Q&A: Shwood Eyewear - Design Bureau




Q&A: Shwood Eyewear

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

The Pacific Northwest is known for its natural beauty. And with a new collection of all-wood sunglasses, Portland, OR-based eyewear company Shwood is proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Following a trend that can be traced to contemporary furniture design, all manner of fashion accessories are finding similar success with an expressed return to “as is” materials. Classic modern aesthetics that for decades seemed impervious to innovation are finding new life from natural-element treatments.  We interviewed Shwood founder Eric Singer about crafting classic sunglasses and why the Wayfarer will never lose its style.

Which came to you first: an interest in sunglasses or wood? Why combine the two?

Wood. I used to be a big Pauly Shore fan. When In The Army Now came out on VHS, everything went out the window, and all I wanted to do was enlist in the Army. I was maybe 10, and at that time, my dad had a small wood shop in our garage. I started making really detailed guns and rifles out of two by fours. It started getting elaborate; soon, the whole neighborhood was waging war.  At that point, I had no interest in sunglasses, though I did convince my mom to buy me a pair of night-vision goggles.

The gun making was short lived, as was my love for Pauly Shore movies.  I continued to make all sorts of things, ranging from driftwood lamps to chainsaw sculptures, to custom interior car parts. None of those things held my interest for very long, and schooling didn’t seem like the right path for me. I did develop an interest in sunglasses, and was always on the lookout for vintage looks at the secondhand store. One day, I chopped a branch off a Madrone tree from my neighbor’s backyard, and looked at it not knowing what to make next. Everything I had done before with wood just seemed boring.  I had just picked up these awesome Wayfarer-style shades, and it clicked. Simple as that.

Too much wood is never a good thing. It stands out in small amounts, so whatever it might be, make sure it’s not your suit jacket.

What are some of your favorite sunglasses designs of all time?

The Wayfarer for sure. It will always be in style, no matter how many people reinvent it. That’s why I think I like it; it’s untouchable. Usually if something is replicated over and over, it seems to lose its value, but not with the Wayfarer. There’s a reason people like Bob Dylan and James Deanrocked them.

Why did you see the need to reinvent the classics?

In my opinion, the tones and grains in wood have a natural vintage feel. Remember the old woodie wagons of the ’40s and ’50s? Classic. It just made sense to make the styles resemble shades from past fashion eras.

What other objects do think could benefit from a total wood makeover?

Things that are subtle: cuff-links, shoe eyelets. I’ve always wanted a wooden tooth. Not a golden tooth, but a wooden one. Too much wood is never a good thing. It stands out in small amounts, so whatever it might be, make sure it’s not your suit jacket.

Where do you like to go to take a break from the workshop?

The beach, the mountains, anywhere but the big city. I like the city and the fashion culture that lives and breathes within it, but the natural settings, the smells, the views of uninhabited places are much more appealing to me. Besides, surfing the “concrete wave” can hurt a lot more.

I’m thinking about whittling myself a pair of new shades. What do I need to know?

Get yourself a really sharp knife, and go with the grain. If you don’t, it’s like petting a porcupine the wrong way.

What’s the future of Shwood, and what, in your opinion, is the future of sunglasses in general?

The future looks green. Not a whole lot is going to change from a material perspective. We will always work and experiment with natural elements; you won’t see many bright colors related with our brand.  Shwood has manifested into a gigantic creative project, which is constantly evolving. I have a feeling you will see more than just sunglasses that smell like beeswax in the future.  Sunglasses in general will get crazier and crazier. I mean, there are some already that don’t even have temples. Some you cant even see through. Just askLady Gaga. I don’t know where all of that is going, and I’m glad. But in general, I think it’s pretty well established…make something that protects the eyes and at the same time doesn’t make you look like an idiot. Smooth style is smart style.



Tagged with: