Landscape designer by day and creator of leather goods by night, Orange County native Scott Goodman handcrafts a wallet out of his studio apartment in Dana Point. Photo by ? either Andrea Papagianis or Shelley Schaffer

By Andrea Papagianis

Wandering through a parking lot in Irvine, in search of his car, Scott Goodman stumbled upon something unexpected, a small clay cup holding a folded piece of lined yellow paper declaring, “FINDERS KEEPERS.”

Carefully placed beneath a palm, in a square planter filled with decomposed granite, the landscape designer found it. Small in stature, the imperfect grey color-blocked cup sat. With its handle slightly skewed, an odd lip and a bulging side, this handmade mug wore its maker’s mark.

For some the moment could be insignificant. But for Goodman, the small, handcrafted cup with the initials “M.A.D.” inscribed on the bottom held more than a note reading “You just found a handmade piece, take it home and enjoy.”

A simple clay cup, found in an Irvine parking lot, play an instrumental role in Scott Goodman's journey to creating handmade goods. Photo by Shelley Schaffer
A simple clay cup, found in an Irvine parking lot, play an instrumental role in Scott Goodman’s journey to creating handmade goods. Photo by Shelley Schaffer

It was the imperfections of this cup that held the splendor of handcrafted goods. For Goodman, designing landscapes satisfies his desire to create on a large scale, but the little cup served as inspiration toward making small handmade treasures of his own.

Born in the city of Orange, Scott Goodman, or “Scotty,” relocated the five odd-miles from Laguna Niguel to Dana Point when he was 10 years old. From R.H. Dana Elementary to Marco Forster Junior High and on to Dana Hills High School, Goodman traveled the academic road most Dana Point students do.

And when wood shop proved more interesting than mathematics, he took his interests in people and stories and majored in history at the University of California, San Diego.

Goodman found himself—as many young, college graduates do—at a loss with what to do with a liberal arts degrees. With a love for bonsai trees instilled by his grandfather at a young age, he returned to school at Saddleback Community College, to study horticulture.

Maybe it was a leap of faith, a need to fill a creative void or one persistent college counselor—without a doubt in her mind—that prompted Goodman to pursue a career in landscape architecture. He applied to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, but was wait-listed.

A week before classes began, he received a call. Goodman was accepted to Cal Poly’s masters of arts program in landscape architecture, and he hasn’t looked back since. Now, a full-time landscape designer at the Irvine-branch of EPTDesign, Goodman works on urban projects, like the redesign of the Villa Marina Marketplace Mall in Marina Del Rey. Recently completed, the shopping center is home to a living wall—a green succulent covered feature—as part of a design collaboration, with a heavy Goodman hand.

As in his work, Goodman finds beauty in the small details.

Scott Goodman, a landscape designer by trade, started Headlands Handmade out of his Dana Point studio apartment. Photo by Shelley Shaffer
Scott Goodman, a landscape designer by trade, started Headlands Handmade out of his Dana Point studio apartment. Photo by Shelley Shaffer

On large-scale landscaping projects, Goodman’s design comes down to the inches. But working from his desk, he rarely sees how a one-eighth or one-sixteenth of an inch change translates in the real world. Without the satisfaction of seeing what these small fractions actually looked or felt like, Goodman again stumbled on to yet another inspiration.

A high price tag on a leather toiletry bag, and a small push from its local maker, sent Goodman to a leather shop in Costa Mesa. Equipped with the design tools of his trade, and those of the leather, Goodman completed his first leather toiletry bag.

After sitting on his desk for nearly two years, the little clay cup acted as his catalyst.

While on a trip to Nebraska with his grandmother Betty, Goodman made a promise to himself to give his new-found passion in leather crafting a shot.

There was no “Ah-ha” moment, just instinct telling him to take a chance.

So, in November, after taking leather into his own hands, Goodman launched Headlands Handmade. Working out of his studio apartment in the center of Dana Point, Goodman painstakingly crafts handmade leather items, from the toiletry bag that sparked his interest to wallets, clutches and bracelets, custom made with each order.

And after years of jobs and school taking him around Southern California, Goodman settled back home, in Dana Point about three years ago.

“I grew up here,” Goodman said. “I was a little kid here and now I am a man here. It’s cool to see those same places and spaces from when I was a kid … not how they’ve changed, but how they’re still so similar.”

Dopp Kit
Dopp Kit from Headlands Handmade. Photo by Shelley Schaffer

It is in those familiar things, from the concrete gap in the center of town he never dared to jump on his skateboard to the painting of a neighborhood letter carrier that he knew as a kid hanging in the post office, Goodman finds inspiration in the simple things in his life.

A hand-carved wooden cuckoo clock hangs in his home. The 130-year-old German timepiece, a small gift from his grandmother, acts as a simple reminder of the ­­­­imprint small-handcrafted goods can have. And much like his grandmother’s clock Goodman hopes his creations hold lasting impressions.

“That’s why leather is cool … It’s something that is going to last,” Goodman said. “It may not last 130 years, but things that last, they have special meaning to people.”

Gaining some traction

Last week, one of Goodman’s favorite websites, Well Spent—a Chicago-based blog, featuring honestly crafted goods—showcased his handmade leather, valet tray. These made-to-order creations will keep him busy for a while, as orders for the full-grain, vegetable-tanned piece with hand-tied leather knots on all four-corners started pouring in.

But timing is everything.

A full-time landscape designer by day and a leather goods entrepreneur by night, in Goodman’s one-man operation, time is of the essence. Orders for his customizable creations can take a few weeks to fill. For information on Headlands Handmade, go to www.headlandshandmade.com.


About The Author Dana Point Times

comments (1)

  • Sue Mendoza-Monlux Reply

    Great article, it brought me to tears and laughter. Full circle and well written it the writer takes us inside the artists home, heart and life.


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