Sky Sterry grew up in Brookings, Oregon about 20 miles up the Chetco River in a small community. The first of two sons, Sky and his brother Quince were raised milking the family cow, tending to the chickens and weeding the large family garden. Sky attended Upper Chetco Middle School before the family moved to Eugene, Oregon.
Sky attended South Eugene High School and enrolled in the International High School program, a 4-year advanced placement program focused on studies with an international perspective. Sky’s interests included Chinese language, biology, and art and ski team. He graduated with an International Baccalaureate degree.
He went on to the University of Oregon, and pursued a Bachelors in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. Sky became an avid mountain biker. He accepted a position teaching assistant position and managed a research project focused on assessing the genetic diversity of an organism found in a system of costal dune ponds.
After college, Sky travelled with two friends to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, for a nine month tour. Once back in the States, Sky moved with Trisha to Bozeman, Montana, where he worked for a winter as a lift operator at Big Sky ski resort before founding Wookey Backpacks with Trisha in 1996.
Trisha Wookey grew up in the Butte Valley in Northern California, and was born second in her family with an older brother Frank, and younger sister and brother, Jessica and Chris. A farming and ranching family, the Wookey’s raised various grain, cattle, sheep, and rabbits. Trisha was involved in 4H, and won many awards at local fairs for her skills at animal husbandry. Very early in her life, Trisha was mentored by a family friend, who taught her how to sew, make her own garments, and the nuances of sewn garment construction.
She went to High School in Klamath Falls and and moved to Eugene, Oregon after graduating. In Eugene, Trisha attended the University of Oregon, pursuing psychology and metal-smithing. During this time she was an avid road biker, designed and created silver jewelry, and learned about industrial sewing, working as a seamstress at a company that manufactured Nomex clothing. After college, Trish moved with Sky to Bozeman, Montana. There she worked for a few months at Dana Designs as a production seamstress before moving on to found Wookey Backpacks with Sky in 1996.
Wookey Backpacks started quite by accident. In 1995, backcountry skiing was starting to become popular, and the dangers associated with this activity were becoming more widely acknowledged. Many ski areas were beginning to open some of the extreme in-bounds runs to skiers and snowboarders, only if they wore an avalanche transceiver, carried a snow shovel and probe, and skied with a partner.
This extra gear necessitated using backpacks, and small slim backpacks were becoming popular. Brands included Montana Powder guides, JA gear and Dana Designs. As “dirt-bag” ski bums, Sky and Trisha balked at the $120 necessary to buy these packs, so they endeavored to build one of their own. They contacted Andy Tuller of Outaware and bought the necessary materials, and the first shovel pack was borne.
People started asking about the unique pack that had designed, and before long they were building them for friends using an industrial sewing machine in their Bozeman living room. One thing leads to another, and the business incorporated in 1996. Soon, the garage became the office, and then expanded into the workshop, and soon the 1000 square foot building was completely consumed by the business.
Wookey Backpacks continued to grow, picking up new dealers and the business attended its first Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in Salt Lake City in 1999. Unfortunately, a F2 tornado touched down in Salt Lake City, tearing a path right through two exhibition pavilions at the tradeshow, before heading downtown with winds up to 150 mph. One person was killed, 150 were injured, and it destroyed 34 homes and damaged 87 others. Wookey Backpacks lost its booth, most of its marketing materials, and many backpacks. Fortunately Patagonia was kind enough to let Wookey share space in its booth and the show went on.
Wookey outgrew the garage, and moved into a 3,000 square foot manufacturing facility. These were the golden years, and business was good. Wookey had created a strong brand with devout followers, and were selling packs across the globe. However, the business struggled to maintain profit, and Sky and Trisha spent many late nights finishing out the day’s production to meet targets.
During this time, Wookey was building all products in Bozeman, Montana using 100% made in the USA raw materials. The packs were expensive, and retailers often pushed back as the trend was toward offshore manufacture. In fact, Wookey was one of the last holdouts, as manufacturer after manufacturer moved their manufacturing operations offshore. By 2003 it became clear that it was unsustainable to continue to manufacture in the US, and without the financing to move offshore, Wookey Backpacks closed in 2005.
That year, Sky and Trisha were offered full-time senior designer positions at Macpac, a Successful global outdoor business based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Sky and Trisha packed up and moved to Christchurch where they spent 3 years learning the ways of a large global company. The couple jokes that they got their Bachelors in design at Wookey and their PhD in design at Macpac.
The couple moved back to Bozeman in 2008 and formed Wookey Design Studio. Despite the economic recession of 2008, Wookey Design Studio was able to thrive, and it gained several clients. The business rapidly grew into one of the most highly successful and sought after sewn product design studios in the world.
Today Sky and Trisha enjoy their daily routine. They live a couple blocks from their state of the art workshop. When they are not designing, they spend time backpacking, fishing, skiing, mountain biking, gardening and tending their flock of backyard chickens. Life is good at Wookey Design Studio.