Ray Lansburg and Lindsay Thompson make things out of leather. Good things. Really good things.
Ray and Lindsay are The Blackacre.
Ray Lansburg and Lindsay Thompson knew that they would form The Blackacre before they knew what The Blackacre would be. Friends of two decades, their shared penchant for artistry drove them towards design-oriented pursuits. They dabbled in t-shirts and photography (primarily of metal bands in Los Angeles, naturally) before discovering a love for and fascination with leather. Both speak of leather’s tactility, tangibility and natural origins with a reverence that is a testament to their deep personal understanding of the material.
Ray has the kind of casual nonchalance that can only be born of being accustomed to doing something so well for long enough to no longer see it as extraordinary. He just does it. His hands know what they’re doing: the perfect tension required for a certain stitch in a specific spot is programmed into his fingers. But his nonchalant adroitness transcends the routinized tasks of his craft – it seems to define the way he reflects on anything he has done or is doing.
“Yeah, I built a motorcycle one time. I’m just one of those guys I guess – I can look at something, read a book about it, and then just make it.”
- Vertical billfold wallet with snap closure.
- Leather from Tärnsjö tannery in Sweden: one of the only tanneries in the world to use exclusively organic vegetable-based tanning.
- Limited production of 12 pieces – the maximum possible from one leather hide.
- Exclusive collaborative design between The Blackacre and Nice Work, available at Shelter Half. Made in The Blackacre workshop in Fullerton, CA.
- Dimensions: 4" tall x 3" wide x 5/16" thick.
Get him talking about something new, though – something rapidly breaching the horizon, just beyond his current scope of mastery – and the excitement pours out of him. It’s a spontaneous enthusiasm unexpected from a seasoned, well-practiced craftsman. This is a man who thrills in treading new and uncertain ground, and in approaching perfection with an uncanny rapidity – making the rest of us look borderline inept in the process.
For Lindsay – a working architect – conception and design are bread and butter. His love for his work as an architect is clear, but leatherwork fills a need by allowing him to take a designer’s final steps: execution and delivery. In his architectural work – he explains – he conceives and designs. Once his final designs are drafted, however, his work is finished. With The Blackacre, Lindsay is afforded the opportunity to conceive and design, but then to proceed through execution: construction, and delivery of a physical object to its end user.
The Blackacre workshop occupies a space behind Ray’s home in Fullerton, California. Part of a once-working automobile shop built in the 1920s, the room and its surrounds have a feel of repurposed purpose-built.
While many of any week’s evenings find Lindsay in the Blackacre workshop, Ray is in the workshop every day – and often all day. For him The Blackacre is both daydream and day-job. While their process is truly collaborative, each man brings clear and unique strengths to the workbench.
Lindsay laughs as he states that more often than not a new product is born of Ray stating unequivocally that he’s no longer happy with a current design. This dissatisfaction with a product’s status quo is born of Ray’s insatiable need to learn more about his craft – in a tone equal parts ribbing and admiring, Lindsay deems his friend the “researching madman.”
Triggered by Ray’s product declamation, a conversation ensues and evolves over days or weeks. A new design idea is iterated over multiple meetings – concept is hammered out in conversation, after which each man independently drafts his interpretation. When the drawings are brought back together, design discrepancies become the focus of continued discussion, and the process repeats until equilibrium is achieved. “Compromise,” Ray names it, glancing sidelong at Lindsay. Lindsay grins. They know each other well.
The boys of The Blackacre are nothing if not perfectionists. The brilliance and beauty of their products are testaments to their unwillingness to compromise on any part of their design vision and process. The elements that define a design of The Blackacre serve both to reveal Ray and Lindsay’s aesthetics and to demonstrate their considerable skill in working with leather. Organic curves, minimal straight edges and double-needle stitching highlight the skill with which The Blackacre’s products are hand-assembled. Heavily burnished edges and tall pockets are intended to highlight the natural beauty of their chosen medium. No design element is come upon by accident – everything a user experiences with his Blackacre product is the result of a decision Ray and Lindsay have agonized over and argued about, over beers, in the Blackacre workshop.
There’s a genuineness about the way Ray and Lindsay carry themselves; an honesty and fidelity that translate to the leather objects they make. They are not satisfied to just make something to the best of their abilities – it is only worth their effort if they are making something that can stand as an emblem to what can be accomplished with the medium they have chosen.
Nice Work is proud to collaborate with The Blackacre on our debut design: a well-thought and well-wrought leather wallet.