In its latest travel guide, State x State visits Pittsburgh to get to know local maker Wendy Downs, founder and designer of Moop, which is entering its eighth year of production.

State x State—which produces a website, guides and limited-edition collections dedicated to travel, design and culture—catches up with Downs in her new Northside-based studio to chat about everything from her creative practice and business model, to ideas for Pittsburgh souvenirs and day trips.

In his article Meet Your Maker: The Founder of Moop Bags on Making It in Pittsburgh, State x State’s Mark Vevle writes:

“In the city of steel and manufacturing, it’s fitting that one of the most locally celebrated makers is known for her tough-as-nails, utilitarian canvas bags. Wendy Downs, founder and designer of Moop, crafts backpacks, messenger bags, clutches, and more right out of her Pittsburgh studio. A proponent of made in America, she is personally involved in every design, material selection, and stitch detail, resulting in a quality utilitarian product that holds up to repeated use.”

Downs shares how she first launched Moop in 2007, moved the business from Massachusetts to Pittsburgh in 2009 to “be closer to family and reap the benefits of an affordable city with deep manufacturing roots,” and her recent decision to form a manufacturing partnership with Portland, OR-based women-run Spooltown.

Speaking about the local creatives and entrepreneurs who inspire her, Downs mentions Pittsburgh artists Tugboat Printshop, ceramicist Reiko Yamamoto and Scott Bricker of BikePGH.

Where does Downs go to seek creative inspiration?

“I love to ride my bike on one of Pittsburgh’s rail trails or kayak in nearby Lake Arthur. Both activities give me an opportunity to focus on the natural landscape of western Pennsylvania and let me leave the distractions of my day-to-day responsibilities behind.”

What souvenir/gift does she recommend visitors take back with them from Pittsburgh?

“A screen print you make yourself in the basement of The Andy Warhol Museum! You can learn how to screen print by printing one of Warhol’s iconic images on paper, a t-shirt, or a tote bag. It’s definitely worth it to take the trip through the museum plus you get to make a Warhol of your very own.”

Downs’ passion for Pittsburgh extends to a love for the Polar Plunge, and taking drives through the surrounding countryside, especially along Route 19 north where you will discover antique stores, charming small towns, delicious Amish donuts and more.

Read State x State’s interview with Moop founder Wendy Downs here.

Check out all of Wendy’s top picks for where to go in Pittsburgh, and view State x State’s full Pennsylvania guide.

State x State also sat down to talk with Eric Shiner, director of The Andy Warhol Museum, about why he loves Pittsburgh, and with Mid-Atlantic Mercantile founder Emily Slagel about the city’s rebirth.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...