Field Trip: Dripping Springs Vodka Distillery

Posted on April 23, 2014 by HELM Handmade | 0 Comments

Our Fourth Friday events at the store (Psst- We have one this Friday, the 25th, 6-8pm) have grown to be a consistently well-attended event at the store and we, in turn, are stepping up our beverage game. Last month we featured a punch with fresh juice from JuiceLand and vodka from Dripping Springs. It went well (read: super delicious) so we thought we should do it again this month. Ethan, our genius Studio Manager, contacted Dripping Springs and they graciously donated a case of their finest micro distilled, small batch, slow filtered, non GMO corn vodka made with pure, mineral rich artesian spring water from the Texas Hill Country. We made an afternoon of picking it up today - even stopping at Flores Tacos in Dripping Springs for lunch. Jen at DSV was super kind to take time out of her day and show us around the distillery. We commented that it was like the HELM Boots of Vodkas. Everything is small batch, handcrafted and takes time; There is a small dedicated family of staff and they are way more interested in producing a high quality product and sticking to their core values than in building a glitzy, flashy company. Take this for instance: Jen told us that to produce their Orange Vodka they use fresh oranges that they hand zest themselves - no artificial flavorings. On the days that they are zesting, the staff works through flats of the fruit by hand and the entire facility smells like oranges. How awesome is that? Jen gifted us a bottle and we plan on making a fair quantity of O-snaps this Summer (DSV Orange + Ginger Ale). 


Joshua checking out the handmade copper distilling tanks


The Railroad boots in the distilling room


The Dash Chestnut + Texas sun in the distilling room. 


Broc outside the bottling room in the Dash Chestnut


Dork tops belong only in Texas


Vodka ready to be consumed by us JKJKJK. Not ALL of it. 


Broc and Joshua: HELM studs


Empty bottles, ready to be filled. 


The Texas Hill Country land that the distillery is located on. 

Posted in american made, Hard Work

FAQ series- Why No Women's Boots?

Posted on April 02, 2014 by HELM Handmade | 0 Comments

We get a lot of inquiries each day about why we don't make women's boots, when will we make women's boots and hey, why don't you make women's boots? The short answer is that we will, soon. There is also a longer explanation if you are interested. 

Our factory has made traditional Maine hand-sewn shoes and boots for awhile. This is what they sometimes look like:

They can also take the shape of a boot, a moc, a slipper, a slip-on, etc. The point is our factory is really good at this, has done it for awhile and has all the necessary supplies to make these including lasts for men, women and kids. Lots of them. In the last 3-4 years they have diversified and begun to make welted footwear as well. This is like opening an entirely new factory. They had to buy new machines, new supplies and new lasts. SInce it was a new operation for them they chose to focus on just buying lasts for men to keep costs down. The lasts are the single most important part of shoe making and can be quite expensive to acquire. You have to have multiple pairs for each size you plan to make in each style you plan to make. It adds up. 

For a client like us who has been making men's boots all along, the men's only last issue wasn't really an issue. As more people have started seeing our designs though, we have a lot of women tell us that they also want to wear them. There is apparently a market for classic, minimalist boots for women that don't have heels or buckles or embellishments of some sort. Currently we size down to a men's 7 which is a women's 8.5/9. It probably seems that we should just buy a few pairs of women's lasts in sizes 6,7 and 8 and start making our patterns on those... only it isn't that simple. A women's foot is different than a man's and we would not only have to buy the lasts but we would also have to re-engineer our patterns. It would be a lot of time and money. We have been exploring it and it isn't out of the question, it will just take awhile. 

The other solution, and the one we are engaging for Fall 2014, is to have a few hand-sewn styles made for men and women. We have wanted to do this since we started working with our factory in 2012 but they have a had a waiting list until now. (We said they were really good at this.) We're stoked on the designs of the hand-sewns. There will be two styles, both boots of course. One will be black black black waxed canvas and SB Foot leather and Vibram Cristy sole and the other will be natural Chromexcel and olive green waxed canvas and a Cutthroat sole. You will have to stay tuned for that one. It has a crazy story all it's own. 


So there you have it. HELM Boots for women are on their way in Fall 2014! 

Posted in american made, Austin

Spring on the East Side

Posted on March 24, 2014 by HELM Handmade | 0 Comments

Ethan Brown is our Studio Manager which means he does a lot of things at HELM. He came to us with a background in fashion production after working at Zero + Maria Cornejo in NYC. He has been instrumental in dialing in our production end of things here and we could not operate on such a tight schedule without him. He makes sure the lights stay on, the staff gets paid, we have Topo Chico in the fridge and he also looks really good in a pair of HELM Boots. 
The East Side of Austin is our home which means we care about it a lot. HELM has always had a home on the East SIde, from our very first studio space on Riverview St., and we intend to keep it that way. We love the vibrance of this side of town, the entrepreneurial spirit and the community. 
Michael Muller is a friend of the brand and of all of us personally which means we like to spend time with him. He's an amazing photographer and an incredible musician. He's understandably busy but he is also astonishingly kind and will say yes when asked last minute to document a photoblog about East Austin and HELM Boots. 
Read on to see what happens when all of these things come together.  Ethan's words and Michael's photos tell a story about our shared love for HELM's new Spring boots and the East Side. 
As the studio manager for HELM, I get a really unique opportunity to experience the East Side on multiple levels - shifting back and forth between our offices on East Cesar Chavez and our flagship on East 6th lets me catch glimpses of the East Side I may not normally see otherwise: driving by small restaurants, boutiques and getting a daily fix at local coffee shops really lets me feel like I'm part of this growing - and changing - community. 
If you're visiting Austin this Spring, I urge you to stop in to our part of town and experience a piece of Austin that is rapidly changing. This is just a small selection of the people and places that get me through my every day - by no means is the list extensive (I've left out East Side Tamale House, Sahara Lounge, the myriad venues down 6th street, and then some!) but it's a taste of what keeps me living and working on this side of Austin.
Did you really think I wouldn't mention our own flagship? 
Working for HELM has been an absolute dream - as studio manager, I'm back and forth between our offices and our flagship here on East 6th. Joshua, Hillary, Broc and I - in conjunction with our amazing shop associates, Patrick Ratliff and Hunter Lawrence - have tried to make this a unique and comforting place with a serious emphasis on quality boots and American-made products. We burn palo santo during the day and everything just feels cozy in the late afternoon when the sun comes through the windows and lights up the austere, but comfortable, shop.
I've been told the place feels like a home which, to me, is the highest compliment. Come on in to try some HELM Boots on, particularly the new Spring styles, or get some other products such as leather care, candles, bags by local makers BEXAR and Stash or just have a beer and pass a half-hour with us - we love our community and we love having people hang out in the shop. 
Easy Tiger is a great spot just over the highway but still with an East Austin ethos. 
The bar/café/bakery is almost a one-stop shop - come by early to grab a great coffee or fresh pastry and if you stop by a little later you can get a great selection of snacks (heavy on the sausages and pretzels!) and beer.
The staff is always great and the bridge overlooking Waller Creek is really picturesque with the vines creeping up the exterior brick of the historical building. It's a great place to have a pint or two and just enjoy the Spring day before it gets too hot. 
Brew & Brew is recent but, really, it feels like they've been here for years.
The build-out of the inside is gorgeous. It's exactly what I want in a coffee shop: clean colors, clean light and every time I stop in, I get to have a conversation with one of the baristas - who are also all great friends at this point. The outside area is a great place to sit and have one of 30-ish beers they keep on tap and their menu is small, but perfect, for when you need something light and delicious.
I couldn't make it through 80% of my week days without being able to run over here before opening the shop or before a meeting. 
In addition, Matty B honestly makes the best cortados on this side of the planet. 
This is, hands down, one of my favorite spaces in Austin - on par with Vane and Maryam Nassir Zadeh in New York in terms of aesthetics and interesting selections.
Start with a quick coffee at Flat Track - if you need a great coffee but aren't exactly in the mood to head over the East 6th, this coffee shop on Cesar Chavez has close ties with Brew & Brew and is like a tiny, hidden gem that smells like perfectly roasted beans.
Head over to Farewell Books to see an amazing selection of zines, vintage and rare books - from manifestos on art and architecture to first edition hard covers to hard-to-find fashion compendiums, this is my favorite book place in Austin. The selection is carefully curated and immaculately presented, making the whole experience amazing. 
Las Cruxes is certainly my favorite stop for clothing in Austin. Veronica Ortuño has a great eye for both vintage clothing and small designers and I always feel like I'm supporting a great cause when I shop here - the light blue trousers with the elastic cuffs by Publish (you can see them in the photos!) are one of my favorite finds and they're produced with great quality. If you want something unique and well-made, Las Cruxes is always a great bet. 
Kyle Muller is a great friend of HELM - he used to have a small pop-up in our original show room and, in fact, his brother Michael Muller took all these photos of me that actually make me look photogenic: so you know they're a talented family.
Kyle's new-ish space on 4th street is honestly a wonderland - if you need any vintage men's clothing, this is the place to go. 
From vintage knits to military jackets, Kyle works really hard to find the best and most unadulterated vintage in the state of Texas. All this is in addition to the comfortable and easy space he's set up as of last November - it's a little out of the walking path, but far worth the effort if you need any vintage boots or just a unique piece of clothing to wear for the weekend.  
-Ethan Brown

Posted in Austin, friends, Sam Hill, street style

SXSW Music Playlist by Joshua Bingaman

Posted on March 14, 2014 by HELM Handmade | 0 Comments

HELM Boots owner Joshua Bingaman made a SXSW playlist that reflects his mood towards the festival this year. It's full of the kind of music that you can chill to which is his theme for SXSW 2014. We decided at HELM to just be open and not do anything extra so it is his first fest in 13 years that he's not been involved in anything chaotic, he's been kind of laid back (all things considered) and where we have all had the attitude of we do what we can amidst the chaos. Enjoy the following tunes; preferably with a cold beverage and maybe a hammock. 

Posted in Austin, friends, music

SXSW according to Ethan Brown

Posted on March 12, 2014 by HELM Handmade | 0 Comments

Ethan Brown is HELM's Studio Manager. This means he does everything from handling production to paying our bills. HELM couldn't go on without him. We love his sense of humor and irreverent observations of the things around him. He's lived around the world and brings to us his suggestions (and predictions) for SXSW that reflect his eclectic taste.

1) Spotify House - all week. 

Spotify House is across from the HELM store this year. They throw a fun day party with free drinks and a rotating cast of sponsors - this year they've SERIOUSLY stepped it up and are offering bands as well. Just to name a few of my favorites: Phantogram, SVPER (one of my favorite bands from Spain), Hozier and MØ.
2) Y'all or Nothing @ Cheer Up Charlie's
I'm so happy that this bar reopened and turned the previously very DARK space into this crazy color and lightshow - and to celebrate their first SXSW in the new space, Y'all or Nothing is killing it with performances by AB Soto, Sharon Needles and more. Do not miss. 
3) FKA Twigs
This band is one of my favorite "new" artists and I'm fascinated to see what their live show is going to look like - check them out at various places over SXSW, the biggest of which will be Fader Fort.
4) The Epic Bike Confusion
Austin recently got awarded a super awesome service called B Cycle here, which seems to be pretty parallel to the other types of bike services popping up around the country. If it's anything like Barcelona's Bicing, I forsee some kind of epic confusion where all the bikes get left in one location due to people refusing to go uphill, leaving millions without a bike to get them to their free booze. Despair ensues. SXSW collapses. 

Posted in art, Austin, culture

SXSW Music according to Hunter Lawrence

Posted on March 10, 2014 by HELM Handmade | 0 Comments

Hunter Lawrence is one of HELM's shop associates. He is also a talented photographer who has provided pretty images for us, for bands, for weddings and for his Instagram feed. Go follow him and become one of his 24,000 fans. Not kidding; He's popular.

He also has good taste in earnest, reflective Indie and Americana. Listen to his pics for SXSW music and try to catch some of these bands this week

-Penny and Sparrow - SXSW Day Party Friday March 14, Winflo Osteria
-Homestead - Tuesday March 11 10pm,  Blind Pig Tavern
-Noah Gundersen - Yahoo Music Party Wednesday March 12 1pm, Brazos Hall 
-Humming House - Twangfest Day Party Saturday March 15, Broken Spoke
-Bear Hands - Banners Day Party Wednesday March 12 4:45pm, Side Bar
-Pompeii - Red Eye Transit/Nordic by Nature Day Party Friday March 14, Hi-Hat Public House

Posted in Austin, culture, party

SXSW according to Patrick Ratliff

Posted on March 07, 2014 by HELM Handmade | 0 Comments

Patrick Ratliff is our first intern, our shop associate and our stunt ear. We love Patrick for many reasons: His easy-going demeanor, his sense of humor and the man knows his way around a sewing machine. We will miss him this Summer when he goes to intern for Shinola in Detroit but while we still have him we thought we'd ask him what his picks are for this week at SXSW Music, Film and Interactive. 
Kurt Vile
Chance the Rapper
Kendrick Lamar
St. Vincent
Booker T
Edward Snowden video conference - This would be awesome to see/hear!
Game of Thrones, The Exhibition at Austin Music Hall - I'm sorry ed. note here: WHAAAAAATTTT??
We should have said that we also love Patrick for his good taste.
Enjoy the week, folks. We'll have more staff recommendations posted throughout the festival.

Posted in Austin, culture, USA

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