can’t forget the piece of Temerity that grew from my upbringing in the Rocky Mountains and the American West, learning what it meant to be responsible for the rest of my life under trembling Aspens and glittering snow; that specific self sufficiency that comes from being at home in the wilderness; the smell of saddles and dusty leather boots on my Grandmother’s ranch. The cautious and most resilient part was born from the failure of my first business, which destroyed my sense of self-worth, broke my body, wreaked havoc on my mind, and shook my trust in the goodness of people. But most simply, Temerity began during an amazing leather purse making workshop, where I learned the basics of the craft that would steal my heart.

Temerity means reckless boldness, action taken with little regard to the consequences. It means taking a stand or moving forward when you aren’t quite sure of the outcome when it might seem foolish or brash, when no one else will. I’ve always loved that a word so delicate can hold such a powerful meaning, just as I have always loved pretty things that are mightier than they seem. The leather bags and goods that I make are a combination of utilitarian and beautiful, made from saddle-quality vegetable tanned leather lovingly constructed into colorful, romantic pieces that are meant to accompany you from your downtown evenings to your adventures in wild places. They are treasures that are meant to be used.

I currently make all of my pieces by hand, in my home studio in DTLA. Everything is cut, dyed, marbled, punched, stitched and finished by hand, a painstaking and time-consuming process that is half romantic-craftsman and half madness. I do truly believe in the power and importance of working with your hands and knowing how things are made, being comfortable with the idea that our beautiful things were once nothing but an idea, which was pieced together by skilled hands. I want to be capable. Everything is made in exceedingly small runs, partly due to my own human limitations, but also due to my belief that new things should not exist for the sake of existing but should hopefully serve another meaningful purpose, whether it is to inspire, to carry, to love, to use. Also, in my private quest to create treasures that make their owners feel special and proud, rarity is a key component.

Starting Temerity was a chance to put my designs and my work out into the world, but it was also a chance for me to try running a business in a way that felt more authentic to myself, without shame, leaning into the fear rather than pretending it didn’t exist. It is an opportunity for me to share the process behind the product, to pull back to the curtain that separates us from our things, and most importantly to me, to make beautiful things that inspire joy.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Honestly, this road has been smoother than roads I’ve taken in the past, partly due to my desire to never be jostled so violently again. I knew when I started Temerity that I wanted to approach it from a place of longevity, rather than from an all or nothing position. This business is literally built out of me, out of my labor, my creativity, my desire and ability to continue on. In order to keep it sustainable, I have focused on goals that spark joy rather than goals that grow my bottom line. I try to focus on selling at community-based shows and events, which while not always reliable in terms of sales, help me to feel connected to my community of makers and inspire me (force me) to create new things. I have a few other jobs that bring in stable income to support this fickle little baby brand and are diverse enough to keep me feeling even and not burned out.

That said, of course it is hard. Working alone at home is difficult, finding the discipline to stay out of the kitchen, out of bed, and in my studio. I am afraid of making things that people won’t like. I am afraid of making things that I won’t like. I often am overwhelmed by the scope of what of takes to run a business on my own, or more accurately in partnership with the part of myself that says I’m not good enough to do this. There is no roadmap for where to go next, which while somewhat freeing, is also terrifying and can easily trigger an anxiety-induced afternoon nap. Being ok with the unknown is a type of vulnerability that we don’t often learn early in life, and instead we are taught to be certain, to become experts, to follow a path, and to succeed. I basically fail on a daily basis, and my proudest accomplishment is that failing has become less hard.

I have also come up against the hard truth that strenuous manual labor is literally backbreaking work. I love to work with my hands, and I want to be able to do it for the rest of my life, but that can only happen if I get some help. My body has developed a number of aches and pains directly attributed to the difficulty of working with leather, which is leading me to begin exploring different paths of manufacturing, incorporating partnerships and machines to assist me. Beginning from a place of longevity makes certain difficult decisions easier to approach.

Temerity – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Temerity is a line of leather bags + goods that are made by hand in DTLA. Inspired by nostalgia, color, and craftsmanship, Temerity is a line of romantic, whimsical and joyous pieces to be treasured. All of our leather is vegetable tanned, which is a more environmentally sustainable process than chemically heavy chromium tanning. Because our leather is more natural, it picks up color from handling and sunshine that shows how well loved your pieces are. A portion of our smaller accessory line is marbled, an amazing, intuitive process that creates unique colorful surfaces on the leather. Every piece from our bags to our bun pins is meant to be used, carried, worn and loved, wherever your life takes you.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest I’ve felt since starting Temerity was being invited to teach a series of marbled leather workshops at Dear Handmade Life’s Craftcation conference in Ventura. I was honored to have been invited, at the very least, but the experience of the weekend itself was beyond anything I could have imagined. I work hard on my own to become familiar with new techniques, and to work out the challenges and pitfalls of making handmade pieces. It was such a joy to be able to share that experience with the other artists and makers at the conference and to be seen as an “expert” of sorts amongst so many talented people. Teaching is truly one of my favorite ways to express myself and to share the confidence of knowing that you are capable of making beautiful things. Marbling in general is a fairly straightforward art form that encourages being intuitive and a requires a little magic, and we definitely made some marbled magic that weekend!

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Image Credit:
Jonny Marlow

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