By Brian Cameron
The small community of Mohler, just a few miles up Highway 53, brings the area’s newest artisan business to life with Walnut Studiolo.
A family-run operation, Walnut Studiolo is the brainchild of Geoff and Valerie Franklin. Newcomers to the Highway 53 area they decided to bring their passion for small towns and Portland-area bike culture to the coast in an entirely unique fashion, the utilization of leatherworks.
Leatherworking is a lost art amongst today’s propensity for plastics, polymers and alloys. For Geoff though the thought of working with modern materials seemed out of touch and frankly much more difficult than using materials he knew.
“After I thought about it for a while,” said Geoff. “Leather is the primary material for every point of contact with a bicycle.” He said as he hoisted his classic road bike to show off the different pieces he’d custom made to accent the sleek cruiser. “I wanted to create something I could put on my bike that I could easily make on my own.”
Specializing in niche leatherworks, Walnut Studiolo makes a wide variety of leather products, many of which cater to an avid bicycle community. Anything from shoulder-slung blueprint cases, bike-mounted six-pack holders for your favorite craft beer, satchel bags, golf club holsters, and even pull-handles for drawers and doors to be used for interior décor.
Their travel-games are becoming popular with dice holders, a leather domino set, cribbage board, playing card holders and also are trying to offer accoutrement products to the burgeoning legal marijuana scene in Oregon with joint-cases, stash holsters and lighter sleeves.
Walnut Studiolo originally started with a basic online Esty shop and a rudimentary webpage but it didn’t take long for customers to clue in to what kinds of fine quality, custom products the studio produces. Now they have a much more comprehensive online store to offer their products from.
“It kind of all started with this small leather bike handle,” said Geoff as he pointed to a small strap of leather that spanned the lower part of his bicycle’s frame near the front chain sprocket. “This allows you to be able to comfortably lift and carry your bike under one arm.” The strap was actually the result of a Kickstarter campaign, which was then noticed by the New York Museum of Modern Art (NYMOMA) and featured as part of their series of innovative new products in the museum itself and has since been featured in the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art as well.
“We do almost all of our sales outside of Oregon,” said Valerie, who handles most of the marketing and online sales, shipping and distributing. “In fact 95 percent of sales are from outside of the state and roughly 25 percent go international,” she said.
The Franklin’s pride Walnut Stuidolo’s success on catering to the niche market of the region’s bicycle and artisan scene but also mention that they only work with USDA qualified leather that was created domestically in the United States rather than purchasing cheaper and less reliable product from places like Mexico, Brazil or elsewhere.
The leather products Geoff and Valerie create are highly unique and intrinsically one of a kind and it takes a great deal of time and effort to create them, though they do sometimes offer custom work they prefer to create their own products especially as demand goes up as time goes on.
“We were originally planning on retiring here on the coast,” said Valerie. “But after an unexpected professional shift we decided to follow our dream and make a go of it.”
Walnut Studiolo products can be found by visiting their website at: walnutstudiolo.com. Or you can arrange a meeting by appointment to visit them at the studiolo.