the t.o.g philosophy
trace of grey, or t.o.g, is the name we chose because it creatively captures the spirit of how we both see the whole of life. As a living philosophy it goes something like this,
" a trace of grey is that invisible presence which permits a connection between something that is and something that is not yet seen. A trace of grey is forgiving and accepting of clean lines, blacks and whites, but will relentlessly attempt to soften their borders. Beauty is found in that space, where white is exposed as black and black is exposed as white...what bridges the two is the trace of grey."
As fate would have it we later discovered that in some versions of old english slang 'to tog yourself' means 'to dress yourself smartly'. Indeed, this was a happy and serendipitous surprise.
So what's in a name you might ask? Well, everything.
Doing what I love every day, is like sharing a piece of my soul with the person who buys my pieces. I design as an expression of myself and this doesn’t feel like work at all. The end result is my creations get to speak to the interconnectedness between myself and the one who resonates with them. I see it as a gift given from one creative spirit to another. This brings with it a sense of joy and accomplishment, and also a sense of something hidden and undefinable.
As an artist and maker, I believe I somehow always create my pieces for a specific person. People are all so unique and beautifully individual, and this is something I desire to celebrate in my leather goods. I never create exactly the same piece twice, always changing the details, and even customizing them, such that each piece is as individual as the person it was created for. For me, the pleasure comes not only in the reward of the creative process, but also in the moment the customer connects with a piece, and discovers that it was made especially for them.
Celebrating individuality is something that I embody and firmly believe in, and this uniqueness is apparent in each item that I create. Despite the advice from many people, trace of grey has remained strong in the philosophy of doing everything by hand, never out-sourcing or bringing in the idea of mass production.
With this comes a higher price tag, one that t.o.g clients understand and appreciate, as they know that they truly are purchasing something unique, created from the heart, one piece at a time, by one person, that will last them a very long time. I want my pieces to remain special, to retain that quality of personal touch, where only I work on the product, and it is imbued with my creative energy. It also allows me complete control over the quality and craftsmanship, enabling me to stand behind the products 100%.
Uniqueness, pride in quality and attention to detail is what makes an item from trace of grey designs worth the investment, and what will create a bond between you and your t.o.g item. An item that will be used and enjoyed every day, become a conversation piece, and be delighted in as it changes, evolves, and becomes a part of you and your life.
Leather is the medium I have chosen to work with because of its tangibility, its imperfections, its longevity, and its inherent quality to become more beautiful with use and time. I mostly work with cowhide, but sometimes I choose other hides that are lighter in weight (lambskin, pigskin, goatskin) for elegant detailing. All of the leather I use is full grain. This is important because of its inherent durability.
I am mostly drawn to earthy tones, perhaps because this is my own colour palate of choice and earth tones tend to go well with most things. Each season I do choose one 'colour' or something unique in texture to throw into the mix. This is fun for the inspiration it brings to new design ideas.
Vegetable tanned cowhide is a favourite for t.o.g. The majority of the tanning process is without chemicals and the hide is left undyed. As a designer and artist, this is like having a blank canvas in front of me. Veg tan leather can by hand dyed and embossed. When left to itself, it will darken to gorgeous tones of caramel as it is used and exposed to UV light. It literally suntans. The end result, both in texture and colour, is not something that could ever be manufactured.
I source the leather from two suppliers, both local to Vancouver, BC. (the majority of the leather I use is from the USA, Italy, Mexico and South America). Going shopping for leather is a most enjoyable process because I get to hand pick each hide myself. It can take quite a bit of time to find just the right hide, with just the right edges and unique markings. It is well worth the effort though.
The hardware I choose to use is also hand selected by me. I aim to find the best quality, and, whenever possible, will choose solid brass hardware. I am always on the hunt for unique buckles, closures etc., and these can be found in the most unexpected places. Good hardware is key to creating a good design, not just for its function, but for the aesthetic beauty it adds
I design and hand craft each item in the t.o.g collection the old school way. Leather is hand cut with a ruler and knife, holes are pre-punched, one hole at a time, and pieces are then stitched together completely by hand, using needles and thread, love and patience. I don't have multiple projects going at the same time, rather, I give my undivided attention to the one in front of me. This allows space for design ideas to surface in the process, and, when the piece is finished, I experience a tremendous sense of completion.
I am so grateful to call 'work', that which I love to do.