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Cover Story

Artisanal Orlando

Four local makers share the secrets of their success

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A-HA MOMENT:
"The first place we dropped some off was Redlight Redlight, on St. Patrick's Day," Nathan says. "The first customer of the day came in and saw them and wanted to buy them." They knew then they were on the right track.

FUTURE GOALS:
"We would like to make a million marshmallows this year."

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Makr Carry Goods

makr.com

Over the course of just 90 minutes on a recent afternoon in their light-filled, leather-scented Winter Park studio, Makr employees fielded a last-minute special order from the NFL, debated last touches on iPhone cases (the new iPhone 5 form factor had been unveiled the day before) and juggled logistics for a rush special order of 1,700 bags for the upcoming Leonard Cohen tour. Designer and ringleader Jason Gregory handled each question from a staffer calmly, with no sense of rush or angst. "I don't want urgency in my life," he says. He may work 70 hours a week and be obsessed with personally making "a zillion prototypes" for each product, but each problem gets solved in a considered way.

Makr goods are a study in contradiction: vintage-styled yet pristinely new, evoking a sense of the hand of the designer yet manufactured with hyper-modern processes. "As much as it seems like the energy of the company is somewhat craft-based, and it is, the only way we'd really be able to do the things that we do is using all of the available tools to our benefit … designing towards those processes to make them more human." Despite the use of a laser cutting machine and computer-aided design software, each piece is cut and tested by and on humans, right here in Winter Park.

Look closely enough at a Makr product, take in the thoughtful design ethos, and you'll be spoiled for cheaper bags, with their sloppily finished zippers and inelegantly bunchy corners. Whether it's a coathook, a wallet or an enameled drinking cup, Gregory has deliberated on each detail, from ease of use to efficiency of manufacture.

Gregory started out as a photographer and spent some time working in architecture before he founded Makr. What explains the left turn into making bags? "I don't know. I don't even carry bags. … It's like an architectural problem," Gregory says. "Bags are harder than furniture … [they're] affected by gravity and stresses, folds and turns and material thicknesses and the human body."

FOUNDED: 2007 or 2008
"I forget when it started because I've been doing it forever. It was just an art piece for a long time."

FIRST PIECE MADE: The One Wallet
"'One' because it's a single-pocket wallet and the first thing we made. I always hated wallets, so I wanted a better solution."

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