For Your Viewing Pleasure: Eco-Chic Swag

My good friend and the face behind "The Green Room" here on Estoy, Je Suis, Alicia Garcia, recently spilled the goods on a pretty amazing eyewear design haus.  Shwood, a company out of Beaverton, Oregon is more than just stylish sunnies for everyday though.  Eric Singer, founder of Shwood, and a team of about twenty-five other eco-chic creative geniuses {only taking from nature what nature is soon to give, i.e. trees that are already dying} are making the world a better place, one pair of shades at a time.
image: ShwoodShop.com, more on Shwood's collaboration with Pendleton at shwoodshop.com/blogs/gallery 

A simple experiment with nature. Born from the limb of a Madrone tree, a rusty pair of cabinet hinges and lenses from the corner store, Shwood has been a curious endeavor from the beginning. An endeavor to create a product that encompasses the individuality and uniqueness that can only be found in natural surroundings. A desire to experiment with design, materials, and aesthetics in the search for something that works. Free from passing trends, the brand’s focus remains that of its roots, innovation and creation. Long live creativity.  ~ShwoodShop.com
We sat down with Mr. Singer to find out just how his vision came to life and what his hopes are for Shwood in fashion and in nature.
image: shwoodshop.com
I originally started playing with the wooden sunglass idea about 6 years ago, simply as a new avenue to keep my creative brain happy.  Over the next three years, I put everything I had into the sunglasses.  They eventually caught the attention of my now four other business partners, who all play intricate roles in the sustainability of what we do.  
EJS:  Tell us a little more about yourself, your education and how you became interested in accessory design.  Being an art school grad myself and from the aesthetic of your line of sunnies, it almost seems you studied interior design.
My education has always been the least most important thing on my mind.  That might sound reckless, but it was just natural that the immediate need for fun took over.  Living in these surroundings, it was just too easy.  You live and you learn, and somewhere in the middle you find channels that pull you in certain directions.  My parents allowed this, watching me as a kid make and do everything as I saw fit, being my own creative "sheriff". My high school art teachers allowed it too, which looking back now really was the best thing they could have done for me.  I really don't like cages or rules, although I have come to respect the fact that there are right and wrong ways to do certain things.  A lot of trial and error has lead me to understand that.  Besides, it just looked like too much money to buy an education for myself.  I figured I'd just make one, much like most everything else I wanted over the years.
EJS:  I really respect that kind of innovative approach to your need for a productive outlet... you knew where your heart lied and let your wings soar.  I'll admit, I'm a bit envious that your mind works on such an avant-garde -meets- up-cycling -meets- high fashion level.  Speaking of, your interest in sustainable, outside-the-box fashion is clear.  What was the initial drive behind creating Shwood?
image: shwoodshop.com
The drive at first (6 years ago) was fueled solely by the need to find the next project to keep me happy.  I hit a lot of roadblocks as an artist.  Not created by others, rather by that hand of my own internal architect.  I would simply loose interest in something as I started to understand it.  I knew nothing about making sunglasses, and have never taken a formal woodworking class.  I have always loved sunglasses though, digging though old bins of second-hand shades at the thrift store was something I always looked forward to.  It was just one of those ideas that comes to you for no good reason at all.  I had a tree branch in my hand, with no decent idea of what to do with it.  The sun was shining in my eyes that day, it was that simple.  Since that day and that first pair of wooden sunglasses carved by hand, we have definitely realized there is a place in this world for our product, with a demand that has been a beast to tackle.  It's actually still running wild out there.
EJS:  It would seem so.  With the current and escalating trends in both the fashion world and the recycling community merging ever more so, your demand must be through the roof!
After reading the mission statement on your "About" page, I was curious to know if you have a love for vintage styling and decor (quoting "a rusty pair of cabinet hinges") or are you generally a thrifty individual -- as you mentioned, you had a bit of a love-affair with seeking out pre-loved sunnies?
image: shwoodshop.com
The rusty pair of hinges is actually a true story.  The first pair I made had old hinges attaching the temples to the frames.  Hinges that I stole off the medical cabinet in the bathroom.  Haha.  But yes, I do have a love for the old.  My car is 18 years older than I am for instance.  Things were just made with more love back then.  I don't even like buying most things new in stores these days.  Thank God for Craigslist.

EJS:  ...and Etsy!  We share that sentiment.  "Vintage" and "Art Deco" are words frequently uttered with love around my home and office.
Pulling concepts and materials directly from nature, would you say you have a green thumb or that you spent any number or years learning to appreciate the outdoors -- and in what capacity?
Nature is a very giving lady.  I definitely appreciate her for offering up so many materials at no cost when I had no money in my pockets.  I grew up in these forests I still play in and I love watching how landscapes really just don't change out there.  They will always be wild, as long as man leaves them alone and just takes what there is an abundance of.  Luckily that abundance is wood, and not something like metal.  These sunglasses just wouldn't look as good with that nice suit jacket if that were the case.    
 EJS:  It's so true.  Every time I swoon over your site, all I can think is how dapper my guy, my dad and my brothers would look wearing a pair of Shwoods and a sleek bit of Armani.
Now that we're on the exquisite appearance of your designs, those lenses, a la Carl Zeiss -- whose craftsmanship spans the use of the world's top surgeons, astronomers and even Stanley Kubrick, are a pretty significant feature of the line.  How did you come in contact with and choose Zeiss as your partner? .
image: shwoodshop.com
One of my partners had a connection with Zeiss, someone over there who was willing to work with us in small quantities.  As we formed the brand and started up our version of "mass production", our numbers didn't even come close to the industry standard that any lens supplier offered as their smallest bulk order.  Zeiss worked with us, to help get us a premium lens in numbers that matched our tiny woodshop's output at the time.  We wanted to do this the best we could and weren't willing to go with some sub-par lens.  It worked out great.
EJS:  I'll say.  So, what are your hopes and expectations for Shwood in the near and distant future?  What kind of impact do you hope to have?
Lets HOPE the Mayans are wrong about 2012, and EXPECT a large expansion in facilities and products. 
We are doing things the old fashioned way in most respects.  We outsource as little as possible and make our products ourselves, under one roof.  It's not easy, but it is very rewarding.  I'm sure we would be making John Wayne happy with our work ethic.  There is a DIY revolution in our midst, and Shwood is right in the eye of that tornado.  We as humans have to keep encouraging each other to think outside the box, do things and go places that are rarely traveled.  The cycle of life has taught us that the forward thinkers are the ones that push this world to better and better places, we just have to be conscious of our efforts and minimize the negative effects we might be having on others around the globe.
image: ShwoodShop.com, instagram "shwoodshop"
EJS:  Is there anything about yourself or the line that you want people to know that they may not already?
We are a gathering of artists, musicians, and tactitians -- all around creative people who are here to do something we really care about.  We spend our time putting our hands and minds to the test everyday.  That's good life-building material to learn, for anyone.  There's no sweatshop here.  Our employees are the ones constantly making this a better place to create and work.
EJS:  Who knew talking about a sunglass line would be so moving.  I'm honestly touched by that last response.
Any famous closing lines?

"The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."
-Hunter S. Thompson  
YEARS from Bartholomäus Traubeck on Vimeo.
Bartholomäus Traubeck gives trees a voice with this modified record player. By analyzing wooden disks the record player creates a unique soundtrack for every tree. 
video: Traubeck.com, reposted from Shwood's blog: experimentwithnature.com 


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