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Journal — Spotlight

Taking The Guesswork Out Of Product Customization

Taking The Guesswork Out Of Product Customization

Custom work has long been one of Billykirk's greatest strengths. Whether stamping a tray with initials or sewing up a custom card case at the Pop Up Flea, we've always been fans of personalization. But as a small, primarily online company, we've had a hard time translating our custom options to the Billykirk website.

billykirk custom supplies

Of course, at events like the Pop Up Flea, these personalizations are apparent as you literally see Chris and Kirk make it right in front of you! Different colored threads, leather, and hardware line the table in front of the classic Kingsley Foil Stamping Machine, heated and ready to stamp your initials into a card case or luggage tag of your choice. To make things easier at these events, Chris and Kirk created the first version of Billykirk's custom options:

Simple but extremely effective, this sheet of paper categorized the options you could choose from, including leather color, cording color, snaps color, monogram, foil fonts, and embossing options. This simple sheet evolved into the first online versions of the Custom 155 and 92 Card Cases seen below.

While this finally brought our custom card cases to the web, it didn't provide any sort of visual representation of the finished product. When Billykirk first launched the retail website, sites like NIKEiD and Van's Customs were just gaining traction, and the notion of a smaller company paying for that type of software just wasn't realistic.

A year ago, we decided that the Billykirk website needed a serious facelift (which is live by the way!). With that redesign, we wanted to create a more visual custom product experience. We discussed options and began drafting out ideas that would be feasible and affordable. Looking at other custom sites, 3D renders or real product image overlays seemed great, but they were scary expensive. After almost giving up on the project, our designer Connor and I discovered how we could use Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) instead.

While Connor created the digital illustrations of our 092 Card Case, 155 Card Case, and 146 Luggage Tag, I began working on the code that would allow the user to see the custom options live on the Billykirk website for the first time. The photo of the No 146 Luggage Tag seen above was customized and rendered in real time on its product page, a sight that brings a tear to our sore eyes.

We also began adding visual embossing to our normal product line. This feature overlays your initials directly onto the product in the spot it'll be when you receive your item. Currently it's only on our trays and small leather goods, but stay tuned as we add it to the entire line!

Bringing Billykirk's custom work to life on the web has a been a great opportunity. I hope we'll have the chance to expand the custom line even further with more products. In the meantime, try out the new custom card cases and luggage tag. We’d love to know what you think!

Look good, write well: 4 gifts for writers in 2014

Look good, write well: 4 gifts for writers in 2014

The biggest New Year’s resolution for writers (in 2014 and in previous years) is simply to write. Whether 80 words or 8,000 words, daily writing is essential – and it’s something a writer can only do for himself. But I know plenty of loved ones want to find the perfect way to show support of writers in their lives – and fancy pens seem to be the go-to gift. They’re beautiful and functional, but they’re also arguably one of the least practical, most-gifted items given to writers during the holidays. Anyone who enjoys writing - whether prose or correspondence – should own a nice pen, but no more than one really fancy pen is needed.
There are plenty of nice everyday objects that can help organize and inspire the authors and wordsmiths in your midst. As someone who writes and edits upwards of 3,000 words a day, I looked through Billykirk’s online collection and found four beautiful and functional gifts I think any writer would appreciate to start the New Year.
1. The leather journal holder
A welcome alternate to a book with blank pages, this journal holder adds a nice facelift to the notebook your friend is already working her way through. Sized to easily fit in a backpack, purse or satchel, it’s perfecting for jotting down ideas on a train, park bench or wherever inspiration strikes, and a pen will always be handy thanks to its built-in pencil-holding clasp.
2. The schoolboy satchel
The leather schoolboy satchel looks important, but not pretentious. It has a timeless nostalgia, seeming to be something Hemingway or Anne Patchett would wear with equal delight. And it would look smart on anyone who aspires to be professionally creative. With compartments that can easily fit a portfolio or manuscript, a laptop and whatever magazine or book a writer is reading in a given moment, it’s practical - while also a nice way to dress for the job you want.
3. The pencil case
Great to stash in or on a desk, keep in a leather satchel  (ahem, see gift idea No.2) or tuck away somewhere with a reserve of those aforementioned fancy pens. The pencil case is a simple-but-handy gift, unassumingly stylish in worn-in canvas, which also helps absorb the mess of any ink leaks. Plus, someone in a writing profession is always the first person expected to have a writing implement on hand: He’ll always know where to find this case and look super on top of the pen situation.
4. The canvas iPad sleeve
While I’m admittedly not inspired by the thought of writing on tablets, friends are increasingly citing this as the journal of the future. Especially those working as on-the-ground journalists. Many of my friends who write have put iPad sleeves on their wish lists this year, and I think this olive one is a great option. While I also like the Billykirk version available in leather, the canvas one would nicely fit inside a larger satchel – and it still looks good as a standalone carry item.
These are great tools to add to a writers’ kit, and here are some reflections on writing to get pens moving and keyboards tapping in 2014:

Leather boxes for simple wrapping with style

Leather boxes for simple wrapping with style

The logic behind wrapping gifts feels flawed: Spending time putting something together that’s intended to be ripped apart. So we’re putting together something that you’ll want to save. Hand-stitched, American-made leather boxes.
These are in the works, and may be available in more colors soon. You won’t find them on our site, but can request orders by contacting us.
If you’re last-minute shopping for this holiday season, be sure to check out our stocking stuffer ideas, as well as our seasonal bags and menswear ideas.

Concrete paperweights: Sturdy, Solid Style

Concrete paperweights: Sturdy, Solid Style

Paperweights have been around as long as desks, but the earliest recognized “classic” paperweights came up in the 1840s, and they were generally made of glass. We think today’s standards invite more sturdy construction, so ours are not your traditional floral weights.
We got together with Concrete Cat to cast some of our classic Billykirk wallets, card cases and other compatibles into durable paperweights.
Why concrete?
Just like our leather is sourced to last and age, we find that concrete has industrial strength but can be sculpted for artistry: We promise the casting system we use doesn’t turn out a cinder block. Our paperweights look and feel like real stone, and each one is unique. Concrete Cat is a partner who makes concrete that is reliable, yet somewhat unpredictable: Each weight has its own shade that comes from a unique toning process.
What’s more is just like we can tell you where every inch of our leather comes from, the materials used by Concrete Cat are sourced within the U.S. and Canada. Environmentally sustainable from places with fair compensation standards.
Industrial strength with style
Check out some of our newest homeware items.
Like a good leather bag, these weights will show some natural wear with age that makes them more customized.

Inside look: Classic & limited edition trucker wallets

Inside look: Classic & limited edition trucker wallets

The pioneers of America’s paved highways kept chained pocket wallets so they could travel freely, riding fast or picking up stranded trekkers and roadside pies, alike.

A moto driver told me his chained wallet is a matter of fashion, though it’s handy, but for 1950s truckers, chained wallets were essential. These highway travelers were generally called Knights of the Road, known for helping hitchhikers or drivers less adept at navigating the open pavement. Chained wallets meant no worries about losing some essential object during random acts of chivalry. They helped fuel the mystique and toughness that made truckers known as modern cowboys - men could be men, and still keep their cash together.

Whether you’re looking for a chain or not, a trucker wallet should be built for the everyday uninhibited journey. No fuss, just sturdy, reliable and ruggedly good-looking.

Billykirk’s classic No.263-163 trucker wallet is made from American-sourced harness-grade leather, featuring a chain of dull nickel (nothing shiny), and a smaller version of this snap wallet has the same look, but is built to a metro pass-friendly size that makes it functionally modern.

I admit to preferring the unchained options, including the limited edition No.263 leather wallet in Olive - made from Argentinean leather with brass hardware, and a version in Tan Pebbled Grain from Chicago’s Horween leather company. The pebbled variety is ready-made with marks. Both are available online only while supplies last.

Chained, unchained, pebbled or otherwise, they’re all designed for today’s urban frontier, whether you're traveling by truck, train, bike or foot.