Maker Feature: Failsafe Goods

By Nick Italiano

Introduction

Failsafe Good is a leather goods brand that has taken the EDC community by storm in recent years. From the iconic logo to the premium leather and stitching, every single piece Ryan makes exudes distinct character and detail. Out of the box, Ryan’s leather goods are just as classy as any luxury leather good you will find in major stores, but because of the high-quality materials used Failsafe Goods leather pieces will stand the test of time and look even better as they age!

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Kibbee, owner, and sole leather craftsman of Failsafe Goods, about how he got started, and where he is looking to take the company in the future. Ryan lives in New Hampshire with his family and enjoys bushcraft, hiking, and variety of outdoor sports. Ryan is an accomplished artist and designer, including having won a national award for his art. Despite this he never found any artistic mediums truly fulfilling until he started working with leather, each piece he creates is utilitarian art, the perfect blend of form and function!

How Failsafe Goods got started

Ryan has always appreciated leather goods and recognized the timeless nature of well-made and well-maintained leather. He started following some leather craftsman on Instagram and had a friend who made leather slips and began to have interest in trying his hand and making something himself. He credits his friend who made the slips as the catalyst to his journey into leathercraft. After getting his first set of tools and some leather that was generously donated to him from some makers in the community, Ryan set out to make a few leather slips for the people who donated the materials to him. As soon as they received the slips and posted them on Instagram, Ryan began receiving requests from others to have him make slips for them as well. What started as something to scratch a creative itch quickly a blossoming business.

The Logo   

The first thing you will notice about any of the leather pieces from Failsafe Goods is the distinctive logo that has become an icon in the EDC community. When I inquired about the origins of the logo, I found out that there was a far deeper meaning behind than something that would just look good. I decided that this story should be told in Ryan’s words so here is what he had to say.

“Logo artwork I originally created in 2012 or so during a period where my father was ill and dying. The artwork was designed for a tattoo that resides on my right ribcage, from hip to armpit. The design is a nod to my father and each part of it represents a place of strong significance from times we shared there as well as the absolute more positive/happy memories of my childhood

I think of it as a kind of memory totem and tribute to family. The anchor represents a campground in Maine we used to go every summer. There is a massive anchor of this style atop a hill there. It’s large enough that one can climb it and swing from it. 

This is where I drew the name “failsafe” from, as this style of anchor is a kedge anchor which I understand to be a sort of secondary or back up anchor for large ships should the primary break. The anchor becomes a fail-safe anchor I guess you could say. The symbolism and metaphor of an anchor as being dependable and sturdy and steadfast I felt really suited what I wanted my work to convey.

Below the anchor are a pair of skis crossing a canoe paddle. The skis represent my family cabin where I go as often as possible. This place has a lot to do with what and who I am. Above the door when you enter the cabin are a pair of wooden skis that belonged to my grandfather who built the cabin – he skied for the US during WW2 in the 10th Mt. Division in the Alps.

Lastly the paddle represents a friends lake cottage where I spent many summers boating, fishing, and swimming and exploring the woods. This location is full of wonderful memories from my childhood and is also quite significant as a location and ties into the logo as it was the last place I spent with my dad before he became sick… when he was still just my dad. Once he became ill it’s like he was kind of a different person in a way.

I put the images together in a sort of skull and crossbones arrangement… cause it’s fun and I just thought it would look good. I’ve been really pleased with how others have found connections to it in one way or another. It’s a happy accident that it became my logo and that it resonates with people so well.”

With this much meaning and passion behind his makers mark, it is no surprise that Ryan puts his heart and soul into each piece that bears that mark. From simple coin slips to elaborate custom wallets each one is thoughtfully designed, made from the best materials, and have a flawless finish.

Design Approach

Ryan draws inspiration from several different makers within the community, specifically Jimmy DiResta for his maker philosophy and approach to creating and Casey Lynch for his consistency of quality and reputation as a great guy. He draws inspiration from other leather craftsman including Craft & Lore and Hitch & Tinder.

When designing, Ryan’s goal is to create something that is distinct and recognizable as a Failsafe Goods product. He strives to create products that are rugged, durable, and useful, while also looking great. He accomplishes this through keeping things simple and versatile, embracing minimalistic design. When it comes to selecting materials Ryan always seeks leather with great texture, color, and character; ensuring the leather will stamp and burnish nicely as well as take a clean edge. Whenever possible, Ryan will source materials locally; he currently gets his thread, needles, and conditioning balms from neighboring states. Each piece is assembled by hand with attention to the most minute detail, depending on the design each piece can take between 2 to 4 hours or more to complete.

Conclusion

Ryan’s top priority is the integrity of his products, ensuring each piece exceeds customer expectations and will stand the test of time. I can personally attest to this as my Smash and Grab wallet has been with me daily for about a year and a half. It has experienced cold winters, hot summers, hiked to the summit of Mount Ascutney in Vermont, spent many days in the damp wetlands of New York, and the river filled forests of Connecticut; and it somehow looks better now than the day I received it!

You can find Failsafe Goods on Instagram (link below) and follow along with his leathercrafting and outdoor adventures. Ryan routinely drops his products there, so keep your eyes peeled because they sell out fast!

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