Free things to do

Maker Feature: Koester

From time to time, we feature makers by asking them for their stories and portraying how they excel in their craft. We’re honored to share this feature of Austin Koester of Koester. Austin was generous enough to give us a few precious moments of his time, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share some of his story, struggles, successes, and insights:


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“Mine is an unlikely maker story.  I never set out to design and create custom bags. My initial desire was to make clothing.  As a kid with a lanky, awkward frame, clothing never fit in a flattering way. I wanted to figure out how to make things for myself, but I had no idea how to sew.  I didn’t even know anybody who knew how to sew.  It’s funny—and only a little embarrasing—to think of it now, but part of my experimenting involved I taking my pants apart and glueing them back together to make them “fit better.”  This worked about as well as you would expect.

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When I moved from San Francisco to Louisville, I was able to afford some space and a used industrial machine to work with. Once again, I was in over my head: I had no idea how to use it. Even if I did I would have no idea how to make anything with it. I started by sewing seams on my painters drop cloths from work and eventually that evolved into making tote bags. Tote bags are so simple, but it felt so cool to make something that I could actually use. Friends started asking me to make bags for them and soon the designs evolved and became more complex and functional. 

I think everyone who sets out to build their own business inevitably faces tons of challenges. For me, the greatest of these has been fear: fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear of not meeting expectations.  I tend to be a perfectionist, which I hope is reflected in my final product, but it can also feed my struggle with fear. It's super hard for me to let a product out into the world that I think could be just a little bit better, or a letting a website go live that I'm not 100% happy with. If I let all of these thoughts and fears take control I would never get anything done. It’s something I have to work to overcome all the time. 

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One thing that has helped me overcome fear is to see how people interact with the things I make.  I get so much joy out of seeing people actually using one of my bags. It's so awesome, especially when it’s an item that I made years ago. I strive to create timeless products that will be used well and then last for years. To see that in action is both exciting and fulfilling.  I hate the idea of one of my products being purchased, used a few times, and then tossed in a closet to be lost forever. I love seeing a bag or apron that is beat up and dirty. That’s a sign that it’s being used how it’s supposed to. 

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I’m so thankful to live where I live.  Louisville is an incredible city. I wouldn’t want to have started anywhere else. We have a hyper-local mentality. People here have so much pride in things made in their city. I have received so much support and encouragement, and that inspires me to continue to sharpen my craft and put my products out there for people to see, appreciate, and (hopefully) purchase.”

-Austin Koester

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Checkout more from Austin here.

Photos by Josiah Bice

Maker Feature: Bott Illustration

From time to time, we are going to start featuring makers by asking them for their stories and portraying how they excel in their craft. Our first feature is Brian Ott of Bott Illustration. Brian was generous enough to give us a few precious moments of his time, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share some of his story, struggles, successes, and insights:


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“The fine arts were made part of my life before I really had a choice. In many ways they have best defined my family's skill set for three generations. So for me as a kid, it didn't feel all that special. It honestly felt like another necessary subject in life, the only difference being that I absolutely loved it. 

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In high school, I majored in the arts in my local magnet high school, and went on to pursue the same in college. Around the age of 20, painting and drawing took a distant back seat in my affections as music began to take over my time and passion.  I had felt a certain lack of purpose in my art, which made it start to feel purely aesthetic.  And at the time, that didn't seem like enough.  With music, I found a catalyst with which I could communicate a message.  I had always felt that I had something important to say, and music gave me that outlet in a significant way

But after a few years of neglect, my heart started to ache. Truly ache. I felt torn.  I had convinced myself that I was 100% a musician, so why did I feel such a hole from not making art? And did I even have the time for it? The answer to the second question was no, I didn't have the time. The problem was that the answer to the first question was yes, I'm just as much an artist as I am a musician, and I decided that it was worth carving out the time to do it. 

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One thing that hadn't changed, though, was a sense—and even guilt—that I lacked a certain of purpose in my art. I was still stuck on having this need for a message, but all I really wanted to do was make pretty things. At some point (it must have been a gradual evolution), I came to appreciate beauty as a purpose in and of itself. As the world gets darker and more bleak, the worth of making something beautiful for other people becomes increasingly valuable.  

Almost 3 years ago, I started a series that hasn't quite seen its end even today. I call it my Wild Life Series, and its a harkening back to my earliest love: drawing animals. Sticking with this one subject for years now has helped me brand myself.  In turn, my art has reached hundreds more people than ever before. 

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I feel so blessed to be able to make art and be supported in my endeavor, by my amazing wife, and the wonderful community here in Louisville. This city is local loyal to a fault, and I love it for that. 

Whether you have been making art for a long time or maybe just thinking about trying your hand at it for the first time, I would want to encourage you to finish what you start. Even when you fear something won’t turn out the way you were hoping, don’t give up. Because you don't fully fail until you finish something, and you don't fully learn until you allow yourself to fail.”

-Brian Ott

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Checkout more from Brian here.

Photos by Josiah Bice

Maker Story: Timber Woodcraft

At Made Market, we love makers! Recently, our friends at Timber Woodcraft set aside some time to share a little bit of their story and passion for their mission and craft.

Timber Woodcraft is one of the 70 handmade vendors who will be sharing the fruit of their skills and labor at our Made Market Holiday ‘18 Louisville event on Saturday, December 1st. There are many holiday markets that these makers can choose from, and we feel so honored to host each of them this year.

Made Market is always open to the public, and there’s no admission fee. SO, if you’re looking for free things to do in Louisville this holiday season, come support local and regional small businesses, and get all of your Christmas shopping done early!

AND don’t forget if you live in West Michigan, our Grand Rapids Holiday Market is coming up on December 8th!