The Intersection of Hands & Tools – Or, How We Remain Handmade with Machinery

Here’s a little big secret: everything at Submaterial is made by hand. If you’re here, you probably know that already. But what exactly does that consist of? And in the age of mass production, why do we still insist on working so slowly?

First things first, a backstory.

In our startup days, literally everything was cut, glued, trimmed, or formed by hand. Every strip of felt was produced with human hands and handheld razor blades. They were incredibly thrilling and dangerous times. As proof of the beauty and quality of handmade objects, popularity and demand grew; a number of new employees were hired, but more was needed. We had to forge an intersection of our handmade ethos with large scale manufacturing.

Basic machinery was eventually purchased allowing us to still remain very hands-on. The efficiency of these hand-operated beasts made it possible to increase our output – and still hold true to our values of Made-By-Hand. We are now capable of producing thousands of square feet of product in a single week.



Currently, the only machinery and tools we use are completely operated by a fabricator – no continuous feeds and nothing automatic or programmed by a computer. We view our machinery as hand tools with more power or speed. The two most heavy-duty machines on site reside in our sizing department: the area where felt or other materials are prepped to be built into products.

Upon entering our production area, the first that catches the eye is our die cutter/click presses. These are used with dies which produce beautifully stamped out shapes, either simple or complex. Die making is a fascinating process and the dies we receive are works of art, truly, as they are all made by hand: razor sharp blades of metal carefully bent and punched, then secured by pressure-fit within wooden cradles. In conjunction with our 25,000 ton hydraulic press – handsomely designed by Italians and fashionable in army green – we can stamp out multiples of various designs such as our Figure wall tiles or Spindle Coasters all by hand, as each and every stamp is loaded, stamped, and controlled by us.

10 yards away you’ll find the workhorses of our studio: our strip cutters. Also Italian in origin with its purpose to cut belting leather, we’ve found them perfect for cutting literally thousands of linear feet of felt day in and day out. Fabricators control intake via pedal, and the circular blades slice any width strip that is manually loaded in. We now have four of these on site and use them daily.

But then there’s the humble, trusted mainstay. Not at all produced in Italy, but rather, by our own team: our glorious, beautiful jigs.

Jigs are extremely helpful tools that ensure we get repeated results for each product we make. When a new product is being developed, we run into various problem-solving issues like making sure a curve is exactly the same on every acoustical panel. Our woodshop team meets with various departments to dissect the constraints, then gets to work creating these tools that help standardize our products – and oftentimes facilitate and speed up the process of making the products. Made from wood, plastic or metal, jigs are indispensable to making our products and you’ll find them in every room of our studio, a sort of purposeful industrial studio décor with interesting shapes and markings.

Hands and Tools


The real heroes of the story, however, is our team full of resourceful human beings that possess all sorts of skills and knowledge from various fields. Woodworking, bookbinding, screenprinting, architecture, industrial design, knitting, sewing, photography, painting, and quite a few musicians (who happen to make their own instruments, too). And we depend very much on said skills for coming up with solutions to production, even if they don’t have any obvious common thread to Submaterial’s products. In fact, we prefer it that way – oftentimes we come up with incredibly useful, offbeat ideas that wouldn’t have been discovered otherwise. Skilled hands with minds that understand detail: these are far more important assets than any machine.

We may grow bigger, we may develop products that require new methods of production. While the material prep may be mechanically assisted, all products are all laid and finished by hand, and we intend to keep it that way. Why, exactly?

At the heart of Submaterial is a group of individuals with the credence of using our hands to make beautiful things – and we will always stay true to that.


David Hamlin Interview

With increasing growth for Submaterial, it’s not often that we find the time to sit down and ask each other questions about where we have been and where we want to go. Melina Bartolomei,  Submaterial Designer,  did just that with company Founder + Creative Director David Hamlin as she interviewed him in our studio in Albuquerque. Read the full story here…



Let’s start at the beginning. Where is David from, and what are snippets of your childhood that encouraged your creative upbringing?

I grew up in Colorado, in towns all along the front range: Lakewood, Wheatridge, Arvada. Junior high and high school were in Boulder, and then started my college career there at the University of Colorado. So yeah, I’m a Colorado kid.

I grew up in a family with four kids; I was the youngest. My mother is a very creative, passionate, fiery person. My dad is very scientific – and I do mean that literally, he worked for Martin Marietta during the Apollo and Gemini moon shots. I had these two very diametrically opposed parents, and I think the friction between them probably gave me a little bit of a creative perspective from an early age.

In my early childhood I created a lot of different types of puppet theatres and the puppets that went along with them – all of it with a very heavy monster theme, of course. I was also very into paper cutouts: I used to do these cutaway views of haunted houses using colored paper where you can see every room and what was going on in there.

What I’m most grateful for is that I was a child who, because of my parents’ alcoholism, was very consumed by my inner creative world; and for whatever reason, from a very early age I was supported by both the school that I went to and my friends and family to engage with that fully and disappear down that creative rabbit hole. I think that in the 70s it was much more common to ignore your children than it is now. It was a very different kind of time.



And then you ended up in Seattle.

Yes. In 1989 I took a Trailways bus to see a friend and never came back. I was so amazed by the city and wanted to change things up for myself. I had no idea what I was going to do and ended up doing so many different things. I did some lighting for Nordstrom, shop windows for several stores, magazine cover illustration. It was a great period of exploration. I used to buy pieces of vintage furniture and disassemble them in the middle of my studio apartment – I’m sure my neighbors hated me – but I needed to figure out how things were built because I didn’t have any practical application or education in furniture or design at that point. I started dissecting the world and figuring out how things came together, what people used to join different material. All of that exploration led to my very first company, Utopos, producing furnishings and furniture out of cardboard, as well as a material that is no longer available called Grid Core.

I’ve always allowed my creative spirit to push me into entrepreneurship, rather than the opposite; I think a lot of people feel the entrepreneurial spirit, and then they have the creative idea and go forth with it. I came at business form a completely backwards angle, and I came at design from a very backwards angle since my training was in fine art. My path to where I am now has often surprised me, when I look back at it.


Hamlin in 1989 in his first studio in the basement of a Victorian. Seattle, Washington.



That’s life’s great joy, though, the unexpected paths we take. Where on that path does Submaterial enter?

Submaterial started out of the ashes another company I had started, Construct – it was very successful and did well with a great launch at ICFF in New York, getting into the NYTimes, and everything seemed to be going great. I felt like I had the untapped abili ty to run a successful business, and I connected very well with the community of architects and designers in Seattle, but I didn’t know how to run a business properly. I went and worked for a variety of different companies in the Pacific Northwest, then took that experience and then started Submaterial.

The point of the business, originally, was that I was going to create design modules that designers could expand upon and use to incorporate designs into their own projects. For example, our Construct Wall Hanging is a situation where you basically have a standard 5” tile in different colors, but you can make it at any scale. So Submaterial really developed in the service of architects, looking for interesting pieces to put into lobbies of buildings.

I had planned to create panels and designs, then discontinue them the following year to create a sort of desirability. But what I found was that many of the designs had traction; and I learned very quickly that you don’t let go of something that’s successful, to then try something that is untested. I wanted it to be an opportunity to really clarify and express a pure visual language.



What launched a rapid growth in Submaterial’s trajectory? Was there a project that gave you the impression that you had made it?

Well, it’s a funny coincidence that during one of the lowest points in my career came one of the best and most high-profile projects that I’ve ever had. Here’s a guy who at that stage of the game didn’t even have a studio; everything I had was in storage, I was living in a 200sqft cottage with my partner, in a temporary situation outside of Denver. And who should call? Gensler.

Gensler wanted me to do this enormous wall covering project for KCET Television Station in LA – they were remodeling their entire interior. It was a project that I gave everything to, creatively, and every resource that I had, because I knew that it would be important and that it was going to make a difference in my career.

There were so many things I learned during that project. But the most critical understanding that I came to as a result was: the work that I was doing was valuable, even to a world-class architecture firm like Gensler, and that they saw enough value in what I was doing to incorporate it into one of their more high-profile projects. So if you ask when did I knew when I made it, it was really when Interior Design magazine published photographs of that project, and I saw how my work fit into the whole interior design world and that I had a place in that pecking order. That’s when I knew.


Submaterial’s start: Hamlin’s entire living room, occupied by a workbench taking up the space with bolts of felt. “There was no living that was happening in that house, it became the studio in response to the Gensler project.”



And you ended up in New Mexico, eventually, and started the physical company here.

I came here for a variety of reasons, a lot of which had to do with my partner, many of which had to do with my love of geology, the food, the culture and the sun. But there’s not a big community of design-oriented people. It was a huge challenge because there are no design jobs for people like me – or at least there weren’t, until I established my company here. I quickly realized that I needed to make a success of Submaterial, or I was going to end up working for a company I didn’t care about. Index Dimensional had just been introduced to the world and my very first customer for that product was Microsoft. So, again, that was very validating experience working with Olson Kundig Architects, specifying my product for this Microsoft project.

I made 150sqft of white Index Dimensional in my dusty garage, and it probably took me a week to make that small amount because I was still working out the production method. I took the money that I got from that project and a few other hospitality projects that happened right after it, and I used it to open up a 1200sqft studio in Rio Rancho – about 10 times the space I had in my garage. We worked out of that studio for about three years before we came over into Albuquerque proper and continued to grow – going from 700sqft to now 35000sqft.


The first official Submaterial studio garage, a mere 1200sqft.



And now you’re running a company with nearly 40 employees… what’s the most surprising thing about that? And how do you continue to foster the culture of creativity in the studio, with all this staff?

I had always pictured that when the company got to the point of 40 people, I wouldn’t know everyone’s name, I wouldn’t know their dog’s name, I wouldn’t know their partner’s name… but I do. I didn’t expect it to feel so much like a family. There’s an interconnectedness amongst our staff. I’m surprised that at this scale that you still feel it. It’s still a part of our culture.

I have always found people that I believed had potential, even if they didn’t have the education, background or skill in the field they were interested in; I see potential in them, I want to cultivate it, I want to encourage it. I try to facilitate people’s creativity by giving them the opportunities. And the opportunity to fail, because I think it’s important. Failing is one of the best skills that you can develop as a designer, because you want to continue to fail in the direction of your goal. That’s the whole iterative design process in a nutshell.


Submaterial’s current location in Albuquerque: 35,000sqft filled with several dozen employees.



Speaking of which, what else helps form your design process? Where do some of the better, great ideas percolate from?

I’m one of those people where my brain fires and makes weird connections between things that I’m seeing and things that I’m thinking. A lot of times that’s all very interconnected, of course, but I find that most of my best ideas come from making connections between things that don’t necessarily have a connection. For example, I have a deep and abiding interest in geology, paleontology, and anything having to do with the ancient world. I could be looking at a diagram of some Precambrian fish skull in a book, and there’s a certain line, or certain shape or certain quality in that drawing or descriptive passage that I bring to the materiality of how I work with my hands. And it’s the synthesis of those two things: a lot of influence from the natural world – much more overpowering than the influence of the technological world – combined with this desire to express myself with my hands.

I’ve always created a lot of odd objects. These objects then take on a life of their own. They become like seeds of products that are developed, ideas that continually develop. Our Murmur Trees for our home collection, for example: this is something that I made a connection between a natural form, a eucalyptus leaf, and a midcentury style where I had already seen these irregular, organic shapes transforming in. It was an opportunity to use three natural materials – metal, wood, leather – all in one object. And it’s something that I had played with, initially, on my workbench in 2005, and had sketched repeatedly.  But I didn’t create the product that would be realized from all of that until 2016. So, there’s a long, percolating period for me, where my brain is collecting information from all these different scientific, historical and design sources; and all these different things coming together being realized as a product.


Various sketches and notes of Hamlin’s in his multitudes of notebooks filled with ideas



During periods of creative downtime, how do you get an inspiration boost?

I go for a long walk. Sometimes it’s a lot of walks. Sometimes it’s a year’s worth of walks. I find that being out in the world and being presented with an everchanging visual landscape, whether you’re in a natural environment or an urban landscape, is clarifying and stimulating. It becomes a meditation, like you suppress your own interpretation of things and simply watch and listen. You become a sort of sponge. And I find that without being aware of it, during that kind of walking I absorb so much info that is later expressed creatively.

The hiking trails near my house are incredible, I use those quite a bit. Seattle, San Francisco, New York – those are all wonderful places to walk. I’m lucky that because of my business travel and the events that I attend, like NeoCon and sales events around the country, that I get a chance to walk in some cities that are visually very stimulating and exciting.



People, places, art, music, etc. – what specifically do you absorb that inspires so many of your ideas?

Well, that whole period of design between 1930-1960 is just fascinating to me. I was very lucky that my art history education included a lot of design as a peripheral aspect to what was happening in fine art. I love everything that came out of the Bauhaus period, the architecture that it led to, and the midcentury design developments that happened thereafter. I’m really inspired by people who can pare an idea down to its simplest form. That’s one of the things I really appreciated about all the midcentury designers, is that they got things down to some really basic shapes in a way that hadn’t really been explored before.

I find natural material of any kind – wood, stone metal, glass – to be very inspiring, and I find them much more interesting than synthetic materials. Our world is just so full of things that we don’t relate to as an organism, I think it’s important to incorporate things that people can touch and bring them back to their place in the natural environment.

I want to emphasize that I see a lot of marketing about people handcrafting things. And I feel that Submaterial is very unique and unusual because we’ve committed to large scale manufacturing and production on a handmade studio model. I’m so proud of that. I’m proud of the work that we have done to prove that you can have a successful business, that you can pay a living wage and provide benefits, all with products made by hand. I think that is the one very special thing about our company that is unlike any other company that I’ve seen, it’s just remarkable.



What does success ultimately look like in your design career? Is there a finish line?

There’s not a finish line. And if I look at what I set out to do with Submaterial, I have already succeeded beyond my expectations. I meant for this company to draw together a group of creative people around a lot of ideas that had infinite possibilities of expression, and to find a way to make a viable business that supported that group. And I did it. I’m very proud of that.

We have enormous amounts of opportunities open to us right now. We’re a strong brand, we have desirable products, we have a terrific staff. The company itself will continue to thrive, we’re still vital, still growing, still learning.

I hope that it is a memorable experience for the people who have worked here. Submaterial was always going to be something that continued to evolve and grow because of the people that were involved. This is an organization where a single personality can make a huge difference. So, we continue to be shaped, and I think that flexibility and changeability is part of what’s desirable about the company for me, and that’s why I say there’s never a finish line.

Submaterial Lobby Installation

After several years without a centralized front entrance to greet our clients, a front lobby experience has been a priority for our new space. The Submaterial team produced an experiential design incorporating our business partnerships, company values, and conceptual intrigue.

The double height lobby begged for an installation that would tie the two levels together visually, with natural light and vertical movement being key. As the company has grown and evolved since 2006, we’ve held fast to the concepts of curiosity and exploration.

Diane Ackerman is an influential poet and essayist whose work has enriched the thoughts and concepts of Submaterial products over the years. She writes on notions of nature and creativity, as well as works of nonfiction that

“urge us to live in the moment, to wake up to nature’s everyday miracles.”

The quote we selected for our double-height wall reads, “Wonder is the heaviest element on the periodic table. Even a tiny fleck of it stops time.”

Our studio embraces playful creativity and curious minds, encouraging a collective wonder via continuous exploration. This quote was the design seed driving the vision for the rest of the space.


The large laminated cardboard sphere delicately sits aloft the lobby’s half wall, intended to be reminiscent of scientific forms and playing off Diane’s quote regarding the periodic table. Each of the five rings is made using ten layers of cardboard. The sturdy sculpture acts as visual gravity, drawing immediate attention when entering the room.


The room is styled with furniture and accessories from Muuto (couch, table), Herman Miller (pillows with patterns by Alexander Girard), and the Submaterial Index Dimensional Wallcovering sold exclusively through our partner company, FilzFelt. Our new wordmark is secured to the wall in a deep red, which was made and installed by SignPlex.

In addition, our team utilized post-production material to craft an original Walnut credenza, introducing another natural material to the space and incorporating a surface to display sculptural items. Adjacent to the lobby installation, we have a bike rack which highlights our team’s commitment to the environment and alternate transit options (and of course, health!).

We’re incredibly proud of the first iteration of our front lobby and look forward to the future editions and transformations with new products and themes over the coming years. The beautiful photographs of the lobby were taken by talented photographer and friend, Patrick Coulie.

Come visit our studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We would love to give you a tour.

Submaterial Wool Felt at Hummingbird Art Camp

Hummingbird Music Camp

For over sixty years, Hummingbird Music Camp has been giving elementary and middle school age children a place to learn and grow in their musical and creative talents. The structured environment gives young campers the opportunity to enjoy fresh mountain air while going on hikes, dancing, swimming in the river, fishing, and of course creating music.

hummingbird music camp logo

The camp is one week (offered for all 9 weeks of summer) in the Jemez Mountains, encouraging students to grow as individuals and as members of a team, while also gaining confidence in their musical abilities.

Hummingbird Art Camp

Since starting the Hummingbird Music Camp, they have since developed Hummingbird Art Camp and Hummingbird Chess Camp. Hummingbird Art Camp is intended to

“expand their creativity by undertaking an assortment of projects with diverse media. Each child works with professional art teachers who inspire ingenuity and creativity.”

Wool Felt Offcuts Influencing Art

mosaic wolf mask made from wool felt

While seeking avenues to get rid of our wool felt scraps, we’ve come across talented artists with experience working with various mediums. A few months ago, we had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Voglewede, a local artist who has been teaching at the Hummingbird Art Camp for ten years.

Each year, Sarah finds something new for the students to create in order to keep them inspired and further their creative knowledge. In the past, they have done projects like painting murals, crafted woven wall-hangings, carved balsa sculptures, made self-portraits on wood panels, and many more.

collage of students wearing their handmade animal masks

This year, Sarah had her students make over-sized masks with recycled cardboard, paper mache, paint, and various other materials to finalize the detailing. Submaterial provided wool felt off-cuts and we were pleasantly surprised to see photos on Instagram a few weeks later.

The Hummingbird Art Camp and the Hummingbird Music Camp ended their week-long activities with a collaborative (visual and musical) performance of “In The Jungle” and “The NeverEnding Story.”

handmade paper mache animal masks

Wool Felt Availability

Our studio handcrafts wool felt Wallcoverings and other design accessories. During the fabrication process, we generate large quantities of scrap material and are dedicated to finding avenues to keep the felt out of the landfill. If you or someone you know can utilize the material, please contact us!

Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity

“A hand up, not a hand-out”

habitat for humanity logo

Through Habitat for Humanity‘s new-construction program, partner-families and members of the community come together to build homes from the ground up. Partner-families purchase the homes provided by Habitat, but with a zero-interest mortgage at close to half the going market-rate in the area. The application process is extensive in order to provide the right families with this opportunity (based on need, goals, and financial literacy).

On-site, there are full-time staff and full-time volunteers to ensure new volunteers (like us!) have the proper training and guidance to complete the various daily tasks. On average, Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity finishes six houses per year via local funding and volunteer hours. Learn more about Habitat for Humanity monetary donations and volunteer options.

Submaterial at Habitat

Last weekend our team spent seven hours on-site in Santa Fe building a home for a local family of four. Upon arrival, we saw the rain-washed concrete slab which had many of us wondering how an entire single-story home would fit on such a small footprint. We were pleasantly surprised to witness the division of space happen as we put up the wood framing, and contrary to what we expected, the slab looked larger as the framing went up.

group photo at santa fe habitat for humanity construction site

Our team of eleven was split into three groups; two groups were on framing and the other was responsible for accurately copying the architectural floor-plans onto the slab using blue chalk (you can call those blueprints!).

We were able to secure about 80% of the framing to the slab and completely finished copying the plans to the concrete.

collage of volunteers securing wood framing to concrete slab

Before we left, each of us had the opportunity to sign the framing for the family.  The family will read each encouraging note left by the volunteers prior to their walls being completed. We thought this was really special and took the opportunity to share positive thoughts with the partner-family.

volunteers signing wood framing at the end of the day

Although our team is a group of craftspeople who are accustomed to the art of making, many of us had no experience on a construction site. We had so much fun, each team member expressed the intention to return in the near future.

Veterans Off-Grid

Veterans Off-Grid is a non-profit organization we learned about while on-site last week. Founder Ryan Timmermans was there picking through the material Habitat is unable to utilize in the home-building process. Veterans Off-Grid focuses on providing work and housing for veterans in order to help them reintegrate into society.

“We are an off the grid community living in Earthship-inspired homes thriving without utility bills, mortgages, and roaring bureaucracy. We enjoy the quiet bliss of the Rocky Mountains along the Rio Grande and strive to minimize our impact to the environment.”

This organization also accepts volunteer help and can provide you with knowledge of sustainable housing practices. Our team plans on taking a trip to Carson, NM in the next few months to help support their mission and also grow together as a team. Learn more about joining their volunteer network here.

veterans off grid website photo


New Product Line – Fall Release Sneak Peek

Submaterial Fall Release

After over thirteen years working with clients in the field of commercial design, Submaterial is adding a dynamic line of products for the home. Although it seems like a new branch for the company, Founder + Creative Director David Hamlin began his creative journey with small-scale design objects; we’re coming back to our roots. This means select limited edition pieces are returning as standard products, like the sculptural objects below.

Our team is focused on providing timeless aesthetic and adaptability in the new line. The textural accessories create an enriching presence of color and texture, driven by the value of handcraft and premium materials.

Each sophisticated accessory will offer color and/or size options and a precision that makes even the most critical eye wonder if it could have been crafted by hand (yes, it was!).

Limited Edition Pieces

Twice per year the collection will receive a color update; once for the warmer Spring/Summer months, and again for the cooler Fall /Winter months. Each colorway is being carefully considered and will include seasonal colors. Special items will be marked editions referring to their manufacturing date and season, perfect for design collectors.

The fall product release incorporates materials such as wool felt, vegetable-tanned cowhide, Knoll’s Ultrasuede, reclaimed wood, and ceramics via a partnership with Modern Folk Ware.

Submaterial Brand & Color Naming System

In addition to many new products for the home, Submaterial is amidst a full re-brand. With this process comes a new word-mark, logo, and color palette. To push the branding further and add some fun to our team’s day, we decided to come up with fun and original names for each wool felt color.

For example, we will have a felt color titled Biscochito, a traditional Spanish wedding cookie which originated in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This cinnamon delight is also the state cookie of New Mexico.

Between now and the end of September, you can expect press coverage of these versatile accessories with full color range options and details on product sets. We encourage you to begin coordinating your own order and be ready to pull your favorite items into your shopping cart on September 30th.

For more information, you can email our team at and follow our social media accounts to stay up to date on new product details.


Submaterial Summer Event: MiiR Vacuum Insulated Bottles


Spurring from a tragic accident with life flashing before his eyes, Brian founded MiiR to create something bigger than himself. His goal was to fill the obvious need for a less cumbersome and reusable water bottle, while also making a difference in the world. Learn more about Brian’s story here.

The MiiR products are designed at the Seattle HQ and intended to be minimal, sustainable, functional, and enduring. The company is a certified B-Corporation,  which is awarded to for-profit organizations who “meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

“As a certified B corporation it was important for us to be in a space which was designed with environmentally conscious intent and expression. We are in the Brooks Running building which is LEED certified and part of Living Building Pilot program. It has been touted as one of the most efficient commercial buildings in the nation.”

Give Code

Each and every product includes a Give Code, which allows the consumer to see exactly where their $1 donation went and how it is making a difference. Check out their extensive list of projects!

Submaterial Water Bottles

Since we are a team of makers working in a high-end manufacturing environment, aesthetic and function are important elements. We need the ability to close anything we’re drinking from in our production spaces, and it is always a plus when we can stay on brand. We ordered the MiiR 20 oz Wide Mouth and had our word-mark engraved down the side. Each thermos was filled with Cocopotamus chocolate truffles in various flavors. Read more about Cocopotamus on our previous blog post.

Next Time You’re in Seattle!

Headquartered in Seattle, MiiR makes it a point to be a destination and serve the community as a place for people to come together.

“We’ve created a place for people to connect, converse, learn, and grow. We mix MiiR hard goods, superb coffee, a huge selection of beers on tap, food to sustain you, information on the MiiR Give and community. You can shop our entire product line as well as Flagship exclusives. We’re an anchor in our local neighborhood and a place to learn about the broader world. We offer events and seminars from our partners. We are a place to gather before your next ride, walk or run and a spot to cool down and swap stories. For our corporate and community group neighbors, we offer a meeting space for rent.”

Submaterial Summer Event: Cocopotamus

Cocopotamus is operated by a young and ambitions husband and wife duo specializing in chocolate truffles with a wide flavor range. See how they’re made here!

It is worth noting Cocopotamus is the chocolate provider for the Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmy Awards where celebrities pair these chocolates with their favorite wines.

We ordered their truffles for our Submaterial Summer Event, which is a company dinner we put together twice per year. Our event included all 46 of our employees and their plus-one invites. Each employee received a branded MiiR Thermos with a variety of Cocopotamus truffles inside.

While visiting their kitchen to pick up our bulk order, we learned more about a few of their chocolates and where their names came from.

Oopsy Daisy 

Current Cocopotamus owner David Le accidentally made this salted coconut truffle on his first day at Cocopotamus. He was trying to make the Hang Loose truffle, an island coconut dark chocolate flavor. Upon admitting his folly, the previous owner tasted the chocolate, threw in some extra salt, and added it to the collection.

Darth Vegan 

A fun spin on our favorite Sith Lord, the Darth Vegan is a black coffee vegan chocolate truffle with a whole coffee bean on top (yummm).

Lemon Shiver 

This truffle has a sweet and funny name origin related to the original company owner. When he would eat this truffle or any lemon flavor, he would get the shivers from the sour taste.

Naked Hottie 

One of our favorite naming stories; Jason Isaacs (father of Draco Malfoy) made a joke at the Emmy Awards about the original Hottie truffle without a chili coating being a “naked hottie” and the name definitely stuck.

Cocopotamus Mission

This small kitchen has a global reach, intentionally creating flavors from various regions in several countries.

“As human beings, we all crave connection. We need family, friends, and community to make us happy & whole. To make us productive and joyful.

It is our belief that valuing and understanding other cultures can help make the world a better place. For decades we have lived abroad and traveled, meeting people largely through their cuisines & cultures. We’ve shared our own backgrounds and the yummy things we’ve picked up along the way.

The joy of food is how we connect with other people. It’s also how we help connect others to each other.

So our secret mission is simple at heart:

Chocolate, it’s how the world is one.”


Submaterial Summer Event – Vinaigrette


Explora’s Studio Inventivo – Custom Installation

When established in 2006, Submaterial relied heavily on custom product orders for both commercial and residential clients. However, over the past five years, our company has been almost exclusively selling a standard collection of Wallcovering designs. We are grateful for the growth our Wallcoverings have allowed for our company, but we now have an incredible team of creative minds who can take on special projects with more ingenuity than ever before.

With the introduction of our own Territory Managers to market our custom capabilities, we’re able to find those clients. Every custom project we complete gives our team new skills and often paves the way for new product development.

Project Inception

Our most recent custom project for Explora stemmed from an established relationship via material donation to their arts and crafts area. After putting over 30 bags of wool felt scraps to use in almost two years, their team saw a way for us to collaborate on a few custom pieces for their Studio Inventivo exhibit.

Their project management and exhibits team connected with Submaterial in need of a welcoming and sound dampening Study Kiosk. They also wanted a few decorative pieces to tie the rest of the room together.


Our teams collaborated through a series of meetings to establish colors, sizes, and design specifications. Since Explora is local, we didn’t have to create samples or do extensive prototyping, other than the kiosk cover being that it is such a unique custom piece (pictured below).

After agreeing on materials, colors, sizes, and the design, our team began the fabrication process.

Fabrication Process

Our studio is broken into a few departments specializing in different aspects of product design. This custom project went through our Woodshop, Panel Studio, and Sewing Studio. The kiosk was built from plywood in varying thicknesses by our Woodshop crew, then covered with a removable felt sleeve crafted in the Sewing Studio.

The team sewing the kiosk cover used a purple felt with green thread and made it removable with a zipper. Exhibits tend to be up at Explora for 2-5 years, and we want to be sure they can clean it or replace it if damaged during use.

The Wall Panels selected for this exhibit are a custom iteration of our Bulb design with color-blocking and a panel series in our deconstructed Wall Panel 068 design. This panel series was made with purple and yellow felt to tie the purple Study Kiosk to the gray and yellow color-blocked Bulb panel together.


Another benefit of being local is the ability for our team to handle installation. Although we do not technically offer installation services, there are specific cases where it makes sense to have our crew onsite. This project was a combination of a client  purchase and a donation, where we covered a large portion of labor costs for the benefit of a long-term community project. A few team members delivered the custom pieces, and spent a few hours getting the panels hung and the kiosk in the correct location.

Explora & the Finished Exhibit

Explora is a museum focused on hands-on learning of science, engineering, math, and art. The Studio Inventivo exhibit is an upstairs corner dedicated to the art of making and sharing ideas.

“Studio Inventivo is a space at Explora for children and families to use tools and technology to transform familiar materials into projects that highlight the intersections of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). In this space, visitors can design a concept or project idea, create a prototype or test version of their design, and share stories about the process of creating their project through displaying their work or recording a digital story at the Story Kiosk station.”

We stopped in to photograph the exhibit and loved how the Submaterial Wall Panels looked in the space, especially with the natural light and bright yellow truss situated adjacent to Studio Inventivo!

If you are interested in working with the Submaterial team on a custom project, get in touch via email at

A’19 – A Materials Playground

AIA Conference on Architecture


Intended to provide those in the Architecture and Interior Design professions with material and brand options, the AIA Conference on Architecture is “A Materials Playground.” With over 600 booths, manufacturers range from door handles and skylights to landscape design and building-envelope specialists. Over the course of three days, the expo also highlights local architecture, business development possibilities, design education including CEU’s, and tons of booth-specific swag.

This year the conference was held is Las Vegas, Nevada, themed Blueprint for a Better Future.

Unique Booths

Design Collaborations

Specializing in collaborative, handmade design via cast glass and landscape artistry, this husband and wife team is based in Tucson, Arizona. Design Collaborations was founded in 1990 and utilizes the “lost wax method.”

Their booth was eye-catching with over-sized glass beads in various colors hanging to represent a large necklace. Lear more about their process here.

“We craft forms ranging in shape from jewel-like elements to large sculptural pieces.  Our work, which is featured in settings ranging from private gardens to urban spaces, blends industrial gear and traditional bead forms.  By combing the creative talents of our team, we meld fragility and solidity, transparency and opacity, and visual and tactile beauty.”



One brand we’ve all heard of and likely purchased from, Behr brought their ‘A-game’ (pun intended). The booth showcased their interior paint options, which they turned into a creative activity, luring in attendees to paint a bear.

Sto Corp

“Building with Conscience” means taking product design and implementation to the next level. Sto believes in innovation, ease of use, low energy consumption, and aesthetically pleasing results.

Their booth demanded a lot of attention because of their collaboration with Ray Swinn, an abstract portrait artist creating live paintings of show attendees. See more of her work via her Instagram page.

artist painting abstract portraits of booth visitors

Ambius Design

Green design has a direct meaning with this company specializing in interior and exterior landscape design. Ambius living walls caught our attention because our new front lobby would be the perfect place to accommodate such a piece. The verdict is still out on our plans for our front lobby, but Ambius has given us a lot to think about!

New Mexico Design Community in LV


In addition to meeting designers and companies from across the country, we got to meet up with some past and present Albuquerque designers. Our Marketing Specialist attended the University of New Mexico School of Architecture & Planning‘s Alumni event. It is incredible to see the success of these professionals, all around one table. Included in the image below are (starting in the upper right corner, clockwise);

Jennifer Penner – Associate at Studio Southwest Architects,

Laura Anderson – Senior Architect at Studio Southwest Architects,

Ashley Hartshorn – Project Architect at Barbara Felix Architecture,

Brad McDonald – CEO & Principal Architect at Reveal Studio,

Sarah Lindenfeld – Managing Principle at Payette (AIA Firm of the Year!),

Drew Fisher – Architect & Project Manager at FBT Architects,

Jerome Gonzales – Restaurant Consultant at Lavu,

Alyssa Garnham – Marketing Specialist at Submaterial, and

Elizabeth Suina – President at Suina Design + Architecture.