Name: Michael Stricklin

Pencil hand: Right

Craft: Leatherworking

Brand: Loyal Stricklin

Location: Opelika, AL



“I do my best to surround myself with positive, motivated, and successful friends, most of whom are entrepreneurs as well. It helps to have a support system that understands the challenges in running a business.”

Michael Stricklin
Michael Stricklin
Michael Stricklin


What do you do?

I’m the Owner and Creative Director of Loyal Stricklin, a lifestyle leather goods brand and retail store local in Opelika, AL.  Being the owner and designer, I have a lot of different jobs. I run our bag production, design all of our products, and most recently designed and built the interior of our new retail store opening at the end of May.

What does your work space look like? Where do you like to create?

We have a roughly 3,000 sq feet of studio space in an old cotton warehouse in our historic downtown.  It’s a mix of concrete, old brick, and and cinder blocks.  Our production room is the heart of our space, with huge work tables, sewing machines, and leather wall to wall. We have a shipping/stock room and a huge space up front for storage and where we do the occasional wood working projects and build the furniture for our shop and studio.

What role does the pencil play in your process?

It’s square one. It’s where I always start. I always make a rough sketch and slowly refine over many drawings, whether it’s coming up with a new wallet design, a bag, or sketching how I want our space to evolve.  To get the work we do done, it always begins with a drawing.

Why do you choose to work with pencils and, specifically, Blackwings?

I’ll admit, ever since architecture school I’ve been a pen guy.  I was first introduced to Blackwing at Liberty Fairs, a tradeshow in New York. I spent three days sitting next to their booth, and used them throughout the weekend. I was hooked by their soft-lead, black pencil.  It made me fall in love with pencil drawings again.  The two-step pencil sharpener sold me in the end to switch back to pencils as well. I always had a problem over-sharpening, and the two step sharpener insured that I had a perfectly sharpened pencil every time.

What other tools are essential to your process?

I carry one of our Edison Wallets, a notebook wallet that has a pen slot and room for any 3.5 x 5.5 notebook.  I start here with notes, sketches etc… but once it’s time to really start figuring a design out, it’s on to my bigger sketchbook and pencil.  Once the design elements start to solidify, I make templates and samples, refine, and finally lay it all out digitally to get the measurements exact before moving on to production.

How do you overcome ______ block? Writer’s block, artist’s block, etc. 

It happens a lot. Especially when designing bags.  I get stuck on the details often, and usually it takes stepping away for a while, working on other things and solutions will come to me when I’m not trying so hard.  Bags also look much different when sketched out versus reality.  Adding color to the drawing can help, but in the end, the best way is to make sample after sample, refining drawings, and then make more samples, changing the details and measurements as needed with each new piece.  Often times, the end design will make more sense once you get it off the paper.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I have two different ideas that I follow in terms of work: Never give up. If you have passion, desire, and work ethic, and good ideas, then you’re bound to succeed. It may take some longer than others, but it’s sure to happen. I attribute most of my success with Loyal Stricklin to sticking with it, and not giving in to the nay-sayers early on.  The other piece of advice I really believe in, is that you are the average of your five closest friends. Our friends help shape our lives, and if you want to see your future, look at your friends’ lives.  I do my best to surround myself with positive, motivated, and successful friends, most of whom are entrepreneurs as well. It helps to have a support system that understands the challenges in running a business.