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Zelma Rose

American Made Since 2010
2014 Style Finalist

Lisa Anderson Shaffer

Fairfax, California
At Zelma Rose we create tried + true American handcrafted accessories for men and women that combine classic style + modern design.
Finalist California
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Tell us about your business.

Zelma Rose was established in 2010 by designer Lisa Anderson Shaffer and inspired by the Anderson Family tradition of skilled American hand craftsmanship. All of our goods are handcrafted by Lisa in our mountain top studio in Northern California. We craft in limited editions to keep our designs fresh and use the highest quality materials to keep you looking your best. Classic but never ordinary, that's what we do. Almost exactly four years ago I came home from my office, walked in the front door and said to my husband, "I think I'm done." He said, "Good, I don't think you've been happy for a long time." I was shocked and could feel my heart falling right out the bottom of my feet. I hadn't used my hands in nearly 6 years and no matter how fulfilled I thought I was, not making is simply not an option for an artist. If it's in you, it's in you. Pay attention. It will not go away. This I promise. Shortly thereafter Zelma Rose was born and we haven't looked back since.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

The Zelma Rose studio sits atop the mountains in Marin County, California. Surrounded by trees and rolling hills of green and gold the views and natural beauty never cease to amaze. Tucked away in nature but a short 18 miles to bustling San Francisco we have the best of both worlds at our fingertips. I love the sound of the wind rushing through the redwood tree tops and I often see how far I can gaze at the high branches moving back and forth across the valley from the studio windows. It is incredible to be surrounded by such vast nature and then hop in the car, drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and be right in the middle of San Francisco. In the studio, I love to surround myself with old tools that have been passed down in the family. On my desk you will always find my grandfather's wooden ruler and hand made plaining tools, wooden tool box, my grandmother's set of scissors, and photos of my husband and daughter.

What inspires you?

I am intrigued by the inner working of things and once spent an entire summer drawing broccoli. When I sit down in my studio to design for Zelma Rose, I reference a kaleidoscope of ideas and images. As an artist, I am a hunter and a gatherer. A visual editor, a collector, a cultivator, and a farmer of ideas and design. Sometimes a design will come to fruition in a single afternoon, other times it is the careful cultivation of successes and failures over the span of a year. Some of my designs are a year in the making, when one day everything just clicks and...magic. I am constantly inspired by the contrast between city and country, redwoods and skyscrapers, dirt and concrete. This juxtaposition is a recurrent theme in my work and was the driving force behind creating our Hand Dyed Bow Tie and Pocket Square Collection. To outfit men working in the city with a bow tie that was hand dyed in my mountain top studio was the ultimate coming together of both worlds.

What makes your business stand out?

People always find this strange, but I do not sketch my designs. I write everything down in words in a notebook and then go straight to prototype. This is probably exactly what you are not supposed to do, but I love the changes that take place in the process. By listening to the materials and responding to what they are doing I always end up going somewhere a little bit different then I had imagined. It's exciting, challenging, and feels very genuine. I still to this day make every single piece that leaves the studio. The relationship with my materials and design is one that I value highly and I love passing that meaning on to my customers. The relationship between a maker and their work is intimate and intense. I want to share that experience, magic, and artistic process with you when you make a purchase from Zelma Rose. I carry with me the work of my family through my hands and I want to share that care and enthusiasm in making something just for you.

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

Don't get caught up in where you are now compared with where you want to go. Say YES, maybe all the time at first to learn what works and what doesn't. Most importantly don't be afraid to fail. Miserably. Happiness in life and in business is about how we respond to failure. It's only failure after all.

What does American Made mean to you?

American made is all about keeping it local. Knowing who makes the things we buy, where they come from, and what path they have taken to arrive at our door. This is what separates being a maker from being a manufacturer. I purchase as many supplies as possible locally, even if it means spending more money and going through a middle man. It is important to know where things come from. For instance, the dyes and fabric that we use to make our Hand Dyed Men's Collection is from Dharma Trading Company right down the road from us in San Rafael, California. I love being able to go to the store, speak with the staff, get informed about the materials I am buying and feel fully educated about our product from start to finish. This fully knowing is what American Made is all about.
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    June 23–Sept. 9, 2014

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