Since Self Made: A Makers Collective debuted, we’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that we’ve received from the community. Once again, thank you.
When we began working on the show in 2016, one of our biggest goals was to facilitate deeper engagement between the public and the maker community which is why we’re going to be regularly posting interviews with Self Made Makers on our blog. We hope that sharing their stories will inspire you to meet the craftspeople in your area and explore the local neighborhoods and shops.
Stephanie Reppas, October Design Co
Stephanie Reppas, the creative behind October Design Co. has some advice and it’s not just for would-be makers.
“Write your obituary now,” she tells us via email.
To be clear, we’ve solicited this advice, as we have sent her a bunch of questions, mainly about her business and what inspires her, and have opened the floor for her to add any additional info that may be helpful. This is her offering:
“Don’t trust your family to say anything compelling about you after you’re gone; the result will be disappointing, and you’ll be too dead to do anything about it. Write your own obituary. Make it silly, crazy, intense, inspiring, sexy, brilliant, whatever – fill it with lots of interesting things. Then go out and do those things.”
If you’re familiar with Stephanie’s work, you know this is advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Since starting October Design Co. in 2011, her work has appeared in Country Living Magazine, Upstate House and Equistyle, and all for good reason. Her sophisticated take on rustic-industrial décor is nothing short of inspired; transforming vintage Barbicide jars into eye-catching light fixtures and horse bridles into chic Leather Equestrian Mirrors. She is a favorite at juried shows such as Hudson Basilica, Country Living Magazine Fair and Hudson Valley Hullabaloo-we’d include ourselves but that seems tacky.
Self Made: What inspired October Design?
Stephanie Reppas: I love abandoned things – anything the world has passed over or cast off. Such potential, and they’re always one-of-a-kind. Finding them is half the fun! I travel frequently, exploring new places in search of interesting industrial and rustic materials… Everything I find has a little story attached to it, and I keep that in mind when I work it into a design.
SM: How did you learn your craft?
SR: After 15 years of doing graphic design, I went back to school for a degree in industrial design and I’ve taken several welding courses to become certified. I’ve also picked up a lot along the way (YouTube DIY videos are the best!), and I’m far from done. I’d like to try glass-blowing, or maybe go to chainsaw school. There’s one in Wisconsin.
SM: What are some of your favorite parts of being a maker and running October Design?
SR: I get to combine several of my loves: design, travel, exploring new spaces, finding really fantastic objects and creating something unique with them. I really dig firing up my power tools and blasting The Ramones at 3am when the mood strikes. I also like surprising others (and sometimes myself) by working a bit of whimsy into my work, like oddball chandeliers made from upcycled X-ray film or rabbit fence paired with microscope slides. I try to transform the material so you really have to study it to figure out what it used to be. The look on a person’s face, watching them light up and smile when they realize what a particular lamp or piece of furniture is made of- that’s priceless!
SM: What are some of the challenges you face?
SR: Running an entire business can be overwhelming. I’m responsible for everything. Coming up with ideas, researching materials, producing designs, photographing and listing them online, marketing and selling them, processing and shipping orders, updating social media, setting up and working the booth at shows, finding and pitching to new sales channels…I keep a pretty tight schedule every week, with designated tasks for each day. Sometimes the laundry and dishes have to wait.
SM: Name five things you wish you knew before starting your business?
SR: Only one thing, really: that I should have taken ‘the big leap’ sooner.
For a time, I let myself get pulled away from things I’ve loved doing since I was a kid. But I eventually got everything back, a piece at a time. I started out with several part-time businesses for each interest I had. But with [October Design], everything finally came together nicely under the one brand, with a shared urban-rustic aesthetic that’s an extension of my own personal style... I’m actually glad I didn’t know then what I know now. I look back at my older work and my old life, and I’m a little astonished by where I am today. I’ve taken quite a few risks in the past couple of years, and it’s paid off. I’ve discovered that even if I don’t know how to do something – yet, I am pretty good at figuring things out, and I have a clever circle of friends with all sorts of expertise who are often of tremendous help to me. It’s amazing to learn what you’re capable of by simply doing it!
SM: What keeps you inspired? Are there any routines or rituals you follow that help keep you on track?
SR: Digging! Inspiration isn’t a lightning strike so much as a hidden gem. You have to do the work: Reading, researching, tinkering, playing, exploring new places and ideas – simply stumbling onto things and then making a connection. Usually the items and materials I unearth drive the design. I can also be a bit of a snob and a little esoteric with my own style, and that affects how and what I design. I prefer having and creating something unique – something no one else has – rather than be bothered with anything generic. I like working with unconventional art supplies. As a rule, I try to avoid just blindly spending money, and instead look for alternate materials and techniques to create what I want. Resourcefulness can be pretty inspiring!
SM: Who are some of your favorite independent designers/local brands?
SR: Ingo Maurer. I’ve been hooked since he put little wings on light bulbs. His lamps are fantastic: cracked eggs with light seeping out of them, exploding dishes suspended in air, ethereal wisps of curled paper. His designs are always beautiful with a touch of whimsy. I hope I’m that prolific after 50 years in the biz!
SM: If we came to visit you, where are three places you would insist on taking us and why?
SR: First, I’d insist you take the train up, and to be sure to sit on the west side so you can take in the full-on views of the Hudson River.
High Falls (off Roxbury Rd., Philmont): A 100-foot waterfall around the corner from my house. It’s about a 20-minute hike to the viewing area from above, but if you go down to the river below (and get in), you can follow the path of white painted stepping stones to the base of the waterfall itself.
Joe’s Roadhouse (Route 23 in Claverack) is opening up the street from my house this fall. Actress Linda Lavin (a.k.a. Alice/Mel’s Diner/Kiss My Grits) and her husband just purchased this old tavern and are turning it into a restaurant where (rumor has it) Linda wants to cook and sing!
Throwback Thursdays at Four Brothers Drive-in (Amenia): Betty-Lou (my car) and I are regulars there for the occasional showing of Casablanca, Jaws or The Breakfast Club. They offer car-side delivery of their wonderful pizza, too!
SM: Are there any new projects/products in the works that you would like to share with us?
SR:I’m working with a terrific interior designer I know here in Hudson, creating several large, leather-framed mirrors for a polo club opening in California. I also have a lighting installation in the works for an Ice Wine Festival in Niagara Falls this coming winter.
SM:Where can we find your products/work?
SR:I sell primarily online on my own site, OctoberDesignCo.com (plus Amazon, Houzz, Scoutmob, Etsy). I’m also in a few boutiques around the tri-state area (Maison St. Germain, Susu Bakery Boutique, TK Home & Garden, In the House Consignments Boutique). And I’m working my way up to Saratoga for race season that starts in July.
To see more of what Stephanie is up to or where you can find her, visit her Facebook page www.facebook.com/OctoberDesignCo and website.
Photo Credit Iain Murray