I visited Tricia Wright, maker of the Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug, and her beautiful home studio in the heart of San Francisco. From bright pop art, mod furniture, to quirky collections – the moment I walked in I knew that I was very much in a designer’s living space. (Times two because – fun fact -her husband is a designer as well!) While her adorable dog, Major, greeted me as I admired her succulent plant collection and charming outdoor deck, she explained how her home has been a work in progress over the past few years. But now, it’s finally at the stage where she’s comfortable with it being as is – giving her a lot more time to innovate and make “stuff.”
“Rugs weren’t always my craft. I bought a loom from Craigslist and actually just learned how to weave this year, ” Tricia laughed as she described to me how she “accidentally” got into weaving. A few months back – Tricia noticed she still had a pile of unused bike tubes leftover from an art sculpture she built. And being the sustainable artist that she is – she didn’t want to throw them out. “At the time – I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to make. But I knew something great could come from them.” When she finally came up with the idea of making rugs out of the bike tubes, she suggested that her friend who knew how to loom professionally take the tubes. But her friend – who obviously knew about Tricia’s incredible crafty talents and natural DIY finesse – convinced her that she should definitely learn on her own. When she saw the listing for the wooden loom on Craigslist – Tricia took it as a sign to stop debating, sign up for local weave classes, and just do it. Six months later, the Reclaimed Bike Tube Rug design was for sale at UncommonGoods.
I was blown away by Tricia’s home and design space (I mean, who wouldn’t be impressed by a wall of beer bottle caps and an entire shelf collection of old-fashioned irons?), but I was even more inspired by her story. I left with a simple reminder: You can’t be perfect in everything, but you sure can try.
Get inside the head of Tricia Wright and see how San Francisco inspires her work, how she celebrates the little things, and why she associates herself with the Karate Kid.
What are your most essential tools?
My bike, my camera, and my shuttle.
Where do you find inspiration within this space?
The act of weaving is calming and the repetition allows my mind to both wander and focus, if that makes sense. Things bubble up while I’m weaving. Working the loom leaves room for a lot of subconscious creativity and inspiration.
Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Well since my studio is in my house there are plenty of distractions or shall we say downtime. Because of the physical nature and repetition of weaving, I force myself to get up and stretch. I’m a yoga addict so it’s easy to get up and slip into a couple of stretches which is not something you can easily do in an office. And when the dog wants a belly rub or to go for a walk, I can almost always say “let’s go!” That’s not great for productivity, but it’s great for the dog.
It’s a tough life.
What was the toughest lesson you learned as a designer starting a business?
I have learned so much throughout my career. I’ve gotten better at not only knowing when to trust my own design and design decisions; but I’ve also figured out when I need help. This comes from years of seeing what has and hasn’t worked. I’ve learned it’s important to ask for opinions and help when you’re stuck or when something isn’t coming together quite right. It’s great to have a community of friends to lean on when you need input. No one can have all the right answers.
How did you come up with the concept of your product?
I didn’t know it as design at the time, but I’ve been designing recycled products since I was a kid. I used to sew and reconfigure Goodwill clothes that “fit” into the strict high school dress code. When I see something being thrown away I go into my typical brainstorm pattern: how can I reuse, repurpose, or remake that thing into something worth not only keeping but enjoying again? This particular product started when I created a sculpture for an art show at our local bike /coffee shop. The leftover tires from that project were piled on the floor, and they looked so comfortable to walk on. I started thinking about all the spent tubes that end up in landfills, and before I knew it, I had a loom in my studio and was taking weaving lessons from a master textile artist in Berkeley.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Read more. My sister would say the same thing to me.
How do you set goals for yourself?
I try to keep my goals to under 3 a day and not get too far down the road mentally. The “future list” is too unattainable and can be overwhelming. I have general ideas of future goals but I believe in keeping it simple. My goals are more like daily achievements so I can see that I have accomplished something, even if it’s small.
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
I have a very supportive family and circle of friends. We don’t make a huge deal out of the wins, but everyone is up for a celebratory beer at the local pub. To be honest, we’re just as likely to go to the pub even if we don’t have anything to celebrate (whoo-hoo, it’s Tuesday!), so maybe that’s not a great answer.
What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“To do good you actually have to do something.” Yvon Chouinard
Action can be louder than words and everyone has a skill that our environment needs. The environment can’t help itself so it’s really up to us as a species to use our own skills, whatever they may be. Doing something positive doesn’t have to be monumental; it can be a simple action. If I keep working towards my daily goals for positive change then eventually I’ll look back and I can see what I’ve accomplished and then maybe a bit of good for our world will have come of it all. This idea drives me to action.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
Ha! Becoming a better weaver will be a life-long process. I was taught by a wonderful weaver and she said just practice and keep doing it. I think of it as a Karate Kid (wax on, wax off) process where I hope to someday have all the weaving knowledge.
How do you recharge your creativity?
Easy – I go outside. One of the best things about working for yourself is you get to take breaks when it makes sense for you. Late afternoon, I find I need to be outside. I live in San Francisco, where I can wander my neighborhood or go for a bike ride by the bay. The city is filled with color – there are great sounds, smells, and flavors. When I come back I’m always happily inspired – you can’t get a much better city.
Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I can’t say enough good things about the weavers I work with. They have not only taught me to weave but they really enjoy helping people as teachers and friends. They have been so generous with their time and suggestions, and they are always there when I have a question. I also rely heavily on new perspectives from my core group of friends when I brainstorm design, marketing or sales techniques, or when need a fresh perspective. I am grateful for all the support everyone has given me.