I’ve been following the journey of Bryr clogs for over a year and been intrigued by these beautiful handmade clogs. Founded by Isobel Schofield and handmade in the heart of San Francisco, I’ve been in awe at how quickly Bryr has grown and excited to see that they opened a workspace in the Dogpatch. Since I’m one of those gals that loves trying on shoes in person, I jumped at the chance to enter clog heaven to find that perfect pair.
When Isobel and her team walked me through the entire process from the leather, to the stapling, which Isobel still to this day does all on her own – I fell more in love with this incredible company. I can 100% say that each pair of Bryr clogs that are produced is made with lots of love. Below you’ll hear more about this wonderful SF company and get a glimpse into their studio and store.
After working for a number of years in the fashion industry, what were your motivations behind starting your own endeavor?
After years of working towards a career goal, when I actually reached that place, I found that something was missing. I was no longer actually designing and making, but instead managing a process. I felt very disconnected and far away from what originally brought me to design.
My hands itched to actually make something again and so I took a evening wheel-throwing ceramics course at a local pottery studio. It was like a light bulb turned on. I found that for me, happiness came through the flow of making. From that moment on, I worked towards building a practice that would let me tap into that flow.
How have your perspectives or philosophies evolved as you’ve transitioned from working for the industry to working for yourself?
It took me a long time to trust my gut. I used to think that there was a ‘right’ way to do things, and I had to just find or learn the proper way. Now I know there’s many ways to solve a puzzle. Maybe it’s a lady-boss way of thinking, but learning to trust my feelings and gut has been one of the biggest most important lessons I’ve learned. That, and pushing through fear.
There’s a special story of coincidence behind your studio space. Tell us a bit about the history of that.
It’s a bit of a crazy story. I’d very literally grown out of my home studio workspace (the kitchen had become our shipping area and there were boxes lining the hallways!)
I was pretty scared to take the next step of renting a space, but I knew it was time. I called around to some buildings in San Francisco, and reached out to the iconic American Industrial Center in Dogpatch. I chatted for a while to the guy on the phone, telling in a little bit about BRYR and what I was looking for. He said that though there was nothing available right now, would call me in about 9 months. Then he paused, and added enigmatically, “but maybe sooner”.
He called me back about 10 minutes later. Turns out the building is Third-generation family business, and that in the 1970’s the family ran a clog factory out of the building. Clogs!!!
The owner, Greg, grew up working at his Dad’s clog factory. They don’t make clogs any more (it closed down in the mid 1980’s) but he now frequently pops in and talks shop with me; chatting about the best way to finish a style, or tools that you can only find these days on Ebay. For him, it’s nostalgia, but for me he’s always giving me a helpful tip.
You have such a lovely and talented team working alongside of you. Tell us a bit about the working culture of your studio.
We have a lot of fun in studio. Funnily enough, I think like-minded people are drawn together, and my team is made up of artists who are happier working through their hands than on a computer screen. Right now, each one of us each touch every single pair that leaves the studio; whether it be cutting, finishing, stapling or packing.
It’s really important to me to create and support an open, positive and “un-fashion” environment, not just for my team but also for visitors to the shop. I think people can feel that when they come in. We love what we make and do, and we love sharing what we make with people. Coming back to California after 5 years away, it’s a real change in attitude and I love that San Francisco is about openness and innovation.
The process behind the making making a pair of BRYR clogs is rather fascinating from an outsider’s perspective. What’s your favorite part of making a pair of shoes?
My favorite moment is when it goes from pieces; flat leather, wood bases, buckles and BECOMES a shoe. It’s a little bit of a magical moment for me, even now after making hundreds of pairs. When I made my first pair of clogs, I jumped up and down with joy. There’s still some of that joy in every pair I make.
What’s your vision for the future (or part of your vision as we know that’s a rather broad question)?
We’ve only been in the space in Dogpatch for 6 months, and the time has flown by! Last weekend we opened our doors for our first open studio, and we’ll be open every Friday and Saturday until Christmas.
A huge thank you to the entire Bryr Studio team for having us share their workspace. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for you in 2016!
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Photos by Ali Hartwell for Sacramento Street