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Mason Dixon Made. Made By Hand.

In a world of mass production, mass consumption, and reckless disposability, we seek something more enduring and more personal in what we make. And so we invest more-than-just-a-bit of ourselves in every piece we stamp with the Mason Dixon logo. We meticulously shape each design through countless cycles of design-prototype-refine. We purchase our raw materials in small lots, carefully selected for quality, sustainability, and beauty. And we individually craft every shoe and bag that goes out our doors, to yours. It takes time, and it’s not the least expensive approach to making shoes and bags. But we believe it’s worth it.

Why? Because faster and cheaper aren’t always better, and even well-made, expensive mass-produced goods lack the personal connection, individuality, and rootedness that come from Made By Hand.

 

The Mason Dixon Story

In some ways, I started Mason Dixon simply because I love making things. That's not the whole story, but it's a good place to start, because it's such a big part of what drives me every single day. I love art and creativity, but even more, I love the deeply authentic connection that comes from shaping raw materials into something that’s both useful and beautiful.

I first discovered that in my early 20s, when my husband’s cousin Allie taught me how to sew one snowy afternoon. I was hooked. A few months later, I started an Etsy shop called Barely Measured, making cloth handbags, accessories and custom projects as a side hustle. I even turned a woman’s bridal gown into clutches for her five daughters. I nearly passed out with anxiety as I made the first few cuts into her gown.

Several years later, I had the unique opportunity to work as an upholsterer at a high-end custom furniture maker. I’d never upholstered in my life, but I got to learn from incredibly talented people, master practitioners of hand-skills fading in the face of cheaper and faster factory-based assembly-line mass production. They taught me how to hand tie springs, how to use horse hair to stuff the tufted backs just so, how to work with leather. Most importantly, they helped me to discover how much I loved the grit and sweat and thought that goes into that kind of making. It had a certain raw intensity and challenged me in a way that fabric sewing didn’t.

the first booties

A year later, I made my first pair of leather baby booties. I already had a gorgeous piece of ostrich leather I’d bought years earlier and hoarded (carefully! gently!) as a prized piece in my sewing room, waiting for just the right project, and on a bit of a whim, I decided one day to make a pair of shoes for my eight-month-old daughter, Charlotte.

So I let Charlotte nap on our bed and very quietly measured her feet while she slept. I sat down with my sewing machine, that piece of leather, and YouTube (yes, thank you, YouTube!) and started shaping that piece of leather into my first pair of handmade shoes. I nearly broke my little home sewing machine in the process, but Charlotte woke up to new booties. Those first booties served as inspiration for Mason Dixon's Eyre booties.

Heather punching leather

I had really enjoyed the project, so I started researching simple shoes for kids and making prototypes. Charlotte wore hers everywhere and I found myself striking up conversations and hawking them to moms at the playground and friends everywhere, anyone who was willing to let their kids run crazy in them and share their feedback. And in 2015, after two years of telling people I’d start selling shoes “soon,” I finally started Mason Dixon, selling the Eyre baby bootie and the Mini-Frank boot for kids.

The other piece of the Mason Dixon story isn't about making, because Mason Dixon is about more than making nice handcrafted shoes and bags. Part of what drives me with Mason Dixon is a desire to build a different kind of company, one that's about more than cranking out products and building sales and maximizing profit.

Mason Dixon is about investing our time and ourselves in products that are beautiful and functional, with little waste and lots of character. Mason Dixon is about forging relationships and honoring connections — with you, with our vendors, with our community. It’s about running a business in a way that’s attuned to the world more broadly, sourcing materials responsibly, reducing our environmental impact, treating customers like real people, and giving others (especially women) opportunities to learn a trade and hone their skills.

It’s been hard and sometimes heart-wrenching work. I know that Mason Dixon is filled with me, but I also know that I couldn’t have done any of this without the countless craftspeople who have been so generous with their time and knowledge, helping me to improve my designs and to develop my skills — in making shoes, working with leather, building a business. It’s been so incredibly gratifying and humbling to encounter such wonderful and talented people, and I’m sometimes speechless in my gratitude for their support and help.

And I couldn’t have done any of this without the unwavering love and support of Mason Dixon’s resident superhero, my husband Dusty. There’s nothing Dusty hasn’t been willing to do for Mason Dixon. He pitches in when things get too busy for me to keep up with. He provides brilliant feedback on every design. He digitizes and scales our shoe patterns. And he glues every crepe rubber sole that goes out the door. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it’s amazing. Crepe rubber soles are notoriously difficult to work with, and I’ve met many seasoned shoemakers and cobblers who want nothing to do with it. But Dusty nails it. Every time. (Well, not literally. He literally glues it.)

Heather and Dusty

Dusty also solo-parents almost every Saturday and many weeknights so I can head to the studio and get some work done. A shoemaking girl couldn’t ask for a better partner.

Mason Dixon has now grown into our third studio space, and our team now includes our super-talented Production Assistant Susan. In 2017, we're also launching our Summer Apprenticeship Program, with our first apprentice Siobhan.

So that’s our story. I love what I do, and I hope you love wearing your MDs as much as I love making them. Please let me know!

Wishing you many happy adventures!

 

Accolades & Press

Mason Dixon was a finalist in the American Made Contest and was named Top Maker for Children and Families by USA Today.

Additionally, Mason Dixon won Philadelphia Magazine's 2016 Best Handmade Shoes, praised as "the cutest footwear we've ever seen ... in whimsical color pairings and adorable styles [that] make you wish she made them in adult sizes." Which, of course, Mason Dixon now does. :-)

Mason Dixon and Heather were recently profiled in The Mom Edit.

What Others Are Saying

"Adorable ... wearable pieces of art"

--Philadelphia Family

"Worth every penny"

--Philadelphia Shoppist

"Gorgeous ... stunning ... sturdy ... and clearly put together with a healthy dose of care and love."

--A Child Grows in Philadelphia

Let Us Hear From You!

Of course the reviews we're most interested in are yours, so please let us know what you think of your Mason Dixon footwear and bags. Send us a note or leave us a review on Facebook. What we really love is seeing you and your Mason Dixons out and about, so please post some pics on Facebook or Instagram. Tag us and use the hashtag #MyMasonDixon.

The Mason Dixon Promise

We stand by every piece we make, and we want you to be thrilled with your made-to-order or CustomMD footwear or bag. If you ever have any questions or problems, we want to hear from you! Please drop us a line or message us on social media.