November 8, 2017
Celebrating the local craft and traditions of Mexico and California, Nipomo was founded by mother-daughter creative team Elizabeth and Liz. Together, they collaborate with local artisans from their home country of Mexico, designing a modern product using traditional techniques.
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting story behind it?
I grew up in San Diego and have lived in the bay area for the last ten years so I have driven up and down the coast of California quite a bit. There is a small town on the central coast named Nipomo, which always stood out in my mind. I did a little research and Nipomo is an indian word meaning “foot of the hill,” which I felt was appropriate for starting my own business at the bottom of the hill. Nipomo has an interesting history as well, it turns out it served as a trading post between northern and southern California. Its founder, William G. Dana and his wife Maria Josefa Carrillo raised 13 children there, all of whom learned both English and Spanish, as well as the native language of the Chumash indians. They lived their lives celebrating the union of different cultures and preserving the local history.
Have you always been passionate about design?
Yes! I have always loved making things! I have memories of making clothes out of printer paper and garbage bags, to characters out of seed pods from trees that I foraged. In high school I drew and painted a lot and ended up being fascinated with making paintings of chairs. I love how universal and timeless the chair is as an object and how unique it can be. I didn’t realize it until later but I was making two-dimensional art about my love for three-dimensional designs.
Why did you start working in this particular craft?
I grew up in San Diego, on the border of California and Mexico. My mom, being from Baja, shared with me the different world that was just across the border and I grew up experiencing the amazing culture, color, and craft of Mexico. After studying industrial design and working for an outdoor gear brand I decided I wanted to change it up and get back to my roots. I wanted to work with people in Mexico and share some of that color and culture that I loved. My mom and I started searching for people to work with, specifically for textiles. It took some trial and error but we now work closely with a family in Tijuana who has been working with weavers from a small town near Puebla, in central Mexico, for the last 30 years. Through their partnership we are able to collaborate with the skilled artisans and create our own unique color ways and designs. We have been able to meet the weavers and see the process first hand from spinning the yarn to the final weaving.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
I think starting your own business will always involve sacrifice. I think for me I put in so much time and especially when I was working full time and doing this part time I wasn’t giving time to myself or my friendships. It was hard to balance, especially because I love working on my brand! I have been better about working certain hours and taking time off on the weekends to do other things besides work.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
San Francisco and Oakland are amazing cities with so many different people living out distinct lives. I love that the bay area has so much to offer from dense urban spaces to amazing lakes, rivers, and forests to explore.
What valuable experience did you have before starting your business?
Out of school I started to work for an outdoor gear company in San Francisco. I was so lucky to be a part of that community. I got to learn and understand the ins and outs of running a small growing business as well as having the chance to design a whole range of products for them. I started Nipomo on the side while I was still working there which also helped take away the stress of success or failure.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
I had so much I wanted to make and create for Nipomo that I couldn’t do it while working full time. Even still doing this full time it’s hard to do everything!
What are some inspirations for your work?
I am lucky to be in the Bay Area and being constantly inspired by the outdoors and the beautiful natural world that is so close to escape to. I also love to travel, seeing new cultures and ways that people live, eat, play are great sources of inspiration for me.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Keep at it! If you have something you want to make, make it, see what works and what doesn’t work. I think design and making is a constant progression. Your work is never done. When I first started Nipomo I was making small lavender pouches by hand and eventually found a direction for my brand that worked for me. It will most likely not be perfect the first time around and that is ok!