"For many people their life is determined by their work. We wanted our work to be determined by our lives."
THE ROOTS OF INKLEAF
What do you get when you take two creative people who never thought they'd have their own business and you place them in difficult circumstances? Well, in our case you get something like Inkleaf.
See, Steff and I (Jazeps) never intended to do anything like this. And yet, life often has a habit of giving us what we need more than what we ask for. Back in 2009 I discovered that I had Crohn's Disease. Within a year I had lost my job, my health insurance and my apartment. The one thing I didn't lose was Steff's love. And thank God for that, because the next several years would be darker and more difficult than either of us could have guessed.
In the midst of this, we started Inkleaf.
NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND
We started out with next to nothing. A cracked cutting board, an old desk lamp and some shabby leather tools. Had we known the difficulty of getting a business off the ground, we never would have done it, but had we never done it, we would have never known what's possible.
During these first few years, we struggled just to get by and the difficulties surrounding my health became magnified many times over. At various times we thought about quitting, but a stiff mix of desperation and hope kept us trudging forward.
IT ALL FALLS DOWN
In the Summer of 2012, the biggest fire in Colorado history swelled just beyond our doorstep. We were forced to flee and once again found ourselves making do with the bare minimum of tools on the floor of a hotel outside the city. We came back to a neighborhood in utter ruin, but thankfully the fire which had consumed an entire mountain stopped not a hundred yards from our doorstep.
In the following several months, my health went into steep decline and I found myself hospitalized repeatedly for the next year (five times all told). During this time (and the time leading up to this) Steff took nearly the full burden of Inkleaf upon herself while also taking care of me.
Inkleaf was growing, but with the ongoing medical bills we continued to struggle.
A CLEARING IN THE WOODS
With some (but certainly not all) of my health issues behind us, we found ourselves in a period of relative peace. It was a time for reflection and processing all that had happened. What we'd lost, What we'd gained, and everything in between.
There's no going back after so much struggle and pain. All you can do is move forward. And that's exactly what we did. In some ways, Inkleaf itself had become a source of pain. Despite everything that had happened, there was a sense of shame about it all. We wanted things to be different.
In considering the fragility and brevity of our own lives, we resolved to pursue that which was genuinely meaningful. For many people their lives are determined by their work. We wanted our work to be determined by our lives.
We wanted to renew the days.
THESE DAYS RENEWED
For both Steff and myself, we have a particular love for story. It seemed only natural then that Inkleaf, which through several evolving iterations had struggled to find an expression which felt right, should return to this place and flow from it. As for what that looks like, please keep watching, as it is unfolding before your eyes.
Ultimately, the story of Inkleaf is not about success. It's not about moving from pain to joy either (though that has happened in many respects). It's about realizing that life is a wonderfully messy business which does not easily lend itself to our calculations, our carefully laid plans or our best wishes. Life is a struggle, but a beautiful one if you choose to embrace it as such.
Inkleaf represents as much a desire to express the goodness of work as it is about making and bringing together beautiful products. Every piece we offer is a small act of resistance against a world dominated by, as Charlie Chaplain put it in “The Great Dictator”, “Machine men with machine minds and machine hearts.”
This is why we do what we do. This is why we create, so that we can become more fully human.