In our new ‘Maker’ interview series we speak to exceptional artisans and craftspeople who create carry in-house and by hand. First up is Spencer Nikosey from Los Angeles-based KILLSPENCER…
How does your brand/process speak to the notions of “craft?”
For the past 8 years we have been designing, developing, and manufacturing our products in our own manufacturing facility every day. We build products from scratch by hand using the finest materials; hand cut using knives we make in-house as well. We use the best sewing machines, hand tools, and parts to build products that will last the test of time in small batches. We care about every stitch, every cut, and every detail. We are so proud of our craft and love working together in LA.
What are your tools of the trade?
Every product idea starts with a pen and sketchbook. A Moleskine Sketchbook and Pilot Hi-Tec-C pen. For the past 10 years, I have kept a sketchbook in my back pocket and have hundreds of them filled with ideas I want to create. We have industrial walking foot sewing machines, specialty foil stamping machines, machines for cutting and processing leather and other materials, custom made dies, presses, and machines that make our process more consistent and fine-tuned. We have a laser-cutting machine, special vacuum sealers, painting machines, 5-ton clicking machines, and every hand tool you can think of.
“For the past 10 years, I have kept a sketchbook in my back pocket and have hundreds of them filled with ideas I want to create.”
What spurred you to make stuff?
I grew up in a creative household and was always encouraged to create. I was always involved in sports, music, and art. When I started my first band, my dad taught me how to translate the logo I had made into a screen so I could make my own t-shirts to sell at shows. I designed and printed my own flyers, made all of the album art, and fell in love with the process. When I went to California College of the Arts for Graphic Design, I discovered the model shop and wood shop and knew instantly that I wanted to spend my life focused on Industrial Design. So, I transferred to ArtCenter College of Design and got a militaristic design education. I graduated with honors and am now a part-time adjunct faculty in the Product Design Department, and frequently lecture at the school to share my experiences.
“When I went to California College of the Arts for Graphic Design, I discovered the model shop and wood shop and knew instantly that I wanted to spend my life focused on Industrial Design.”
What keeps you excited about making stuff?
There will always be room for improvement and I love looking at what I can do to make something better. I am passionate about all parts of the process and love being involved from start to finish – designing the product, building it, photographing it, designing packaging, composing music for a campaign, hosting launch events – it all fuels me to keep creating new things.
One handy tip or learning gleaned along your journey?
I love inspiring quotes and these three sum it up. I truly believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
“Love what you do, love what you make, and make it to perfection.” – Steve Jobs
“Less, but better.” – Deiter Rams
“Dream it, build it.” – Walt Disney
“There will always be room for improvement and I love looking at what I can do to make something better.”
Walk us through your creative process…
We recently moved into our new factory and headquarters in LA – it’s our biggest and best by far. Here, the process is very simple. Sketch an idea and build it. Photograph it when it’s perfect, upload it to our website, and launch it. I want to build the best products in the world for our customers using the finest materials and equipment. Making products in-house and selling direct-to-consumer has allowed us to build very close and special relationships with our customers over the past 8 years.
What other makers inspire you?
I am inspired by anyone who follows his or her passion and creates work that is pure. I am surrounded by creative people in all different fields and admire the constant dedication to their craft. A few makers that I am inspired by are Rod Emory of Emory Motorsports, James Jean of James Jean Art, Scott Goldberg of Astronauts & Indians, Jessie Kawata of NASA JPL, Dr. Nathan Strange of NASA JPL, Jonathan Ward of ICON4X4, David Wiseman, and Armando De La Torre of Guisados.
“I am inspired by anyone who follows his or her passion and creates work that is pure. I am surrounded by creative people in all different fields and admire the constant dedication to their craft.”
What’s your all-time favorite KILLSPENCER piece? What keeps filling you with pride?
My all-time favorite piece is our Utility Daypack. I design and build things when I can’t find exactly what I want. I’m always traveling with products that I custom made for my trips over the years. Making my own stuff has been a part of my life and routine for many years and fills me with so much energy. I love that these personal projects became good enough after many iterations to be launched as a KILLSPENCER product.
What lies ahead for the “maker movement?”
I think the Maker Movement is just getting started. People are always tinkering with ideas they want to create and now, more than ever, it’s become much easier to inexpensively build them. Soon it will be possible to customize every part of your life. Machines, machine learning, robots, AI, VR, and 3D will allow for specialty everything to exist. I am going to be designing and building for the rest of my life, and cannot wait to get deeper with advanced materials and sciences.
“I think the Maker Movement is just getting started. People are always tinkering with ideas they want to create and now, more than ever, it’s become much easier to inexpensively build them.”