Give Your Father a Rare Gift
Your father is one of your first friends. He is your teacher, your supporter, and the hand on your shoulder that guides you through life. How do you thank the man that has taught you so much?
In our humble opinion, nothing says “thank you” as eloquently as a bottle of The Balvenie paired with a handcrafted gift of the highest quality.
These are not last-minute gifts that you can find in a mall, mass produced in factories.
These are future family heirlooms, dreamed up in the minds of passionate craftspeople and labored over by hand in small workshops – created with all the love and care that a father shows his child.
Optimo makes fedoras, porkpies, homburgs, straw and several other styles of hats – with straw hats being their biggest business. Graham Thompson is the hat maker and proprietor, and has been running the store for 16 years. He was trained by legendary Chicago hat maker Johnny Tyus. It’s more than apparent that hat making was seemingly always in his blood.
Graham talked about Chicago , the heritage of high-end hats and how the area has changed over the last few decades. Hat culture has never died on the south side of Chicago, and Optimo has remained a premium standard for fashionable headgear. Graham travels the world to get the necessary equipment and supplies to run the business – even to Ecuador three times a year for straw. He once traveled to Germany to pick up old millinery machines from 1901 and 1910 – it’s like a museum in there!
Optimo has made custom hats for Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp and blues legend, John Lee Hooker.
Old Glory hangs in the corner of Scott Hofert’s workshop, and rolls of tanned hides fill the space with a smoky sweet nose reminiscent of a tack room. A half complete, caramel brown satchel sits atop a sturdy table in the center of the room, and we arrive to find Scott stitching the bag together. Guaranteed for life, it’s an heirloom that will get you to the end of the line and back again. Bearing the names of his sons, Colsen and Keane, this is craftsmanship of the highest order.
A self-confessed leather junkie, Scott’s design ethic is rooted in practicality. Clean, simple lines take form from the highest quality American hides and evoke the same kind of rugged individualism that inspired the likes of Emerson and Thoreau. The process is unfeigned, and like Scott says, if you spill a little blood along the way, so be it, you merge with the craft and the product is better for it.
Driven by a love of natural materials and influenced by the likes of mid-century Danish designer Hans Wegner, Scott McGlasson works primarily with walnut because of its burls, deep color and the way it ages.
“Wood has a tactile magnetism. You just have to reach out and touch it,” he said. And there was plenty of work on hand to attest to Scott’s ability to evoke that magnetism. A large, multi-drawer curio cabinet towered above a live-edge bench, and a caramel stool tufted with an Icelandic sheep pelt flanked several lamps. Each piece had its own woof, but they all riffed on a similar rustic industrial aesthetic. “I design based on need, and while I value nature for giving me materials, I look to the shapes in old, rusty factories for inspiration,” he said.
Scott began making furniture full time in 1998, and architects kept him busy with cabinetry for high-end residential projects. The change in tack has taken him to the pages of American Craft magazine and the halls of the Minnesota Historical Society.