By Kate Ferguson
Max Wunderlich has created a multi-tiered business as SALT Ltd. The company includes smoke-related products, leatherwear, dog products…and a Los Angeles art gallery based downtown. We caught up about starting the business, his design aesthetics, and being inspired by the city’s creatives.
What were you doing before you started all of SALT Ltd?
I had been in the bicycle industry for over a decade, almost by accident. I started working on bikes as a high school job, continued through college, and then got hired into the bike industry when I finished my degree in mechanical engineering. It was always good work, but it was never especially rewarding.
When I moved to L.A. a few years ago I was surrounded by freelancers and creatives doing their own things and pursuing their passions. I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed to be more true to my own interests, so I quit my job and began doing product design as a consultant while starting to develop my own products and brands.
What would you say your specialty is?
I like cleanliness and simplicity in design, and I like products that can stand the test of time. My products are all created with this dual ethos as a foundation. Aesthetically, I seek solutions for designs that elegantly convey intentional style without superfluity. Functionally, I strive to create products that will outlast their owner. My specialty is in the blending of these two goals to create beautiful products that are made to be kept and cherished.
Tell me about the intention of SALT as well as the individual brands…
SALT was created as a response to what I see as the imminent mainstream-ification of cannabis. I want to create products that are a departure from the products you typically associate with ‘stoner’ culture. We are elevating the product to match the maturation of who we see as a cannabis consumer.
We can now expect a higher-end and more fashion-conscious consumers to be comfortable and open with their cannabis consumption. SALT products appeal to these consumers with their clean and timeless style.
This same idea is roughly translated into all my brands: identify a market that is growing and poised to transition to a more mainstream entry-luxury clientele that is more style and quality conscious. This leaves room in the market for a new brand to establish itself as a design leader in a marketplace where design was not previously a top concern.
What’s different about SALT Ltd products?
Not only are they great to look at and use, our products are all designed and made by hand in the USA. This gives us more control over our products and gives them a truly unique and crafted finish. We think that the energy and care put into each individual piece shines through in the finished product.
Tell me about the art gallery…
The mission of the gallery is to work with emerging artists to create fine art prints of their work so that we can bring that work to a much wider audience than if they were sold only as singular originals. Because we are focusing on producing fine art prints, we can curate a collection of truly unique pieces at prices that are much more approachable than those commonly associated with fine art.
The gallery is a very important part of the SALT brand. It allows us to express the SALT lifestyle in a more way while simultaneously helping emerging art collectors looking for options and direction in the world of art collecting. We primarily focus on art that is abstract or surreal in some way.
What inspires you?
It is hard to pin down one specific source as inspiration can strike at any moment! But in all seriousness, it really is a necessity that creates the inspirational spark much of the time.
Any challenges you’ve overcome in the process so far?
I have definitely had to learn the hard way on a few things. For one, I have a tendency to try to do everything myself, but I now know it is usually more efficient to pay a professional. It is a similar story for product manufacturing. I truly enjoy making the product but it is simply not possible for me to do it all. You have to hire and train craftspeople to create the product and create systems to ensure everything is being made properly.