When it comes to handmade, I have a little something of just about everything. From handmade pottery (right now I’m absolutely loving drinking more morning coffee from my awesome ceramic mug from City by the Sea Ceramics) to art to even cloth napkins. You know what’s missing? Clothes! Yes, sadly, I do not seem to own a single piece of handmade clothing. Something seriously needs to be done about this! And you know where I need to start? With one of Rocks and Salt’s awesome handmade skirts!
Owners Sara and Phil make some seriously beautiful clothing, not to mention home accessories, out of their studio in Brooklyn, which I basically associate with all things hip. (Side note: is completely unhip to use the word hip? I fear I might be dating myself. Or maybe it’s so retro at this point that that makes it hip. Or maybe I’m just overthinking things.) You can tell from their interview that they have so much fun together in addition to making beautiful things. And guys, the story behind their shop name is pretty amazing, so you will definitely want to read on!
Tell us a little bit about your work and how you got started with it.
Our work can be characterized as accessories for the head and the home. What began in 2005 with cut and sew hats has now grown to include said hats for the ladies and the gents, asymmetrical stretchy waist pocket skirts, modernized fanny packs, and cheeky silk screened kitchen linens that add a bit of whimsy to any home. All designed and handmade by us in our Brooklyn studio, yes!
We got started by finishing; that is, we finished working in natural foods after years and years. We got started slowly, making hats and jewelry during the week and taking them to Prince Street in NYC where we’d set up a tiny table and sell our wares.
What’s the story behind your business’ name?
Ah, the business name. It depends whose asking but we’ll give you the truth, we were drinking margaritas when we came up with it. Not frozen margaritas but; yep you guessed it, on the rocks with salt. It was a working title but after nearly 10 years I guess we’d certainly have to say it stuck.
What do you like most about having your own creative business? What do you find most challenging?
What we like the most is the idea of making our own hours – though the reality is that we work most all of the hours. Still, we can sneak out and catch a Barcelona soccer match on a Tuesday afternoon if we want! The most challenging is trying to make all of the ideas happen.
What inspires you to create?
You mean besides making the rent roll right? People – we feel really fortunate to be surrounded by so many other artists, artisans, and inspirational friends. The pulse of New York City is certainly inspiring; and, of course a healthy dose of coffee, soccer, and samba!
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
We hope, certainly in our case, that it’s the clear differentiation in quality compared to what people are accustomed to seeing. Others are also motivated by the community minded aspect of supporting artisans and locally made, or US made goods. We feel that just being “handmade” isn’t enough; it also needs to look great, be competitively priced, and generally offer the customer more value. We want our customers to enjoy the benefits of owning an item of clearly higher quality and innovative design that they can love for years.
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
Choosing only one would be impossible – a few things that come to mind are a felted scarf from Grey Bird Studio (who is now making absolutely gorgeous jewelry!), a sleek and modern wood and leather rocking horse from Sawyer Bee, sterling earrings from Imix Jewelry that always get compliments, a cowled shirt from Gaia Conceptions, and ceramics that make us happy every day when we use them from Cephalopod Ink and Melissa Weiss – who digs her own clay off her land in NW Arkansas. So cool!
When you are not making art what do you like to do with your time?
I (Phil) am pretty into playing and watching soccer, I also play guitar and try to maintain a yoga practice, big emphasis on try though. I’m currently pursuing an MBA too; so, sometimes I like that.
Sara likes to ride her bike, dream about nature, and make bad jokes that no one understands (except Phil!). Phil here, hahahahahahahahahahaha
What is something people might not know about you?
Phil has a degree in Jazz Composition. And he speaks Portuguese, at least he generally speaks well, it’s learned, not native.
Sara used to speak Portuguese….and French. She lived on an island of 400 people where she built a house with three other people.
We met cooking and baking in a natural foods restaurant in 1999 and have still been known to whip up a pretty darn tasty pie from time to time.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business?
Don’t confuse tasks with goals. This is a challenge we often face, in the sense that it’s often easier to just produce a batch of this or that than it is to forecast a season; for example, or rework patterns and focus on that “gap filling” design for a line.
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