Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Tielor McBride. I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, where I grew up in an incredible family of five. I went to college in Cincinnati to study scenic and costume design. My background in theatre design exposed me to so many different time periods of history, cultures of the world and the general human condition. I found that it is so important to not only come up with a good idea and solid research, but to be able to articulate it and understand what goes into the production of it.
After school, I moved to New York and took a job as a window designer at Polo Ralph Lauren. I was in charge of the flagship store and helped design global directives for interior and window displays. The job was totally different than what I ever imagined myself doing. It was like grad school and I learned a lot about the fashion world: the structure of seasonal delivery, scale of manufacturing and global brand presence. I was eventually promoted, but things started to feel stale as the design work left to others and the managerial responsibilities came flooding in.
Just before I left my job in the corporate world of RL, I started TM1985. I made my first Roll Top Backpack in the tailor’s shop of the Polo men’s store. It’s been a little over a year since then, and my bag production has started to pick up. I have a nice sized studio space with some beautiful industrial leather working machines. What excites me the most is that this is only the beginning.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I live in Brooklyn in what used to be an old hardware store and find myself devoting a lot of time to renovating it. Even though it is a rental, I have laid linoleum-checkered tile floors, installed vintage cabinets and shelving, and designed a custom gold-leaf chandelier. I want it to be perfect, but my definition of that is always changing so there is always room for improvement. Having a richly layered atmosphere means a lot to me and serves as inspiration for future projects.
When I can, I enjoy being outdoors, harvesting vegetables in my garden, camping in the Catskills or biking out to Montauk Point. I like to get as much air and sun as possible before I go and bury myself in work again. Cooking dinner every night with my boyfriend (and dog Homer) is something that grounds me and readies me for a long night of cutting and stitching lengths of canvas and leather. We always look for new recipes. Tonight it was borscht, a hardy winter soup made with beets and cabbage. Yum!
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
All I Ever Wanted Was to Make Things and Think About Them. Yeah, I know it’s long, but it’s a simple truth. I’m happiest when I get to make something worth thinking about, worth looking at.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Vintage military, utility and artisan goods often inspire the things I make. I want to live up to the standards of quality and integrity that made the products of yesterday last, things from the golden age of manufacturing that we still can use today. If it lasted this long and has the same striking appeal as when it made, there has to be something there to take a cue from.
What does handmade mean to you?
All things are relatively “handmade.” Even a car on an assembly line has something on it that needs to be done by hand. Working with your hands slows you down in a way that forces you to consider each piece individually, to know the materials and their imperfections. Understanding the variations between components and how they work together as a whole, that is where craft comes into play. If you allow yourself this awareness, you can make careful adjustments to give the piece a uniqueness and specificity. Handmade items set themselves apart because the spirit of the individual is imbued in them.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My great-great-grandfather Christen Hansen made horse harnesses and shoes in Denmark. I recently found a picture of him from 1922, standing in the middle of his shop surrounded by all of his harnesses, tack, boots and tools. The link between the past and the present has always been strong for me. Seeing that old photograph made what I am doing now more meaningful.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
In general, I don’t consider them on the same level. I don’t use the word “artist” lightly, and I’ve got a long way to go before I’m there. I became a maker when I understood that old saying, “If you want something, make it yourself.” I realized it gives you freedom from the conventional consumer-product relationship. I think some people of my generation haven’t recognized that yet.
How would you describe your creative process?
If an idea pops into my head, the first thing I do is draw it. I’ll even just draw a simple outline or silhouette of what I think the object might look like. It is a reminder to go back in and work out the details later when I have more time. Then I sketch, sketch, sketch! Even after I think I have the design down, I tend to vary it slightly and do 10 more sketches just to see what else comes out. I pick the best one and create a rough sample to perfect dimensions, details and fit. I use vintage fabrics for inspiration and shop around for the right leathers, waxed canvases and hardware. After I assemble the final product, I treat the material with wax, dyes or oils to give it a finished polish and personality.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Francis Bacon. I love a messy studio!
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a beautiful silk quilt my great-grandmother Emma made. The pattern is made up of hundreds of different-colored rectangular blocks laid out in a spiral formation. The quilt is buttery smooth and on the back is the softest gray Scottish flannel.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Sleep! My best ideas come to me when I’m either waking up or falling asleep. It can occasionally be annoying; after a long exhausting day, all I want to do is rest, but as soon as my head hits the pillow and my eyes close, 101 solutions to the day’s creative problems are right there in front of me. I’m driven to get right back up and start working again.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I’d like to be expanding TM1985 into women’s and men’s outerwear, as well as housewares and select furniture pieces. I’ve always been focused on the whole picture of lifestyle design and I want to create products that have rich detail and integrity, something that will become a part of your history.