Inside / Out at Outer Shell in San Francisco
Words and photos by Spencer Harding
When we set out on the DFL the Divide trip earlier this year I noticed a bunch of my bay area friends were rocking bits and pieces by Outer Shell. Kyle’s work continued to pop up in my world and one day I noticed that he had pretty much made my dream camera strap, I emailed him as quick as I could to get in on the next batch. Kyle has been putting his own very thoughtful twist on many now classic bike packing bags for a few years. With a background in engineering and a focus on versatility and durability, Kyle started Outer Shell.
After getting settled in up in Oakland I reached out to meet him in person and check out his workshop. I was lucky enough to catch him on the last morning before he took some time off for family and adventure. He was putting the finishing touches on a few saddle bags but other than that was wrapping up his shop for a few weeks.
Outer Shell is produced within Noisebridge, a hackerspace. For the unfamiliar, hackerspaces are, “Community-operated physical places, where people share their interest in tinkering with technology, meet and work on their projects, and learn from each other.” Basically it’s a big ole’ space with lots of tools to DIY just about anything you could want to make. Such spaces are amazing resources and a few years ago Kyle got tired of hand sewing things and came to Noisebridge to learn to machine sew.
The sewing area is tucked in between a large LED sculpture consisting of milk crates and old bottles and the laser cutting/welding room dubbed “Sparkle Forge”. The space can be rather overwhelming and is overflowing with details; electronic guts, and smalls parts meticulously organized, and all manner of past projects strewn about.
As we get to chatting about his process and workflow I am instantly stoked to find out that he does most of his fabric cutting on a laser cutter! If that doesn’t give you an idea about how particular and thought out his bags are I don’t know what will. He does the cuts in large batches and just feeds the fabric into the cutter off the large roll.
While he does not have his own space, for now, I found the most engaging element to be the possibilities that arise from such a diverse environment. Very much in the spirit of the space, many times while we chatted he was questioned about using the laser cutter by a fellow hacker and was happy to oblige.
Check out his line of bags and the cool story behind the name of company over at www.outershelladventure.com