I Create Birmingham: Jarrod Allen

Name: Jarrod Allen
Occupation: Industrial Designer
Business: Hide & True
Creative Industry: Design

1. What does Creative Birmingham mean to you?
I think it’s interesting how reciprocal the relationship Birmingham has with its creative community has become. 15-20 years ago, that term wouldn’t have been nearly as applicable as it is today. While both parties are a little difficult to clearly define, it’s very clear that they are both serving each other more than ever before. Creatives are making constant strides to improve their environment and in turn, the environment is yielding itself a friendlier place for them to exist. In the 90’s, It would have been difficult to identify one local individual immersed in and passionate about their trade. Today, I would be hard pressed to identify all the friends and acquaintances that are pushing themselves and their respective crafts daily to be a little bit better. It’s inspiring to say the least and I’m blessed to be a microscopic part of it. So, I would say that Creative Birmingham is an interesting term to describe our city.

2. How did you get started with Hide & True?
I can remember tinkering around with leather as far back as 2011. I’d hack up belts and use scraps from local businesses to make items I didn’t want to pay for or that I couldn’t find elsewhere. That hobby, like a lot of my hobbies fizzled out after a few months and remained dormant until a couple years ago until I found great inspiration from a Portland leather-worker named Matt Pierce and his open source approach to the craft. He didn’t hoard his intellectual property but instead put tutorials out there for all to read and attempt. The first watchband I made was based on one of those tutorials. I feel ethically obligated to share the things I’ve learned as well as the tools and materials I’ve accumulated along the way. I wouldn’t have gained the ground I have without all that others have invested in me. I love the way leather-work, like many other artisan skills have always been passed down this way.

3. You have a pretty creative family. How do you encourage the arts in your home & with your kids?
Watching my kids express themselves is incredibly exciting. The older they get, the clearer their propensities become. My daughter, Eva, is pretty verbal. She always has something to say and regardless of how nonsensical that statement may be, it’s always going to be amazing. There’s a picture my wife took of here banging on a ukulele while sitting on her bed. In actuality she was crying because her brother was making off with one of her toys but it looks like she’s singing a Bob Dylan song. I’d love to see her one day express herself with music. Whatever she does, she’s going to do passionately and I know she’ll be loved for it.

My son, Jude, is sensitive, observant and detail oriented. I’m teaching him all that I can. My favorite moments in the workshop are ones where he is pounding away beside me making things for his mother. The great thing about raising kids is you know what you’re investing, but you have no idea what their end product will be. Every once in a while you can almost catch a glimpse and those moments are incredible.

My wife is a photographer mostly but also a stylist and about a dozen other things people have no idea that they appreciate. Every time she comes home from a shoot I look over her shoulder as she edits and am amazed at what she’s captured. She’s my better half for sure and her photography is responsible for a great deal of the success of Hide & True has seen.

4. Who are some of your other favorite local artists?
I get a little overwhelmed but also excited by questions like this. There aren’t a lot of projects Matt Lane Harris has taken on that I don’t love. Jared Fulton and Andrew Thomson’s Plenty work is very inspiring. I have a good friend, Aaron Lane, that has the strongest work ethic, artisan knowledge and craftsmanship I’ve ever seen first-hand. I could listen to Duquette Johnston’s Dancing Song ten times a day for a month before I got tired of it. Jonathan Burch (Alabama Biscuit Co) is doing some things with biscuits that no one ever thought were possible. There’s really just too many in this town to list.

5. Where do you draw your design inspiration? What parts of Birmingham do you find inspiring?
I’m inspired by both the old and the new. There was a time 6-7 years ago where I read every article that was written about downtown projects. I was talking about Railroad Park before Tom Leader was even approached. I remember sending a friendly critique of the logo to the director at the time and checking the webcam every-day for a year just to see if a pile of dirt had moved a couple feet. For me, nothing is quite as inspiring as observing and partaking in improvement. Watching what is unfolding downtown is amazing. In order to truly appreciate it, I think we should all think back to how things were 5-10 years ago. That being said, we also have an interesting history that needs to be preserved and respected. Watching relics like the Lyric receive new life is also a beautiful thing.

6. What would you like to see happen in Birmingham in the next 5 years?
My answer may sound complacent or aggressive depending on how you read it but my hope is that we can sustain our current pace. There’s still a long way to go for our city but if we can continue on the current route and maintain our current speed, five years from now, will be looking pretty great.

Photo Credit: Stacy Allen