Meet the Dreamer: Alan Slattery
Minnesota native and keeper of my heart, Alan passed his formative years with a constant, curious spirit, eager to learn how things worked. Over the years, this translated into many passions: french horn, fixing motorcycles, sewing aprons with his mom, making leather moccasins, and many more. After falling in love with me he decided to make the South his new home and we set out to build a life together. He refined his skills at SCAD with a BFA in Accessory Design where he learned not only to design, but physically craft shoes and handbags that can rival any major fashion brand. He is the designer behind all the beautiful leather accessories we carry in-house and he makes all of it at his home studio in the heart of Woodlawn.
1.What was your “aha!” moment? When did you first realize that you could turn your hobby/interest/dream into a reality?
—My “aha” moment came on our 1st anniversary trip to Savannah, GA. I saw a bus go by the Gryphon Tea Room advertising the Accessory Design program with Savannah College of Art and Design, and I realized, "Wait. Someone has to design the shoes and bags in stores. That's a thing! I could do that?!'
2. Once you got started, what was the highest moment and the lowest you found in your first year of pursuing your passion?
—The highest moment for me would have to be my final project in Drawing 1. I went from drawing shaky scribbles to creating a fully realized, detailed still life in charcoal by the end of the year. It was then I realized I really could do this, have the talent, and that this was the place that would teach me the skills I wanted to know. My lowest point was learning computer design programs. I am much more hands on and able to learn by 'doing', so it was difficult to know what I wanted in my head but being unable to make it happen because the programs were so foreign to me.
3. Is there a specific member of your profession who’s inspired, motivated, or taught you something that’s furthered your career? What is that lesson?
— It's hard for me to be specific. It has been a massive collection of meaningful odd moments. I absolutely love shoe making and that is largely in part because of my incredible professor Marcell Mrsan with his unyielding attention to detail and quality.
4. Have you ever hit a point where you wanted to give up? What pulled you through those moments of doubt?
—The times I have wanted to quit usually come when I have an expectation or idea of what a product should be, but lack the skill level or knowledge to create it as I’ve envisioned it. It can be so discouraging to fall short of my own expectations. Having a strong network of people to give me advice, critique, and reasons why it is objectively successful encourages me to continue on my path.
5. What was the first concrete encouragement or validation you received after you began, be it praise from a loved one, an award, or some account you secured?
—The most meaningful validation I received came from my temperamental Hungarian professor during my Footwear 1 final. I brought the first full pair of shoes I’d ever made, and the usually stern man clapped me on the shoulder and stated in the most sincere and serious voice, "Very nice job. Excellent."
6. How do you fill your creative well and keep your talents and passions fresh, outside of projects for monetary gain/business pursuits?
—I really enjoy learning about any old world craft. It fulfills me in a way I can’t find anywhere else. I can pass hours at a time watching videos or reading books on Victorian architecture, how to timber frame a cabin, weave fabric, and the list goes on and on.
7. Everyone has a different version of a work-life balance that feels healthy for them. What does yours look like, and how did you find it?
—Finding a work-life balance is hard, and something that is always evolving. For me, it is capturing meaningful moments with my immediate family free from phones, television, noise, and the general chaos of the week. This usually involves taking Sunday off with my wife and son, spending time in nature, cooking interesting food, and resetting for the week ahead.
8. What is your routine for creative clarity that helps you focus and get down to business? I could be music, a certain candle, a cup of coffee, etc.
—I find my best moments of creativity while looking at historical paintings, photographs, or books. I enjoy bringing elements of the past into the present. I’ll light a candle or incense in my studio, and try not to listen to any music that might steal my attention away. Usually classical. Then, I’ll sketch the inspirational item I’ve brought just as it is and then tweak or add new features to make it my own.
9. Some people say not to dream big, but I think everyone who dares to break off a tried and true path must do just that. So what is an outlandish dream you have?
—My outlandish dream would be to buy an estate or castle in Europe and restore it to its rightful glory. This entails so many things that I love: travel, design, history, craftsmanship, and hopefully learning a new language along the way.
10. If you had the opportunity to take a creative pilgrimage in your life, where would it be? What would you hope to gain by it?
—I feel as though my ideal pilgrimage is always shifting and evolving. At the moment, if I had to choose just one creative trip, I believe it would be to Japan. I have always loved the simplicity, intentionality, and perfection the Japanese are able to achieve. I would love to see Japanese Bespoke Shoemakers and stay in traditional houses and spas in the rural countryside. I have always wanted to see it in the winter as well with mountains of snow. I have never experienced winter in another country and I think it would be neat to experience such a foreign culture with the magic of snow.