History of PonomoPonomo was born in 2001 out of the contradiction between founder and head designer hannah tarkinson’s love for fashion and empty wallet. The collection began with a line of one-of-a-kind, hand-tooled, leather handbags. After developing street credibility and responding to the demands of a loyal customer base, the ponomo line evolved to include jewelry, belts, and accessories.
The one-of-a-kind nature of these collections continues to attract a client base as diverse as the materials used to create them.
What began in a small basement studio has expanded to include placement in specialty boutiques throughout new england, a dedicated e-commerce site, and a busy studio in portland, maine’s arts district.
Ponomo Products Ponomo’s jewelry collection is fashioned from re-purposed and reconstructed vintage materials. The acute attention to detail and eclectic construction of this popular line carries over into each of ponomo’s leather products. Ponomo uses only top-grade salvaged hides, which are dyed, sewn, and tooled by hand. unique embellishments and antiqued hardware adorn each piece.
I had the privilege of meeting Hannah Tarkinson of Ponomo a couple of weeks ago for a studio tour and interview! Enjoy!
Tell me about your career and how you ended up a jeweler?
I was first inspired to work with leather while on a trip to San Francisco. I saw a woman boarding the plane carrying a stunning leather bag while I, on the other hand, was carrying a Vogue magazine in a grocery bag. I decided that my souvenir to self would be a leather bag. Not finding anything that matched in taste and affordability, I ended up making my own bag after returning from my trip. I purchased all my materials from the Children’s Resource Center here in Portland and literally used a hammer and nail to make my first bag.
Unexpectedly, people began to stop me on the streets in Boston (where I lived at the time) to inquire about my bag. Shortly after 9/11 my husband and I moved to Maine, and it's here that I decided to switch gears from photography to giving Ponomo a go.
Fast forward a couple of years: Two children later and much less time on hands, I decided to introduce jewelry to the Ponomo line as it was easier and more cost effective to produce. I had been collecting antiques and vintage findings for years, so I started to incorporate them into my work. It was what life called for at the time and so I adjusted as needed.
Do you mostly wholesale or do you sell the majority online?
Wholesale, retail, consignment.. You name it, I've done it. I've been fortunate to have sold my work in several boutiques throughout the years. These days I'm doing a lot of custom work and therefore I end up selling mostly out of my studio and online. I also currently sell locally through the Portland Museum of Art store.
I've scaled back on wholesale accounts over the past 2 years so I can focus on family and building the Ponomo Metalworks Line. When the new line is ready (late spring), I will be approaching boutiques throughout the US again. Get ready...
Have you always been into jewelry?
I've always appreciated it, but to be honest, I kind of fell into jewelry making. I thought I was going to be a photographer tried and true, but when we moved back to Portland, designing product called to me more than photographing it ever did. Starting with leather work and then adding a jewelry line to the mix... it was all so completely unexpected. The best way that I can explain it is that I just paid attention to what felt right and followed that path.
The art scene in Portland continues to expand and diversify, which has been so inspiring for me and my path with Ponomo over the years. I’m also a musician, and the Portland music scene has been equally supportive and inspiring.
Do you ever work with other people?
I've done a lot of collaborations in the past few years. It's been lovely because I've gotten to share the roots of the creative process with some of my favorite local artists including Kris Johnsen (Beaux and Arrow line), Megan Walsh (see photos of the flask), Eric Drzewianowski of Dski Design (see photos of waxed canvas journal), and The Transient Company (see photos of Wayfaring Biker Wallet). From brainstorming ideas, to finalizing a design, to the sleepless hours of seeing the project through.... It's a unique and unparalleled exchange to share the tricks of each other's trade so up close and personal.
Do you have any favorite designers?
Hands down, Alexander McQueen. Long Live McQueen.
I have a meditation book I read everyday. Sometimes I check out Huffington Post and the New York Times.
What inspires your work the most?
I'm most inspired by whatever is going on around me... music, chain link fences, a passing conversation.... Ideas often comes to me on walks... Lately, I keep coming back to this pattern I saw on the rooftop of a church in town that I happened to stop in front of. Ideas are always there, it's just being selective with which direction to take them in. I have about 5 lyric and sketch books going at all times... I'm always jotting down bits of inspiration- be it for music or design.
Do you find living and working in Maine a challenge as an artist?
Maine is an exceptional place to live and raise a family. Working as an artists here... well, I think it's hard to make a living as an artist anywhere, Maine included. It's takes a village and being a part of a supportive and creative community is everything to me.
Do you think there is a way Maine could nurture independent artists more?
In my experience, Maine does a lot for independent artists. At the end of the day, I think that the resources are here for us, but it takes time to collect the information and it takes guts to put that information into action. I've got a great tribe of friends and family that keep me sane and focused.
Tell me a little more about your studio space at Running With Scissors?
Well, I’ve had a variety of studio spaces over the years and this one is definitely the smallest, but it is also where I’ve been the happiest! Being surrounded by my fellow artists; having the ability to walk out of my studio door scratching my head to ask a question or crack a joke... it's all so simple but equally significant in fighting the good fight.
Kate Anker, the woman behind Running With Scissors, has been absolutely amazing in supporting local artists and giving us a space to work and evolve. She sets the tone for the space.
How do you market yourself? Do you stick to Maine or do you go elsewhere?
Believe it or not, after over 13 years, word of mouth has been the best method for marketing Ponomo. It's kept the business alive and manageable. Wholesale-wise, I've sold primarily on the east coast. I do a lot of custom work in and out of the states. The best way to stay up to date on all things Ponomo is to check out the website (which is currently being updated) or to follow the Ponomo Facebook page.
I'm currently working on expanding the brand which will take on a new life of it's own.... stay tuned for the changes to come....