Los Angeles-based Keegan Uhl is a born craftsman.
In fact, he probably built his own crib. We say this not only because his gorgeous handmade goods are so elegantly designed and executed to the highest standards -- oh, they are -- but because his self-admitted obsessive attention to detail and desire for perfection is as much a part of his DNA as his eye color.
“I take a practical approach to design, nothing is superfluous”, he told us. “For example, stitching is beautiful and elegant, but should always be functional.” Born in Madison, Wisconsin and raised in Boston, Keegan’s exacting approach to his work comes down to four key propositions:
Simplicity. Function. Elegance. Durability.
"There is no substitute for superior quality raw materials. My leathers are supplied by two U.S. tanneries: Horween, tanning superior leather since 1905 in Chicago and Hermann Oak, tanning in St. Louis since 1881. I use top quality thread made in Maine."
Problem solving = excellence.
Keegan draws inspiration from many quarters – a songwriter cousin’s crumpled diner napkin lyrics, for example – but his creative juices really get going when he runs into a problem.
A problem he just has to solve.
“Most of my products start with ‘I wish I had X’ or ‘I wish I had something that did this a little better than the thing I’m using now.’ Or when someone says to me, ‘hey, can you do this?’ I always want to the answer to be ‘yes,’ so then its off to the races to design something."
Take Peter Limmer, Jr., one of Keegan's idols.
Peter makes custom fit leather hiking boots in the White Mountains of New Hampshire using the same methods his grandfather developed a lifetime ago as a shoemaker in Europe: hand stretching each piece of leather over the other, executing every single step in the boot making process. Every single time. To Keegan, this is the only way to fly. "A well made product will survive to a storied old age", he says, "whereas so much of the disposable goods that populate our lives are soon and easily forgotten."
Keegan picks up a recently finished wallet from his workbench, and examines it closely.
After a moment, he nods; the wallet passes muster.
"I have great respect for people like Pete, still investing time and expertise into their craft", he says. "To me, this is priceless and why I take pride in personally handcrafting my products."
Keep it up, Keegan, and one day Peter Limmer, Jr. will call you his idol.