our view.

our story.

our craft.

care for every. single. thing and person you touch.

Dan

Mallory

ragknarr

How it all began

During my senior year of college I was in my Grandma Ruth’s living room, excitedly telling her my post-graduation plans. Our family culture was one of agreeable nods and polite deflection, so I’ll never forget when she looked me intently in the eye and stopped me mid-sentence, “Why? What makes you so sure that’s what you should be doing?” I had no answer for her. This direct challenge was unexpected, refreshing and a moment of unfiltered human connection.

Four years later Ruth died suddenly. I was in my Boston apartment when I got the call that Ruth had suffered a brain hemorrhage and passed, forever ironically on my Grandfather’s birthday. In the weeks before her funeral I struggled to process her death. I asked myself the questions she no longer could. Why? She had been completely healthy and active, why had she passed like that? What happened now, what did family life look like without her? And the biggest question I had no answer to - why was I doing what I was doing with my life?Accepting and honoring her death (something about gaining her as an internal voice). At her funeral I committed to follow a dream I’d stifled years before - attempting a continuous hike of the 2,665 miles from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail.

In Spring, I was sitting at my mother’s sewing machine in Olympia, Washington, intimidated and overwhelmed. Scattered and draped around the crafting room were the pattern pieces for a lightweight hiking backpack. The hike’s start date was approaching and I had still not finalized my gear. I questioned myself. “Who was I to sew my own backpack? What if I couldn’t do it? What if it failed at a critical point along the months’-long journey and all my gear and food just tumbled off a mountain-side? What if I failed?”

I was blogging my pre-hike preparation, including cutting out the backpack fabric and I owed myself and my 11 followers at least one good attempt. I took a deep breath, shrugged, picked up the first two pieces and started clumsily sewing. I messed up. A lot.I The sil-nylon fabric was slippery and liked to unfold at just the wrong moment. I broke a needle so bad that parts of it were jaggedly sticking out of the seem - I had to work them out with pliers. There were hours of painstakingly taking out stitching with a seam ripper. 2 days later, I ended up with a backpack that was somehow, some way, robust, lightweight, and exactly what I needed.

Two weeks later I swung the pack and myself into the back of a minivan alongside five other hikers and their gear. We headed east from San Diego. As we jostled along the desert roads I talked to the bright-eyed bearded guy next to me. His name Marty, from D.C. and he wanted to hike the trail before starting Med School in the fall.” Before I could finish my first sentence he interrupted me “Wait! You’re from Olympia? I’ve read your blog!” He reached over and scooped up my pack. “You sewed this, right!?” The remaining 60 miles of the car right we talked design techniques the unending search for the right adventure gear. As the sun came over the horizon painting the sky in rose and gold, we were dropped off at the starting point of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Insert lots of walking. No like, a lot of walking - I walked so far I couldn’t feel the bottoms of my feet. I walked so far I lost 45 pounds, I walked so far the bones in my feet separated enough my shoes grew 2 sizes. And I received the trail-name "Uphill".

101 days, 5 pairs of shoes, 3 US states, and 5 million steps later I walked into Canada. Now what?  As I began applying to engineering and consulting firms, I felt a slight pull, a gentle magnetization away from these responsible and stable careers and toward….something. On the hike I felt the strong pull of ‘north’, it was always the ‘why’ behind the 14-hour days of walking - it was the answer to the question “Where are you hiking to?”. I would love to tell you I had this grand idea and vision for the company I would start but that would be rewriting history through my current lens. Here’s what I knew - I wanted to stay connected to the feelings I had on the trail, that was my ‘North’ now. I had already made hiking gear that lasted 3,000 miles, that became my ‘what’. In searching for a name, I kept coming back to the nickname I had earned on the trail - “Uphill” (because I celebrated every uphill climb). In September of 2014, we founded Uphill Designs in my studio apartment making bamboo hiking poles with recycled champaign-cork handles.

Today we are focused on creating community through our Ballard Design Studio and sharing our obsession with leatherworking through classes, events and lasting products. You won’t find us making trekking poles anymore (although you can see a relic from Mal’s pair in our studio windows), but the underlying, magnetic pull of Uphill's 'Why' is the same. Whether it’s a hiking backpack or a fanny pack, we believe the things we carry are expressions of who we are. Languages bridge the gap between ourselves and others.The language we speak is connection, we just happen to use leather to express it.

P.S. If you really vibe with what we've been saying here, we have a small clique of Co-Designers. Great humans who give us their opinions on next products and are the FIRST to test out our new releases at a discount. E-mail codesigner@uphilldesigns.com and we'll get back to you.

our story

care for every. single. thing and person you touch.

During of my senior year of college I was in my Grandma Ruth’s living room, excitedly telling her my post-graduation plans. Our family culture was one of agreeable nods and polite deflection, so I’ll never forget when she looked me intently in the eye and stopped me mid-sentence, “Why? What makes you so sure that’s what you should be doing?” I had no answer for her. This direct challenge was unexpected, refreshing and a moment of unfiltered human connection.

Four years later Ruth died suddenly. I was in my Boston apartment when I got the call that Ruth had suffered a brain hemorrhage and passed, forever ironically on my Grandfather’s birthday. In the weeks before her funeral I struggled to process her death. I asked myself the questions she no longer could. Why? She had been completely healthy and active, why had she passed like that? What happened now, what did family life look like without her? And the biggest question I had no answer to - why was I doing what I was doing with my life?Accepting and honoring her death (something about gaining her as an internal voice). At her funeral I committed to follow a dream I’d stifled years before - attempting a continuous hike of the 2,665 miles from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail.

In Spring, I was sitting at my mother’s sewing machine in Olympia, Washington, intimidated and overwhelmed. Scattered and draped around the crafting room were the pattern pieces for a lightweight hiking backpack. The hike’s start date was approaching and I had still not finalized my gear. I questioned myself. “Who was I to sew my own backpack? What if I couldn’t do it? What if it failed at a critical point along the months’-long journey and all my gear and food just tumbled off a mountain-side? What if I failed?”

I was blogging my pre-hike preparation, including cutting out the backpack fabric and I owed myself and my 11 followers at least one good attempt. I took a deep breath, shrugged, picked up the first two pieces and started clumsily sewing. I messed up. A lot.I The sil-nylon fabric was slippery and liked to unfold at just the wrong moment. I broke a needle so bad that parts of it were jaggedly sticking out of the seem - I had to work them out with pliers. There were hours of painstakingly taking out stitching with a seam ripper. 2 days later, I ended up with a backpack that was somehow, some way, robust, lightweight, and exactly what I needed.

Two weeks later I swung the pack and myself into the back of a minivan alongside five other hikers and their gear. We headed east from San Diego. As we jostled along the desert roads I talked to the bright-eyed bearded guy next to me. His name Marty, from D.C. and he wanted to hike the trail before starting Med School in the fall.” Before I could finish my first sentence he interrupted me “Wait! You’re from Olympia? I’ve read your blog!” He reached over and scooped up my pack. “You sewed this, right!?” The remaining 60 miles of the car right we talked design techniques the unending search for the right adventure gear. As the sun came over the horizon painting the sky in rose and gold, we were dropped off at the starting point of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Insert lots of walking. No like, a lot of walking - I walked so far I couldn’t feel the bottoms of my feet. I walked so far I lost 45 pounds, I walked so far the bones in my feet separated enough my shoes grew 2 sizes. And I received the trail-name "Uphill".

101 days, 5 pairs of shoes, 3 US states, and 5 million steps later I walked into Canada. Now what?  As I began applying to engineering and consulting firms, I felt a slight pull, a gentle magnetization away from these responsible and stable careers and toward….something. On the hike I felt the strong pull of ‘north’, it was always the ‘why’ behind the 14-hour days of walking - it was the answer to the question “Where are you hiking to?”. I would love to tell you I had this grand idea and vision for the company I would start but that would be rewriting history through my current lens. Here’s what I knew - I wanted to stay connected to the feelings I had on the trail, that was my ‘North’ now. I had already made hiking gear that lasted 3,000 miles, that became my ‘what’. In searching for a name, I kept coming back to the nickname I had earned on the trail - “Uphill” (because I celebrated every uphill climb). In September of 2014, we founded Uphill Designs in my studio apartment making bamboo hiking poles with recycled champaign-cork handles.

Today we are focused on creating community through our Ballard Design Studio and sharing our obsession with leatherworking through classes, events and lasting products. You won’t find us making trekking poles anymore (although you can see a relic from Mal’s pair in our studio windows), but the underlying, magnetic pull of Uphill's 'Why 'is the same. Whether it’s a hiking backpack or a fanny pack, we believe the things we carry are expressions of who we are. Languages bridge the gap between ourselves and others.The language we speak is connection, we just happen to use leather to express it.

P.S. If you really vibe with what we've been saying here, we have a small clique of Co-Designers. Great humans who give us their opinions on next products and are the FIRST to test out our new releases at a discount. E-mail codesigner@uphilldesigns.com and we'll get back to you.

DAN

It's Olympia, in the early 90's. There’s no going outside (rain, rain, never go away), and thanks to my hippie-renaissance parents there’s no TV in the house. Their one rule? The words "I'm bored" were not allowed. So my sister, brother and I would fly downstairs to our sanctuary of possibility. Our basement was filled to the brim with legos, puzzles, board games, card games, Lincoln logs, books, paints, and crafts.
Now it’s Seattle, Washington in the early 20’s, and  the rain seems here to stay. That's why I started The Creative Basement at the Uphill Workshop - I love sharing our craft through products and classes but free form crafting and connecting (and mimosa-drinking) reminds me every Saturday why I do what I do.
The only rules? - the words “I’m bored” are not allowed.

MAL

Dan and I were at a consignment store and I remember turning around, catching just a glimpse of a sleeve and someone knowing I had found… It. The shirt was 90s vintage with shoulder-pads and a strong earth-toned design.  I’ve worn it to everything form a wedding to a brewery. Because I feel damn cool when I put it on-I feel allowed to be me. Maybe it’s a little superficial, but I believe the products we use can help us SHOW UP WITH CONFIDENCE -- and that's special.

At that moment, the way I designed just clicked - my intention is to make you feel like I do when I put on that shirt, because I believe it's ok to feel cool (my definition = being yourself, not fitting in.)  Yes, I’m a stickler about beauty, perfection, durability, and fit but if our product doesn’t pass the Shoulder Pad Shirt Test, if it doesn’t help you express you, we’re not going to make it.

RAGKNARR

When I turned one, the breeders I was born to breeders who decided to abandon me on the side of the road because no one wanted to buy me and now I was too old. Luckily, a foster mom rescued me and through her I met my new parents and found my forever home. In their excitement, they took me out on a very wet &rainy hike two days after with the brand new leather collar and leash they made me. In my excitement, I proceeded to pull Dan up the mountain so voraciously that I end ended up both stretching the soaked leash and hurt my throat a little. I spent the next day honking constantly, and they were terrified they had hurt me already. Of course, I healed easily and I had Dan make me this beautiful leather harness. If you come visit me at the Uphill Studio, don't forget to grab me a treat from the bowl outside!

our view

you're in a toxic relationship wtih amazon

On Monday, January 13th, we received our first online order of our leather duffel and we felt pumped, (but also delightfully surprised and a tad unworthy). Since we know that when you buy a bag, every last detail matters and should function exactly as YOU need, we reached out to the customer, Lorelei, to see if she had any additional requests (specialized sizing or a customized slip pocket). We also were dying to know,  “with so many options in the online world, what made you decide to work with us??” And she gave us a peak behind the scenes of her purchasing journey:

Lorelei was planning a trip to visit her sister and needed a bag for it, so she did what she often did when she needed to buy something - she pulled up Amazon and found a $50 “leather” duffel (we could go on forever about genuine leather but we’ll leave that for a different time). But something didn’t feel quite right. The bag looked okay, but Lorelei had recently found our shop and felt drawn to our leather and designs - she pulled up our $1,000 duffel on the other side of the screen and was utterly conflicted. If she went with Amazon, she was making the responsible, money-conscience choice, but then stopped herself — was she really?

So she called her father - her primary point of contact for grounded, straightforward advice, even after a couple decades out of the house. After hearing her dilemma, her father told her, “Lorelei, one of those duffels may not even last this one trip, the other one is going to last long enough for you to pass on to your son.”

Boom. Duffel purchased with no second thoughts, no guilt, no buyer’s remorse. Caring about the things you use and investing in quality isn’t an indulgence, Lorelei told us she felt responsible and confident spending her money on unique heritage leather goods, especially knowing that we fix anything we’ve ever made.  Lorelei broke out of the cheap product cycle that we can all too easy to fall into, because here’s the thing: You are in a toxic relationship with Amazon. There, I said it (it hurts my heart a little but I’ve always been the one who will tell you if that dress doesn’t look good).  

Cheap, instant gratification only leads to disappointment and waste. Companies like Amazon want you to believe that it’s just the way the world is now, but you’re smarter than that - you’re an ahead of the curve free- thinker and you have a choice.  “That’s the way it is” has always been on the wrong side of history anyway. We believe this is more than just about products.  Every thing you use and surround yourself with (down to the bag or wallet you carry) is a statement of you, your values, and an outward expression of the things you care about. Amazon has offered a mass-manufactured answer to human existence and we want no part of that.

Our answer is to journey with you in the process of crafting these intentional products, so that what you carry serves you. Call us up or send over an e-mail and let’s talk about co-creating that perfect heritage piece for youyour future go-to, everyday, special occasion, choose above all other things,(inanimate) love of your life product made by people who truly give a damn.

our craft.

there should be no mass-manufactured answer to human experience.


To commute from our cozy (read: small) studio apartment to the Uphill Designs store we have to cross one street and a local fast food joint. During one of these times I stopped, mouth agape (no, seriously this isn’t an exaggeration) to read their new sign claiming some offering as ‘handcrafted’. I went from my dead stop into a sprint, swung open the door to the workshop with gusto and yelled at Dan “sound the alarm, ‘handcrafted’ has officially lost all meaning.

A franchise owned by a 30 Billion corporation is using the same wording we were. It’s something I had already knew and I avoided using the term whenever I could but this was the last straw. I mean, Whiskey has legal meaning, should Handcrafted? At the same time,  I’m thankful that this problem exists - it points towards a re-discovery for appreciating human-made goods, and of course big companies are trying to capitalize. The desire to show off how and where things are made creates connections between people and products, but let’s face it - human connection can’t be faked. And you can’t be fooled by their attempts.

We’re proud to have built an ethos of craft, care, and intention into our business model and plan to stand by it. Our goal is to share what we truly value in an intentional manner with others who share those principles. We know the whole world can’t work like this (because let’s face it, the age of instant! prime! now! deliveries makes buying cat litter a lot easier), but our neck of the woods can. We believe that beautiful, human-centered heritage goods crafted with loving intent are worth waiting for. Because, despite the offerings many business put out -  there should be no mass-manufactured answer to human experience.

We are two humans, designing and crafting pieces that we are obsessed with (and we argue over every tiny detail and Mal wins only 93% of the time). We started manufacturing in a studio apartment with a hobby sewing machine and E-xacto knives to cut leather (thanks Uphill for future early-onset arthritis). Eventually moved into in a 160sqft back-alley workshop in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle going to as many farmer’s markets and holiday pop-ups as we could (in 2017 we hit 176 days of markets. Oofta). With this marathon of markets we learned 2 things: (1) There is no substitute for direct human interaction & customer input.  (2) even when we said we made everything people were skeptical.  But we did and still do and the desire to flip the traditional model of retail on its head began to grow.

In early 2018, after a lot of hustle (and definitely some luck and privilege) we received the opportunity to explore these two things when we signed the lease on our 1500 square foot workshop in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Our goal in opening our workshop was to create an open floor plan where visitors could walk in an experience our products being designed and made in the same space where we sold them.

No model existed for this, so we got to work building our own. We invited friends over to help us demo the space. We tore out the rubber flooring and renovated the beautiful concrete with first a jackhammer and then a diamond  grinder. We painted the walls (‘Fleur de Sel’ & ‘In the Navy’ if you need to know). We ordered lumber at the local lumber yard and built a specialty 12’x5’ crafting table and custom shelving (made to look like mountains, obviously).

And 6 weeks later, we’d built out a blended workshop and retail space with the goal of showing what handcrafted truly meant. On May 3rd, 2018, we opened our doors to the Public. From Day 1, we were astounded by just how much our story and craft landed when people were able to see it. We constantly work to unveil our process, to share with our visitors, whether online or in-person, how we dream up, design, and make these heritage pieces. We seek to create spaces in our shop and on our website that inspire ‘aha’ moments that land our ethos in a significant way. I’m not talking about breaking into a rendition of Take On Me (although that’s acceptable too). If you haven’t made it to our shop, here is a behind the scenes look of this process as it plays out in our actual (not curated,  customer-facing) workshop.

Our four hands can only do so much and we like it that way. We love not having to chase margins or increase shareholder value and this means we can use the absolute, no-compromise, last-forever materials like full-grain leather and solid cast-brass hardware. If it looks at first like that other bag from Madewell is just as good - it isn't and time will always win out.  Our limited production means each we can take time and care with each piece ensuring that it’s built to last, and if we built it, our Shopdog Ragknarr guarantees that we’ll fix it.

When I was young I spent a summer with my aunt and I remember being shocked to find out that she spent $400 on a vacuum, of all things.  This is until I went home and our $39 vacuum broke once again and had to be replaced. Then it clicked — quality goods make a difference and  I doubt I’m alone in making the mistake of going for the cheapest option now only to regret it later.

We make things a bit differently than companies that believe the lowest-cost, throw-away item is a way to win repeat business. Here’s some things to expect with our goods. Our constant iterations and handcrafting process makes every product a one-of-a-kind. Our full-grain leather is characterized by small differences in dye, natural range markings, and varying grain patterns. Because we're lucky enough to interact face to face with so many of our customers are products are always being refined and slightly changed. If you receive something that is slightly different, then you’ve found the golden ticket - one of the many constant design improvements we’re able to undertake because we keep our process 100% in-house (if you didn’t already think you were cool, hellooo one-of-a-kind!)

Once you receive your product, our goal is that you now have a once in a lifetime heritage piece that add value to your life and become infused with your experiences. every. fricken'. Day. You haven't just found a bag, you've found THE bag. If something should happen or go wrong with your product, reach out, we guarantee our goods for the lifetime of the product. If we made it, we’ll fix it.

And yes we do custom work, if you have something you're S-T-O-K-E-D about, let's talk.

-Dan & Mal