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an almost finished Roll Clip Satchel.
the studio and storefront at Parliament the Boutique.
flip flop patterns in a row.
the studio at Parliament the Boutique. Amadeus is our Grand Rapids ambassador.
branding flip flops in the studio at Parliament.

my story

My name is Elyse Marie. I grew up in a little town in the heart of the midwest called Rockford, which lies just north of the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It's the type of town that comes out of a storybook, with white picket fences, neat little homes, respectful neighbors, and encompassed by farms, woodlands, and lakes.

I grew up in a highly progressive home. My parents were the type to answer every question my brother and I asked, spent endless hours reading and playing games with us, and indulging all of our creative and intellectual pursuits. They took us camping and to historic sites and parks rather than on canned vacations to disneyland. They taught us the value of nature, our place within the animal kingdom, and our duty as guardians of the earth. We were taught to question, to learn, to grow; they taught us how to think, as opposed to what to think. Form and function could and should exist in mutual accord in the objects which we surround ourselves with, and aesthetic experience was the joyous fruit of honest labor.

This was extended by the environment around me. Rockford, and the rest of Michigan, was a place where you do-it-yourself, before DIY was a trendy term. It's the home of built to last, made in America, and (long before Project Runway coined the phrase) making it work. Your neighbor on one side had a hand in building your car; the other, your sofa; the one across the street, your shoes. You make your car run a hundred thousand miles, and resole your shoes rather than throw them away.

As so often happens with kids from such a home, I took to interests highly divergent from my upbringing as I entered my teenage years. I wanted to pursue a career in fashion, and though my parents groomed me for a practical career in teaching or business, they also encouraged my creativity. I made all my clothes and formal dresses throughout high school and helped produce the costumes for my school's theater department. I enjoyed making beautiful things that were useful, and wanted to make it my career. My parents finally agreed to send me to school for fashion, provided I went to one that offered scholarships for my high grades and a variety of avenues for honing my degree to get a job.

Thus, I landed at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I was still passionate about fashion, but I came to realize something was missing. I first intended to focus on evening wear, then sportswear, but I found them empty. Where was the meaning I was searching for in the things I create? Fashion was an consumptive cycle, make it, buy it, throw it away. It was Andy Warhol who said everything in your closet should have an expiration date, the way milk and bread do. It was a endless spewing of more junk into an already junk-filled world.

The missing thing was time. It was value. It was the home-grown idea of the objects surrounding you having meaning because they were both beautiful and useful, and were made by someone you know.

I chose to attend SCAD because of it offered a minor in accessories design, which I believed would help broaden my appeal in the job market post college- while I was there, they made it into a full major, and when I took my first class, I fell in love. I had found my niche, and could make things that mattered. What stays in your closet year after year? Not a dress, not a blouse, but your shoes and your handbag surely do.

I was further encouraged by my professors in college to start my own business as I blossomed in the accessory department. My mentor and professor, Shana Hall, helped me turn my senior capstone into a small business based upon the handmade values and organic inspiration which informed all of my work.

Littlewings Designs is my reconciliation of my upbringing and values with my passion. I can create things that are useful for years to come; I can create only what I need, in limited numbers; I can source materials that are quality and safe, and will eventually disintegrate back into the earth from which I came.

I know I can't topple the fashion cycle. But if I can impact one person, then I have done something. If one person buys a pair of my boots that can be resoled rather than the plastic pair to throw away after three months, I have made a difference to the earth. If one person can easily find their keys in the same pocket of a handbag for ten years, then I have done my job. If I make a wallet that someone buys tomorrow and 50 years from now a child sneaks into his grandfather's bedroom to touch that worn smooth leather and smell its age, then I impacted all those people that associate that long-loved piece with the man they love, and for that child I have created a memory that will last long after my body is gone and is food for the trees. And in making a memory, I have captured a moment in time.

That is my goal, passion, and dedication with Littlewings Designs. And with these pieces of leather and simple sewings hands, I hope to give the same to you.
elyse marie
owner
the maker, designer, and all around one man band behind Littlewings Designs.
maker, leather worker, stylist, dreamer, and adventurer. Littlewings and a little magic.

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