#RADWOMENRADWORK : MAPLE XO
When we think of #RadWomenRadWork, it’s women like Lindsay Jo Holmes who inspire us.
Back in 2006 when she was cutting up old decks in the living room of her Southeast Portland home, Lindsay thought she’d make bangle bracelets from salvaged skateboard decks, but it was earrings that became the breakout product from her company, MapleXO. We recently hung out with Lindsay out of her Mill Shop and Co-Op space in Northeast Portland where she and the other half of Maple XO, Kenzie Moss, make a wide-ranging line-up of jewelry and accessories out of busted, broken, but beautiful skateboard decks.
Gratitude is a theme that comes through in every Maple XO communication. How do you maintain such focus on positivity?
When I started skateboarding I quickly began to feel like I was growing into my true self. I basically didn’t know how lost I was in the world until I found my comfort zone on a skateboard. Throughout the years, skateboarding has lead me down a path of finding my best friends, adventuring to places all over the world, and starting my own business. In fact, we stay in business because of the endless amount of support we get from the skateboard community. I am humbled by that with every single broken skateboard that comes through our door to recycle. Staring at stacks of hundreds of donated boards as we work every day… that alone keeps me focused on positivity. We feel lucky as hell to call this work.
You’ve been at this for a long time. What’s a recent experience that stands out for you as motivation?
It has been a long time. And it’s still fun because we’re still learning every day! Turns out… there’s no easy way to turn skateboards into jewelry so we are constantly challenged to create new and better ways of doing things. Creating efficiency in the workshop is a fun daily goal for me. On top of that… skateboards are always changing! We see new artwork, colors, and textures every time we receive a fresh stack of old boards. It still feels like Christmas morning to us each time we sort through them.
At the core of Rad Women Rad Work is work. I’ve toured the Maple XO factory twice now and it is W-O-R-K to make the elegant jewelry and accessories you do. Did you have an idea that it would be this process intensive when you started?
You know… from the first day I cut up a skateboard, I could tell that woodworking wasn’t easy. But if there’s anything I’ve learned about myself in life it’s this: One of my main character flaws is that I don’t know when I can’t do something… on the other side of that, one of my main virtues is that I don’t know when I can’t do something. I had the vision and passion and I kinda just let that guide me. The hard work is something I that feels earned and rewarding. I’m also grateful for it because the more we have our hands in that process… the more we get inspired to create new things.
MapleXO is home to more than just your business; your workspace includes a number of other creators and businesses. What does community mean to you and what do you get from being in such a collaborative space?
MapleXO first started in a community workspace. I literally walked into this shared wood shop called “The Shop People” and just asked the first person I saw, “what’s the best way to cut circles”… I had a bangle bracelet envisioned. To be honest, I knew very little about power tools and woodworking. Took a middle school shop class and that was about it. I was lucky enough to meet a woodworker there named Paul who basically took me under his wing and showed me the ways of the woodworking world. After a couple years there, I bounced around to a few other shops, including sharing a space with the homie Billy who is an amazing woodworker, skateboarder, and all around epic human. In every place we’ve been, the vibes and support we give and get from our peers have always been extremely important to us. Leasing space to other makers has been a great way to feel like we’re giving back to our roots. The people in this building blow us away on the daily.
What is it about work that you enjoy the most?
The first thing that stands out is the moment when we lock down a killer new product. For every new product we launch through MapleXO, it’s safe to say that there were 20 – 30 failed attempts at new designs. Sometimes even more. When the stars align, we get on the right track, and we tweak things around just right… it’s right then. Boom. You feel like a damn queen. It really feels like a reflection of your soul to put your weird designs into the world, so when those click… it’s one of the best feelings ever.