TSL (The Superior Labor) – Thinking and Creating

MAKE  •  [publish-year]


June 2019, Pauline took her annual trip to L.A., as always, with the plan to visit Baum-kuchen, a shop and studio very similar to our studio and market. Baum-kuchen’s lifestyle brand is an integration of German Bauhaus and Japanese wabi-sabi ethos, brought together harmoniously in Los Angeles, and reflective of the owners’ Wakako and Fido’s backgrounds. The products they create and curate online and in their shop are beautiful, expressive, and very functional. They were one of the first retailers to introduce us to the TSL brand, and one of the first in North America to bring in their product.

The Story of TSL

Broad cuts, durable textiles, and vibrant tones. Each item developed by The Superior Labor is the culmination of engaging one’s imagination within the freedom of the open landscape, and the result of the hands and the histories of their makers.

A special collaborative workshop between TSL and Baum-kuchen was being held for those who wanted to experience and participate first-hand in the craft and process of making with TSL. Naturally, Pauline was in attendance. Raw canvas items of all shapes and sizes, already prepared to be customized by participants were organized and presented throughout the shop. Custom-made stamps, patches, a plethora of brass fittings, and a rainbow of paints were at finger’s reach to enlighten the creative process of making alongside the owners of TSL.

The Superior Labor brand and its prefecture reflect the owners, Makoto-san’s and Yoshimi-san’s growing understanding of the need to work and live within an open, unencumbered environment to fully express one’s self. Their compound is located 50 km from Okayama – just a 20-minute train ride away. Their workshop inhabits a previously active primary school that was built in 1949 and closed in the 1990’s. Always seeking freedom in their working environment, Nap Village – the name of the prefecture – is purposefully sited on the mountainside, surrounded by forest. Old cherry blossoms, maple trees, and ginkgo trees remain and thrive on the grounds, carving a space for employees and residents to rest, take their lunch, and socialize. The owners’ home is also sited within the compound where they live with their family (a dog and two children), while classroom spaces have been transformed into a leather atelier and office. The TSL retail shop in Nap Village offers a dynamic space that features standard products, new items, and limited-edition garments, with the option to order custom-made pieces on site. Unique experiences are always expected via workshops to help customers and visitors get a closer look into how the products are crafted. The couple also spends significant time at schools guiding workshops and sharing their love of thinking and making without boundaries. In this case, with children – which they attest – is paramount in its capacity to continuously inspire new ideas.

Combining experience and knowledge in leather and canvas material, in addition to a background in car mechanics, the work-wear inspired pieces created by TSL express a creative understanding of combining high-quality materials through attentiveness to the material’s inherent qualities. Original brass fittings are gently tapped with a wooden mallet by hand for dimension and presence, then tacked onto each piece. The application of paint not only adds colour but functionality, providing waterproof durability – ultimately giving purpose to this aesthetic treatment. By way of the machines they use every day, there is clear know-how and craft, from a treadle sewing machine for leather items for ease of rotation and beautiful stitching, to the use of other heavy-duty sewing machines that work to combine various materials like leather, cotton, and nylon.

Creating durable pieces that become more beautiful with time is their expertise – pieces that soften and weather. Fine leather notebook carriers, for example, the ones we use and love, are keepers and organizers of thoughts that we can sense will endure and grow beautiful patina. Expect a life of positive moments and perhaps a change in organizational habits with these products. We know you will covet them as much as we do.

Keeping Company with Volume

READ  •  [publish-year]


Meditations on how to help others is part of our everyday. We look not only inward but toward the people we work with and become close friends with, for inspiration and guidance. Today we acknowledge chef Sharon Steward, with whom we had the privilege of developing a beautiful, educational cookbook with during the summer of 2017. She is someone who thinks with her heart, but with all of the brains behind it. She always has others in mind while staying true to what she is most passionate about: food, community, family, and her faith.

The Community Food Share Project

By trade, Sharon is a Red Seal Chef with years of experience in both the back and front of house in some of Canada’s most revered restaurants. She holds a sommelier diploma from the International Sommelier Guild, and is currently the head chef at InterVarsity Pioneer Camp Manitoba, a seasonal outdoor camp on an island in Shoal Lake.

Today, Sharon is busy spearheading an initiative that is responding to the times in a most generous and innovative way. Sadly, due to COVID-19, Pioneer Camp may not be in operation this year, a place where many children, staff, and volunteers spend their summers. But, as the chef, Sharon has retained important connections to food sources, which she has thoughtfully redirected to those in need.

The Community Food Share Project supports anyone who is struggling to access wholesome food in this challenging time. Whether caring for a young family, for oneself, for elderly family members, or for a community – the program functions to provide nourishing meals to many people in the city of Winnipeg and surrounding areas via food packages for purchase, and also subsidized for those in need. A very special part of those packages is the inclusion of a copy of the Volume: Cooking for a Community cookbook in packages that are purchased. All items within the food parcel are ingredients Sharon would have used to cook meals at camp. The book is a resource that will help anyone who receives or purchases a package understand what the food is connected to. To camp; to a community that values food, to an ethos of sharing food.

Visit https://www.volumecookbook.com/community-food-share-program to learn more about how you can engage in The Community Food Share Project.

In Touch with The Superior Labor

USE  •  [publish-year]


The Superior Labor flagship brand has its roots in Okayama Japan. Husband and wife team Makoto and Yoshimi guide a team of artisans and designers in ethical production of beautiful utilitarian lifestyle products that are carefully stitched by hand. They are a brand dedicated to absolute craftsmanship and tactility. Their workshop called ‘Nap Village’ consists of the owners home, an old school house where their factory is located, and a lovely restaurant. Each product is designed to promote and enhance the characteristics of the raw materials – primarily fine leather and canvas.

This past spring, our Creative Director Pauline Boldt was fortunate to connect with the owners of The Superior Labor in Los Angeles – a meeting graciously organized by longstanding friends of 26 Projects and owners of Baum Kuchen – a lifestyle studio and shop located in the heart of Glassell Park, where the the meeting was held. It was a profoundly inspiring afternoon spent in the company of creative, like-minded individuals – those who share a love and appreciation for beautiful, consciously crafted and designed utility products that, in essence, can be considered complete works of art. To witness hands at work while engaged in conversation / sharing dreams and ideas made for a truly unforgettable experience.