Exclusive Interview: Max Geiser of Wallter
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It’s not always easy finding fun, affordable, colorful and beautiful modern home decor accessories, but one lovely couple has cornered the market on fabulous home accessories for nearly a decade. Max and Linda Geiser first started making items when they just couldn’t find what they were looking for, and soon realized that others would be interested in their designs, too. A successful company coming up on their ten year anniversary, Wallter, based in California, offers customers gorgeous wall hangings, textiles, mobiles, coat racks and new products like modern planters.
We sat down with Max to discuss his inspirations, just how much designing he actually does and donuts (you’ll have to listen to find out):
Our podcast music is “Dropping out of School” by Brad Sucks, licensed for use under
Creative Commons license Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
Nothing beats a perfectly placed link to Wallter’s awesome products that can be purchased on 2Modern.
Rather read Max’s interview? We’ve got the transcript right here:
2M: We’re talking with Max Geiser, who with his wife Linda, run Wallter, a creative company specializing in home accessories like bedding, wall decor and mobiles. Thank you for being here today.
MG: Hey thanks for having us.
2M: Why don’t we start with you telling us about your company and everything you do.
MG: Well we manufacture, like you said, wall decor, texiles, mobiles, coat racks—now we have planters. We personally manufacture and make every one of the textile items ourselves—we do all of that in house. Everything else is done with local factories that are as close as we can get in the Bay Area. We have to travel a little bit, but we do try to keep everything local, and those are things that we also don’t want to manufacture ourselves or don’t have the equipment for—but we try to keep it as local as possible. In the past year we’ve had to kind of get a few parts made out of the country, which was a real struggle for us to decide to do that, because that was sort of stepping away from what we really believe in—for the last 10 years it’s been American-made, locally-made. But, we found ourselves in a position where we couldn’t get what we wanted made here, so we had to look elsewhere. So, we’re kind of transitioning a little bit, but we’re trying to stay true to our core values of American-made products.
2M: That’s great! That’s really great that you guys do that. Is it just you and your wife working right now? Or are there other employees working with you at the studio?
MG: Currently we’re the only full-time people; we do bring in other people when it comes to some labor, some packaging, that sort of thing, but we try to keep our overhead really low and have the factories do most of the work for us, so we can receive the items and pretty much put them in bags and ship them to customers. That keeps our inventory high and our overhead low. We pretty much then have to just rely on each other to get things done.
2M: Did I read that you guys actually started the business in 2000 because you just couldn’t find the sort of look you were going for?
MG: Yeah. The prior year to 2000 we had been working on an idea of making modern bedding products. Like printed patterns, but in more modern colors and patterns. And we had struggled with that for a long time—for about a year. We had designed it and looked at manufacturers to do that and it never sort of happened. We never found the right person; we never really found the right patterns we believed in. I started off building furniture and I really was more three dimensional and was really struggling with printing patterns on fabric. And so we started looking at fabric more as a material to manipulate and once we discovered—or Linda actually discovered—the Serger machine and what it could do on a piece of fabric and give us that three dimensional feeling or that furniture or architectural feeling—that kind of launched us into making bed spreads. From that we made a couple of pillows, put them in a store, and they sold immediately. The first day, the pillows sold. So we kind of looked at each other and said “okay, let’s do this; let’s get some more fabric and make bedding, pillows and build a line.” And that’s how our company was [at the time] called Fold Bedding.
And that’s all we were interested in at the time was just bedding products; we weren’t thinking what we were going to expand to. We just thought we were going to make lots and lots of bedding and that was it. It’s really kind of interesting: as we’ve crept up to our ten year anniversary this year of having this company, we are still making the bedding the same way we did ten years ago. Some of these same colors are the ones that we started with and we’re really proud of that—that we haven’t moved the bedding into another style or manufacturer or sent it overseas to get done. We’re still doing it the same way and getting better at it. And perfecting it every time. You know every time we make a bedding item—take for example the Onion bedspread—every time we do it we kind of smile at each other and when it’s finished we go “Wow, that was really great. There’s another one, and it looks identical to what it was when we first came up with it.” So we have a lot of pride in the textiles. We’ve had a lot people over the years say “Why we don’t get it done somewhere else you do so many of them…” You know, there’s something about making something like this ourselves—having that pride—that makes us feel good when we pack it up, complete that order and ship it to a customer.
2M: And are there any architects, designers or interior designers that you really love and that you’re really getting inspiration from?
MG: I’m always inspired by other successful designers in that they’re successful, but in so far as their work, I couldn’t really name someone specifc that I love. I have little pictures of Adam Silverman vases above my desk just because they are so beautiful; I don’t know much about him but looking at the vases always inspires me. I am inspired by people who have taken design and gone all the way with it, encompassing home accessories and clothing and personal accessories and store and retail design. The person I’m thinking about is Trina Turk and her products. That’s sort of inspiring to me. But mostly the people who inspire me are always the people I use as mentors; local people, family members—those people keep me going. I like looking at other designers and saying “that’s beautiful; great work,” but then I need to work on my own products. I try not to look at too many other people’s products and try not to be inspired by them just because I don’t want to look like I’m copying them.
2M: Right. That’s a danger, when you look at a lot of different designers. For sure.
MG: And it will creep up in ways that you weren’t expecting, and then you’ll go “why did I come up with that” and realize it was because I was looking at such and such products for a year and I was inspired and now I have something identical. So I try to stay away from that and just be inspired by how other people run their businesses and how other people deal with their customers and their inventory. The bigger companies, that have nothing to do with design, are sometimes the one that I watch and are inspired by.
2M: Well speaking of running a business, since it’s basically just you two, how much time do you get to spend creating versus having to deal with clients and shipping and the business part of it? What’s that balance?
MG: It is very little of design, and most of that happens on my own time, when no one’s around at the studio or I’m on vacation somewhere and boom, I see something—a plant or a way something is organized and think I can do that better, or there’s a product in that, and then I’ll spend my vacation drawing. Which is a great way to spend a vacation—to be excited; I don’t get bored. So exciting things come at different times; it’s never “okay Linda I’m going to spend the next hour…” so if I’m not packaging something or billing some bed spread…the other time is spent trying to find the products. I’ll spend a whole day trying to find the perfect screw, whether I find it or not. It happens all the time; I’ll just obsess over one small thing. And that’s kind of design but that’s not fun, inspiring, ideas-are-flying—that’s sort of work. That’s sort of how it happens around here a lot. We drive down to L.A. all the time, and as I’m driving, bam, something will come up, and Linda will be in the car with me and I’ll start bouncing ideas off of her and by the time we get to L.A. I might have a brand new product I’m ready to start drawing.
2M: What would you be doing if you weren’t running your own design business? Do you think you’d still be in the field or do you think you’d be doing something else?
MG: I’d probably have a donut store.
2M: Ha. Really?
MG: I would have something completely different. It would be something completely different that I just enjoy on the side. I love donuts so I would have a donut store. Or an ice cream sandwich store. Something that was just totally different that’s still a product, but not a product that you have to make and hope that it will work in someone’s house. It would be just a different kind of product—but it wouldn’t be a home accessory.
2M: Well, last question. You mentioned that it’s the ten year anniversary coming up right?
2M: Is there going to be anything new and exciting coming up for the ten year anniversary, like a new product, that you’d like to talk about right now and let listeners know about?
MG: Yeah, just arrived, just the other day, are our planters that we’ve been working on for the last year, and we showed them at the Dwell show and had an incredible response, had lots of pre-orders. So they finally arrived yesterday, they’re on the shelf; we’ve been packing them up and starting to ship them. We’re happy and sad to say that we’ve sold so many we’re almost sold out already before we’ve even gotten started. It wasn’t what we were really expecting; we didn’t think they were going to be that big of a hit. It’s a different concept of planters; they hang on the wall—of course, because we like wall decor. They hang from the ceiling and also stick into the ground with a stake. The idea is that if you have small or delicate succulents or cactus that you can elevate them in these planters and protect them from dogs and kids and lawnmowers and stuff like that. So it’s a cool-looking thing out there. It’s somewhat sculptural and we’re excited. They came out great; they actually came out better than I thought they would so we’re really excited about them.
2M: Wow! Well congratulations. I’ll definitely include some photographs so readers can check that out for sure. Well hey, thank you so much for talking with me today.
MG: Yeah thanks for calling us.
2M: For more information about Max and Linda Geiser and their great products, you can visit wallter.com, that’s “wall” with two “L’s,” w-a-l-l-t-e-r.com. You’ve been listening to a 2modern designer interview. For more fun podcasts, inspiring design posts and design advice, check out the blog at 2modern.com
If you’d rather have an MP3 of Max’s interview:
Max Geiser 2Modern Interview