A Rough-and-Tumble Canoe Playlist
Bring on the Waylon Jennings and the Merle Haggard.
Willie! And friends!
Is there a musical genre that sounds more badass (and pure awesome) than “outlaw country?” Because that’s what inspires Natalie Davis and her line of handcrafted leather goods, Canoe. Below, a dozen songs—many by artists who live around her neck-of-the-woods, Austin, Texas—that get Natalie going. Listen to the whole shebang on Spotify! —meghana gandhi
“Mother Blues” by Ray Wiley Hubbard
“‘The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, those are really good days’—this is my mantra for 2013.”
“Just Breathe” by Willie Nelson
“Cover of a Pearl Jam song—and a beautiful rendition. Willie is the patron saint of Austin and a living legend. Last year, I saw him perform for the first time in Canyon Lake with my mom and my husband, and it was truly amazing.”
“Born to Be Loved” by Lucinda Williams
“Lucinda’s songwriting is really poignant and raw, and her voice is slightly rough and beautiful.”
“If I Needed You” by Townes Van Zandt
“My husband and his mom danced to this at our wedding, and it was really touching.”
“Bowspirit” by Balmorhea
“I listen to the Austin-based band Balmorhea when I am writing or thinking through tough problems.”
“Waltz” by Mother Falcon
“Another Austin-based group—an ensemble orchestral band with amazing energy that’s so fun to see live.”
“Dancing Barefoot” by Patti Smith
“Thanks to my roommate from freshman year of college, I was indoctrinated with Patti Smith daily. I am so thankful for that. She is always in the back of my mind while I am designing—what would Patti Smith do?”
“Good Hearted Woman” by Waylon Jennings
“This song embodies the classic country theme of sacrificing for love. I love the live version with Willie Nelson singing with Waylon.”
“My First Gun” by Crooks
“This is an Austin-based band that I’ve gotten to see perform in some classic honky-tonks around town. The first time I met the frontman was at the farmers’ market, and I thought, ‘This guy must be in a country band.’”
“Clementine” by Sarah Jaffe
“I listen to this on repeat and find myself humming this song while tooling leather.”
“Emmylou” by First Aid Kit
“These girls have my heart. They’re Swedish folk singers who really capture the spirit of the Southwest. Their songs get stuck in my head for days at a time.”
“I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” by Merle Haggard
“When I’m having one of those days where nothing is going right, I put this song on. You can’t help but tap your foot and sing along.”
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Inside Natalie Davis’s Studio…and Butcher Shop
Yes, for reals.
Recently, the Austin-based designer Natalie Davis moved into a new 300-square-foot studio space—HQ for her unfussy leather-good line Canoe—and she and her husband Ben opened a butcher shop, Salt and Time. But wait, there’s more: Jay Colombo, the architect who designed the meat haven, works for the same firm that did the studio complex, and the spaces have common elements (like polished concrete floors and expansive white walls). Not surprisingly, Natalie’s channeling similar vibes for both spaces: clean, natural, and vintage-inspired. —meghana gandhi
The Inspo: Georgia O’Keeffe and Ghost Ranch
Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio at Ghost Ranch.
Sleek, minimalist stools at the butcher shop.
“Georgia O’Keeffe is a total idol of mine. The way she lived her life and set up Ghost Ranch and her studio are so inspiring because they were so pared down; only the things she needed were there. I still joke with Ben that in my head the butcher shop is Georgia O’Keeffe’s butcher shop—I think she really celebrated where she was living. Part of the butcher shop is this nod to Texas—this idea of it as the West, the range, the cattle. I’m on the prowl for skull heads (lamb, goat, and chicken) to fill up some of the shop’s big white walls—an utterly bizarro mission—and I’m going out with a photographer friend to photograph some cattle on a ranch outside of Austin.”
The Inspo: Tools and Techniques
A damn cool tool wall, for inspiration!
Natalie’s collection of tools.
“One of the overall things for the studio is creating a utilitarian space, where the tools are really the décor in a way. My blog is called Tool and Tack, and I’m obsessed with getting the right tool for the job and building this collection of tools. As for the shop, there are three giant windows straight into the cutting room so that customers can watch the butchers work. There’s total transparency to build trust with our customers.”
The Inspo: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose
A super-slick idea for the studio!
Vintage meat case at the butcher shop.
“I’m waiting for the antique event Round Top to look for the kinds of pieces that have a lot of history to them—the older pieces that have been through multiple lives, like vintage leather tools, old barn wood—that I can re-purpose to make a showroom wall and inspiration board. In the butcher shop, we have a lot of older equipment that we’re waiting to install—equipment that has a story to it. When you’re in this business, you’re standing on the shoulders of giants.”
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In graduate school, Natalie Davis wrote her thesis on the storytelling power of patterns. “When you look at patterns, you focus on shape, color, etc.,” she explains. “But all of those choices have meaning.”
These considerations have always been significant to Natalie’s work: She is a graphic designer by training and launched her first venture, a home goods line called Miss Natalie, in 2007, inspired by handkerchiefs that her grandfather and father carried. After moving to Austin with her husband in 2009, Natalie began experimenting with leather, working from the couple’s new digs overlooking a lake. The outcome: a new brand suited to her new environment. “Canoe had this rustic quality to it, but it also had this timelessness,” she says. “When I think about canoes, I think about the time I spent on the water, the calm and peace.”
Natalie’s handmade leather pieces—bags, jewelry, wallets, and keychains—evoke this sense of serenity. They’re simple and straightforward, but they still make the most of her pattern-obsessed background, working in elements drawn from the mosaics she saw during her Catholic school days, Arabic textiles, and, no surprise, the Western boots that speak to her new surroundings. —meghana gandhi