We had the good fortune of connecting with Heyltje Bond and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heyltje, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I believe risk taking is a must if you are to truly live a life worth living. As an artist it’s a matter of putting yourself out there despite what people think of your work and without regard to whether it is financially successful. I had a painting professor who talked about the stress of making a living through his work and he would say ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way.’
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
From an early age, I didn’t have much choice but to love antiques and the smell of machining oil; it was in my blood. My father was a machinist with a fondness for vintage cars, and my mother was a borderline hoarder who saw value in things that others would discard. Because of this, I spent most of my younger years with my dad in the garage or at car shows and in the depths of antique stores and junkyards with my mom.
As I grew older, it was increasingly common for me to either modify or scratch-make items to my liking. Once I graduated high school, I attended Bard College with a major in art history and minor in studio art. Post-college, I found my niche by combining my love for vintage automobiles & motorcycles with antiques, fashion, and lowbrow culture. After seeing a seat on a custom bike that Indian Larry built, I couldn’t resist dabbling in leather. The quality of the tooling by Paul Cox and the well-worn leather grips fueled my desire to learn leather smithing. Starting off with clothing accessories (belts, cuffs & handbags), I soon graduated to seats and bags for custom motorcycles, eventually expanding my skill set to include casting & metalworking as well. My work can be seen on bikes built by Lock Baker, Indian Larry, Jesse James, Walt Siegl, and Billy Lane.
My work has also been featured in Dice Magazine, Vibes, Inked, Elle UK, Marie Claire, and Curve. And some of my recognizable clients include Willie G Davidson, Karen Davidson, Joe Perry, Pat Simmons, Blasko, Jamie Nelson, David Grohl, and Tod Waters. I have also designed limited edition belt buckles for Harley Davidson and accessories for a film short by Alexander Hankoff.
I have a foot in both the motorcycle and fashion industry. My brand has evolved over time and now I primarily make accessories in leather and metal. I sometimes include or am inspired by vintage pieces. Everything is handmade and fabricated in house. I pride myself on not taking fashion too seriously.
People respond to the irreverence and humor that the accessories project. When I have an idea, I sometimes think to myself, “That’s ridiculous!” and then I know it needs to be brought to reality. Often people see my statement pieces and say they love them but couldn’t pull off wearing them.
My hope is that I can convince people that they can embrace what they like without worrying what other people think. I say, “Rock it! Own it!” You can if you choose to.
I believe what sets my brand apart is the unapologetic confidence it has. I don’t ‘play it safe.’ I see so many brands that kind of blend into one another because their merchandise is repetitive and without a distinctive character. There are always some struggles along the way as an entrepreneur. As a small business owner, I feel it’s never a smooth road. What comes naturally to me is creating. All the other facets of having your own company are individual jobs in and of themselves. I have learned a tremendous amount along the way but it hasn’t always been easy. I developed my brand over a period of ten years on the east coast.
When I moved to California five years ago, I had to introduce myself to the scene here & find my niche. It was a little daunting at first but I feel I have adapted quite well. I’ve met some incredible like-minded people in the industry who have been extremely helpful. Another aspect of owning a small business is learning to source some things out as the company grows. It’s hard to let go of the reins but acknowledging that you can’t do everything becomes important. It has been hard for me to determine what things would be most beneficial to have someone take care of but once I sat down and assessed all the layers of my business it became clear.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When anyone comes to Long Beach I’m sure to take them to Wide Eyes Open Palms for the healthiest, tastiest food in town. WEOP uses extra fresh ingredients that they get from the Farmers Market daily. They then craft everything from scratch.
My go-tos are the Grain Bowl & Cardamom Latte. Another must is a stroll up on Signal Hill Park that overlooks all of Long Beach. It not only has a tremendous view, it also portrays the history of the discovery of oil in the area with statues and images on signs throughout. Signal Hill’s rich past was the basis for the movie ‘There Will be Blood’.
Lastly I would most definitely take out-of-towners to the iconic Alex’s Bar. From True Blood fame as Fantasia to the real life venue that books the ultimate shows, Alex’s is by far my favorite local haunt.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’ve had a tremendous amount of support and encouragement along the way. First and foremost my family has always believed in me. I remember my mother saying that loving what you do is essential as you dedicate a huge portion of your life to it. That has always stuck with me as well as the de-emphasis on material success that I grew up with.
Fellow maker Lock Baker is another proponent of my work. He played a vital role in the birth of my company. We have a similar esthetic & both have a thirst for learning new skills. I am grateful to him as both a teacher and friend. I also have a number of friends who remind me of how far I’ve come when I have doubts. I don’t know what I’d do without fellow entrepreneurs Heidi DeBrincat & Pinky Pancake. Thank you ladies for your constant encouragement!
Facebook: Heyltje Rose Shop