Artisan Feature: MINNA
We always appreciate a brand that produces high quality and ethically produced products with an attention to craft preservation and contemporary design, so it’s no wonder why we are swooning over the entire MINNA line. We chatted with Sara Berks, founder of MINNA about the importance of craft preservation and social responsibility, what gives MINNA their signature look, and her 1810 farmhouse in Upstate New York.
Tell us how MINNA got started.
About 6 years ago I left my job in digital design to freelance. I was feeling generally burnt out from the agency world and needed a change. I taught myself to weave, mostly to explore as an art practice. I really fell in love with the technique, the process, the fibers. I quickly wanted to start making physical products, not just one-of-a-kind pieces, which lead me to start looking into artisan production. I traveled to Mexico and Guatemala, and the collection grew out of these first early partnerships.
We love your dedication to craft preservation and social responsibility. Tell us a little about how MINNA exemplifies these values.
We are constantly striving to bridge the gap between ethical production and contemporary design. We do so by focusing on artisan production using traditional craft techniques because it helps to ensure craft preservation and job creation. The artisans set their own wages and we maintain a sustainable workflow by placing regular orders that they can depend on to support themselves and their families. Consistency has always been a priority: even when sales are slow, we consistently place orders by focusing on product development instead of production. We are also paying close attention to where our materials are sourced and striving to ensure as little impact on the world as we can.
Tell us about your home. What is your favorite space?
I have an old farmhouse that was built in 1810. It has a lot of character — and a lot that needs fixing. Everything is a little crooked and a little slanted. My favorite space is the sun porch. We have a little couch out there and some plants. I like to sit out there and have coffee in the mornings with my dog.
How would you describe MINNA’s signature look?
I think we're known for mixing very abstract kind of quirky patterns, with minimal, paired down basics.
What is your process of designing a piece and where do you go for inspiration?
I find inspiration in a lot of different places. When developing a new collection, I always begin by formulating the color palette. Then I experiment with the colors creating drawn or painted patterns, sketches, and sometimes I still weave swatches. A lot of my earlier designs were based on my woven pieces, and now I use that as a way to explore color and textural interactions quickly in person before sending to the artisans. All of our designs are based on an understanding of the technique we're working with.
You travel to Guatemala and Mexico several times a year to meet with the craftspeople who make the MINNA collection. Tell us a little about those trips and about the artisans.
Production trips are usually a whirlwind - early mornings, long, bumpy, windy car rides, multiple layers of language translation, colorful textiles. Depending on where I am, things look a little different. We're usually working on new samples together, making sure textures and patterns are coming out correctly, and generally checking in on everything. This face time is so important to me and I think builds an overall better working relationship.
Tell us more about where you live in Upstate NY! How’d you end up there and what is one of your favorite aspects of living there?
I live in Germantown, NY which is a very small town in the Hudson Valley. There's only 2000 people! We're close to larger towns and smaller cities, such as Hudson, which is where our store is located. My wife is from the area and that's sort of what lead us there. We were both ready to escape Brooklyn and the hustle of living in the city. Honestly, the hustle hasn't quite stopped for me with owning a business, but just being a calmer place filled with nature and a generally slower pace makes me love it here.
We’d love to know what you are currently loving at MINNA. What is one your favorite pieces right now?
I'm the most excited about our new kitchen and tabletop pieces — aprons, oven mitts, and pot holders. Also, the ikat collection was a labor of love and I'm so excited with how they all came out.
If you had to give advice to someone just starting a business, what would it be?
Make a business plan! Be patient. :)
What’s next for your company?
So many things! But, actually, we've grown so quickly over the past few years — the team, the number of products we offer, the sales, the impact — that it's time to focus on making sure our infrastructure is solid. What's next is making sure everything is in place for the next 5 to 10 to 20 years of MINNA. :)
Describe your style in three words. Quirky, Asymmetrical, Minimal
Favorite weekend hang out? Somewhere outside with good food and drinks.
What would your last meal be? Tacos
Favorite vacation spot? Vacation? What's that? Probably a beach somewhere or an interesting city with lots of museums to visit.