• AT HOME & AT WORK WITH
    SAM HUFF & MEGHAN WRIGHT
    STORY AND IMAGES BY NICK NEMECHEK
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  • If there were ever a 'poster couple' of the American Makers Movement, Sam Huff and Meghan Wright perfectly fit the bill.
    Sam is the founder of the leatherwares company Tanner Goods, along with friend and business partner Mark. The artisanal brand - known for its honest approach to design and for reviving the craftsmanship of yesteryear - quickly amassed a cult following, allowing them to recently open a store in Downtown LA.

    Sam's wife Meghan is well on her way to assembling a sizable troop of her own. She recently founded the ceramics brand Mazama, along with her husband and a small group of their friends. Playing off both the craft beverage and artisan movements, Mazama produces handcrafted vessels for your favorite locally-sourced libations. Each piece is hand-thrown and fired in their Portland studio - a process unparalleled in its level of charm and character.

    On an unusually sunny day in Portland, we visited the couple's mid-century home, quietly perched atop a lush ravine. Facing calming views of the Northwest expanse, we sat on their porch to enjoy morning coffee, served in a set of Mazama prototypes.
    As NYC dwellers, we were simply in awe of the couple's bountiful yard. Laden with fruit trees and bushels of wild berries, the property was nicknamed "The Pie House" by its original owners. Meghan, however, has taken a liking to preserves over pie, and kindly offered us a jar from her most recent homemade batch.

    The interior, largely furnished with heirloom pieces passed from members of their family, is equally, if not more charming. The couple's largest benefactor was Meghan's stylish grandmother who worked as an interior designer during the height of modernist movement. Among the bestowed items is a pair original Wassily chairs, perfectly maintained by three generations of Meghan's family.

    See our visit to Tanner Goods, Mazama studios, and the couple's lovely mid-century home!
  • How does the Tanner Goods process relate to the notions of “craft” or "heritage"?

    Sam: If you go to factories in Asia or Italy, all do you is put the leather in a machine, and a finished belt comes out - it's all so automated. But the machines we use are from the early 1900s, and everything here is done by hand. It's rare to see this type of leather shop anymore.

    We got linked up with this guy who used to be a bronco rider back in the 60s, but also worked at a saddle-making company. He's been our de facto mentor and has taught us a lot about machinery, techniques and sewing - he's been an incredible resource for us.

  • How would you describe the company's design philosophy?

    Sam: Tanner is really about honest and straightforward design. We create products that are functional, but also look clean and age well. You can say it's utilitarian and timeless.

    The material plays a big role in that whole idea. Leather wears well over time, and looks even better as it ages - it's able to tell a story, whereas other materials can just look like shit after a while. I've always been fascinated by leather as a material, and that's one of the main reasons why this whole idea for the business came about.

  • The machines we use are from the early 1900's, and everything here is done by hand. It's rare to see this type of leather shop anymore.

  • What inspired Mazama, both the concept and the name?

    Meghan: Portlanders are really, really serious about their beverages. It's the birthplace of the whole craft beverage movement, from local coffee, to tea, to all of the new craft breweries. We wanted to make a vessel that was truly worthy of the quality of the drinks we're now consuming - and vessels designed specifically for that beverage.

    The name actually comes from Mount Mazama, the super volcano that created Crater Lake. To us, the lake represents nature's most perfect vessel. And it was created from earth and fire - the same elements that go into making ceramics.

  • What are some of the challenges of your process, given that each piece is handmade?

    Meghan: There's so much science behind developing a line of hand-thrown ceramics that people don't really think about. You have to account for shrinkage (vessels shrink between 10-15%), mixing glazes by gram weights (like chemistry equations and stuff!), and how to best control the variation in shape. Slip-casting, in contrast, is much easier to control, because all pieces are cast from the same mold. We totally geeked out - Tory and I made tech-packs for my sister, who throws the vessels in the studio, and we made these little tools to make sure each vessel is consistent.

  • The name actually comes from Mount Mazama, the super volcano that created Crater Lake. To us, the lake represents nature's most perfect vessel.

  • There's so much science behind developing a line of hand-thrown ceramics that people don't really think about.

  • What type of vibe are you looking to create for your home?

    Meghan: This is where we spend all of our time, so we really wanted to make it livable. A lot of people have living rooms that look great, but they're not comfortable spaces where you'd want to hang out. One example is our music stuff. It would probably look better stored away somewhere, but we use it so much, we said “screw it.”

    Sam: Same goes for the bikes. We actually like having them out because it's such a big part of our lifestyle. People will often hide that stuff, but it's who we are, so it's nice to have them around. I also think it's funny when you go into a person's house, and they'll have books and other things out, but it's nothing you'd ever want to read. We'd rather have stuff that people can actually flip through and engage with.

  • Do you make good use of the outdoor space?

    Sam: The overhang is a great feature of the porch. We had some huge rain storms come through the past few weeks, and I would just lay out on the couch and watch the fronts come over the bridge, without getting wet at all. The porch is pretty awesome.

    Meghan: We also have an outdoor fire pit, so a lot of our fall entertaining will be drinks around the fire. Having the bar cart is great because we can just roll it out and mix cocktails out there. And with the view, especially at sunset, there's a really nice vibe out there.

  • Where did you find these incredible mid-century pieces?

    Sam: A lot of our coolest shit actually comes from Meghan's family. Our sound system was her dad's first big purchase during his bachelor days in the 70s. He spent all of his money on a sweet sound system, and it's still up and running!

    Meghan: The couch and the Wassily chairs are came from my grandma. She worked as an interior designer back in the day in Chicago, and as a docent at the Walker, so she's always been stylish. She's in Minneapolis, but I call her all of the time and we talk about design. I like to say I can't help my good taste - it's been around forever, haha.

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  • A lot of our coolest shit actually comes from Meghan's family. Our sound system was her dad's first big purchase during his bachelor days in the 70's.

  • SHOP THE STORY
  • This is where we spend all of our time, so we really wanted to make it livable. A lot of people have living rooms that look great, but they're not comfortable spaces where you'd want to hang out.

  • I take it you guys entertain here a lot?

    Sam: Now that we've finally gotten settled, everyone wants to come over here and have dinner parties. I'd say we have people over every couple of weeks. But getting the dining table would be great because now everyone just does it Japanese-style on the floor. We have a glass tabletop already, but we're having a steel base made, along with some benches.

    Meghan: That's our idea of a good time! I actually think it's easier to get drunker and crazier at a dinner party than it is to go out. Ha ha!

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