Jenny Kulas is a leathersmith
Klaus Goods is a Melbourne made handcrafted leather and canvas goods company. Jenny's products stand out in the crowded accessories market by doing what is often the most difficult for any designer - stripping the product back to its most utilitarian state. Luckily for us, Jenny's trained eye for aesthetic reduction compliment the timeless qualities of leather to create beautiful, highly functional objects of desire. This dynamo designer sure knows the way to an architect's heart, as our recent catch up revealed influences of the Bauhaus, film and travel on the production of Klaus Goods.
Business: Klaus Goods
Owner: Jenny Kulas
Location: Melbourne, Victoria and online
Who are you and what you do?
I founded Klaus Goods in October 2012, after about over nine months of developing hand stitching and leather crafting skills.
I’ve always had an interest in making things. I studied Art History in my undergraduate degree and dabbled in various expressions of textiles, art and photography alongside my internships. All of these experiences have influenced my personal aesthetic preference for clean and functional design.
I love working with the unique quality of leather, especially the vegetable tanned products I predominantly us, which have a self-evident quality and innate sense of luxury.
Alongside Klaus I'm currently studying my Masters in Production Design at the VCA, and work as an assistant to a child psychologist two days a week.
Production design is so highly conceptual and planning based, so leather work provides a great contrast, in that it's much more practical. I’ve found I really enjoy the process of physically making something. The quiet time whilst stitching is very therapeutic!
Choosing to start my own business was a very much a response that desire to make things. It also was an invaluable opportunity to gain experience across so many areas of business —marketing, accounting, logistics, creative direction—that really appealed to me and is an element of being my own brand that I continue to enjoy.
Your products are proudly Australian made and proudly free of labour exploitation - why is this important to you?
It was really important to me that I did not feel I was exploiting anyone in the process of running my business. Keeping production local has allowed me to have face-to-face contact with my suppliers and customers and the relationships that have developed from this are incredibly valuable to me.
Over time my motivations for running Klaus have evolved; the capacity for community through local manufacturing and retailing has become increasingly important to me and I am committed to maintaining local production of my products to facilitate that.
What is the one tool of your trade you cant live without?
There are probably a few! But, as boring as it sounds, it has to be my computer. So much of my work revolves around email communication, online retailing and using design programs, I would be at a loss with out a computer (and internet connection!).
What are you most proud of professionally?
Honestly, I am most proud when I see Klaus customers using their items in everyday life. I’m not sure that that will ever stop being incredibly elating.
My intention is to create functional objects that are a beloved feature of everyday life. When I see customers using products in just that way, I have a great sense of satisfaction.
Where do you find inspiration?
There never seems to be a shortage of inspiration, it’s a matter of taking the time to jot my ideas and impressions down that have taken some significant practice! In terms of leatherwork, I have two inspirations; material and technique.
I did a short course in Textiles at TAFE while in school, so I suppose I've always had my eyes open for inspiration in that area. After I graduated my bachelor I travelled to India and Sri Lanka, and last year I was able to go to Japan, where I discovered the most amazing leatherworking tools, which really transformed my technique. Western approaches to leatherworking are quite tedious and repetitive; in the Japanese tradition there is a lot more efficiency built into each movement of the hand, and a much cleaner aesthetic. I found a lot to love there.
I also find inspiration in the timeless quality of leather as a material. When I was in the US I managed to arrange a studio visit with a leather artist there, a man whose work I had first encountered in Japan. I eventually tracked him down in New Jersey, and was expecting this really slick modern outfit, but was pleasantly surprised to find this real mom-and-pop business in the middle-of-nowhere-New-Jersey. I was thrilled to be able to visit his workshop, I learnt so much just by being in the physical space and seeing and understanding things in a way that would never have occurred over the phone. Just being able to ask questions and have him point to examples of stitch types or tools was immensely insightful. Persistence definitely pays for that kind of experience! It took almost three months of organising and reorganising to arrange that meeting.
Other broader, but significant inspirations for me are; film - at the moment I am somewhat obsessed with Yasujiro Ozu! And the other would be reading, which is a great starting point for me creatively, and the way I self-taught a lot of my leather skills. Lots of reading!
Tea or coffee? This is like asking which of my (hypothetical) children I love more. If I really, really had to pick one, I would say coffee.
Savvy, Sass or Study? Oh gosh, that’s hard. I am going to say study as that is certainly what I need to do to get ahead and I also really value hard work in others.
Want - learning or opportunity? Both are always a great thing! At this juncture, it is time that I am most lacking and I think this can best be thought of as opportunity.
Need - apprentice or expert? Apprentice— Klaus Goods is certainly growing and I am starting to consider the need for assistance in the studio to accommodate a growth in production.
Superpower: The ability to stop time would be pretty amazing! I could use an extra hour or so here or there!
Friends of Klaus Goods
Ostro— my friend Julia Busutil is an amazing cook, incredible stylist and lovely person. Her food is delicious and she has an incredible eye.
My friend Zach Oakes runs a fantastic coffee business called Profile. They are currently re-branding but will be launching in August. We are working on a design project together, which I am really looking forward to. Watch this space!
How can I contact you?