Hunter + Gatherer: Wool

Not many people realize that humans have been harvesting wool for over 12,000 years. What’s even more amazing is that we use the material in pretty much the exact same way as our predecessors did since the 10th century BCE. So in celebration of that legacy, here are some of our absolute favorite manifestations of wool at the hands of contemporary technology and ingenuity.

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Clockwise from top left: Laptop Bag by Pendleton Portland Collection; Cap by Norse Projects; Jacquard Necktie by Marwood; Scarf by Faribault Woolen Mills; Boots by Yuketen; Cochineal-dyed Sweater by Tender Co.; collaborative Waist Bag by Master-piece x Oki-ni x Indigofera; Jacket by Universal Works; wool-lined  iPhone Wallet by Hardgraft; Pocket Square by New York to Nashville; Socks by Nonnative.

With Personality – The Handcrafted Leather Goods of Ash & Ore

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How many ways are there to make a leather bag? About 3.5 million, give or take a few. There is such an incredible variety of shapes, aesthetics, materials, qualities, and price points that it can make you dizzy if you focus too hard on finding the right one. Yet for all these considerations, I very much admire the work by Amee Hinkley of Ash & Ore – a small leather goods label out of Boulder, CO.

Rosie Bucket Tote (in Cobalt)

Rosie Bucket Tote (in Cobalt)

Space Tote - Detailing

Space Tote – Detailing

What was immediately apparent to me when I first saw her collection of handmade bags and wallets is that they all felt rather personal. Surely every artisan has a special relationship with his or her products, but the sensibilities of those by Ash & Ore felt rooted in something deeper.

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Waste Not, Want Not – The Progressive Philosophies of BAGGU

Baggu_Enlarge_3For years, I have used BAGGU totes and pouches for traveling, fetching groceries, and other incidentals. I wasn’t always a conscious consumer, but even back then it made sense to me to pay a little more to reuse a single bag as opposed to bust through and trash a bunch of cheap ones. Without realizing it, I had tapped into their underlying worldview. But it wasn’t until recently that I decided it was time to learn more about the brand and their underpinnings. As it turns out, BAGGU is far more progressive than I intuited.

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Tannis Hegan – Handcrafted Women’s Accessories

A collection of belts & handmade brass hardware

A collection of belts & handmade brass hardware

Working in the film industry is an interesting prerequisite to launching one’s own fashion accessories label, but that’s precisely what happened for designer Tannis Hegan. Drawing on a decade of experience as a leatherworker and costume designer, she decided to break off and launch her self-titled line back in 2007. Since then, her work has won her a notable reputation for her immaculate eye and uncompromising emphasis on quality.

Goatskin, canvas, & wood carryall

Goatskin, canvas, & wood carryall

earmuffs made of recycled vintage fur and custom made spring steel

earmuffs made of recycled vintage fur and custom made spring steel

Her most recent collection certainly showcases both of these characteristics. To start, almost everything is completely handcrafted – even down to minor components like solid brass hardware. One of the more rewarding aspects about her designs is that she seems interested in the natural beauty of her materials. A particular favorite is her clutch (below), which features a hand molded wooden handle.

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Hunter + Gatherer: The Market Tote

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1. Handmade Natural Chromexcel Tote by Teranishi Handcrafted 2. Surfer Tote by Baggu 3. Gera Bag by WMJ Mills 4. Canvas Tote by MAKR 5. [Destination] Market Bag by Apolis 6. Handmade Chromexcel & Copper bag by Emil Erwin 7. Handmade 200 Bag by Doug Johnston 8. Handmade Red Tote by Lumina (in collaboration with Parrott) 9.Neon Carryall by Clare Vivier

Introducing: Handmade on Peconic Bay

 Depending on the method, printmaking isn’t always the most eco-friendly process. With that in mind, Matthew Shapoff founded Handmade on Peconic Bay (HMPB), which is a one-man studio that specializes in Cyanotype and Vandyke printing. Relying on years of expertise, his work ranges from monoprints on paper to wearable accessories – each of which is crafted by hand in his Long Island studio.

Moon Phase Canvas Tote

Moon Phase Canvas Tote

In order to truly appreciate the work of HMPB, it’s important to understand the characteristics of both Cyanotype and Vandyke printing. Both processes were originally discovered in the 19th Century and thus require very little in terms of resources. All you need is a photosensitive solution, a receptive surface, natural sunlight, and a little bit of knowhow to create a print. Yet because there are so many variables (i.e. intensity of the sun or the strength of the solution), no two prints will be identical. In fact, it is in these natural variations of hue and value that make these processes so unique.

Queen Anne's Lace Detail

Queen Anne’s Lace Detail

Unique Silk Scarves

Unique Silk Scarves

What I like about HMPB is that these characteristics are obvious throughout the entire collection. By nature, the photosensitive printing methods are extremely versatile in that they can be applied to different materials like paper, silk and canvas to name a few. In terms of imagery, Shapoff finds inspiration in his natural surroundings – whether in the form of lunar charts or zoological studies of marine life. Because many of these motifs are coastal, there is also a strong sense of place about his work that makes it that much more distinct.

Crab Cyanotype on Cotton Paper

Crab Cyanotype on Cotton Paper

In addition to honing the skills already mastered, HMPB is also embarking on new territory over the coming months. Shapoff is investigating ways to stimulate the American artisan economy by sourcing domestically produced linen and cotton fabrics for his own work. There are also plans to introduce different styles and goods – including an experimental collection of custom printed messenger bags.

If you are interested in learning more about Handmade on Peconic Bay, be sure to visit Shapoff’s website where you can find up to date information about new projects and inventories. In the meantime, feel free to scroll through some select images of his work in the gallery below.

Hunter + Gatherer: Her Winter Essentials

I’m still not quite sure when winter starts here in Texas, but it might as well be now seeing as we just dug out our down comforter. For everyone else who is gearing up for the cold, here is the second installment of (girlfriend-approved) winter essentials. Hope you all discover something useful!

As pictured, clockwise from top left: Hat by Eugenia Kim; Handmade Shoes by Repetto; Polder Knit Scarf; Hand-Poured Natural Soy Candle; Pendleton Tote; Ruth Cross Hand-knit Socks; Source Vital Facial Toner; Hand-forged Snow Shovel; Pure Organic Maple Syrup; Alima Organic Tinted Lip Balm  

In Focus: Parabellum

In reaction to growing trends of mass-production and outsourcing, Jason Jones and Mike Feldman launched Parabellum with a simple desire to make some of the best hand-made leather goods in the world. While they have select stockists around the globe, their craft is an intimate one based almost entirely in Los Angeles. The team works together on every single piece, ensuring that each aspect of their work is carefully considered to fulfill the most demanding requirements for style and durability

Medicine Man Duffle – Natural

Of their line, the Medicine Man Duffle is one of the best examples of what Parabellum is about. The bag is made from 100% Buffalo leather, which is treasured for it’s uniquely toothy texture and tensile strength. However, because the label adopted American Bison as its totem, Jason & Mike only harvest hides from animals that live organically on free range ranches in the US. So as not to squander the character of the buffalo leather during tanning, they treat each hide in their own family run microtannery where they keep a close and well-trained eye on the entire process. The leather is then skived by hand before being cut and sewn. While their bags are lined with a Kevlar-reinforced suede interior, the Medicine Man Duffle in particular features an adjustable/removable leather strap. Once completed, each piece is hand-finished for posterity and individually numbered for good measure.

Custom-cast Copper Buckle In the Making

Parabellum offers two hardware options for most of their goods. Their copper rivets and buckles are designed and crafted by American artisans using single-use molds. The natural properties of copper allow it to develop a unique patina over time which is sure to complement the aging process of the buffalo leather. But if custom-cast solid copper isn’t up to snuff, the bag is also available with Military Grade Ceramic hardware. Though not widely realized, ceramics are amongst the hardest man-made materials in the world (think anti-ballistic plating for vehicles and thermal-resistant tiles on NASA’s space shuttles). In other words, you needn’t worry about dishing out the abuse.

Natural Bison Grain & White Ceramic Buckle Detail 

In addition to creating wonderful pieces, the label is particularly inspiring in terms of it’s outlook. Borrowing from its mission statement, “[t]here was a time, not so long ago, when a man could buy a belt of such high quality that it lasted a lifetime and could be passed down to his children. With the inception of the Parabellum Brand, we believe that time has returned.” That said, when considering the labels emphasis on environmental responsibility and collaborations with local artisans, I dare say that their time has returned with a vengeance.

Be sure to scroll through the gallery below for detailed images of the Medicine Man Duffle as well as some shots of their process. You can find more about the brand and their work on their website, including information about their upcoming women’s handbag collection.

In Focus: Joshu + Vela

Joshu + Vela is an emerging outfit in San Francisco which produces some of the most carefully considered bags and leather goods out there. While their mantra is to “highlight the beauty of function by creating simple and well made goods,” one would only need to interact directly with any of their products to understand the emphasis they place on quality. Though I wasn’t able to make the trip out, my cousin Rebecca was lucky enough to meet with Noah of Joshu + Vela in their studio to gain some insights into their brand and their process, which she detailed below:

Joshu + Vela – In the Studio

One way of characterizing the brand as a whole is the idea of intimacy. Everything in their studio is made entirely by hand with the best materials available. In addition to custom-cast hardware and vegetable dyes, they source domestically grown organic cotton from Herbert Rice Fabrics Inc in NY, which has been in operation since the 1800’s. The manufacturing process relies on pharmaceutical grade waxes and oils for finishing, and thus is completely free of hazardous solvents. Similarly, they source 100% vegetable dyed leather from animals already marked for consumption in an effort to reduce their environmental footprint.

When it comes to producing their goods, the team at Joshu + Vela employs a plethora of different hand tools, eight vintage sewing machines, and an 80 year-old rivet setter. This reliance on antiquated machinery demonstrates that the underlying concern of the brand as a whole is not maximizing output, but creating small quantities of goods, which can endure the tests of time.

Joshu + Vela – Backpack & Large Tote

            Although their line features a variety of different pieces, the entire collection is aligned by simple aesthetics and utilitarian designs. Branding is kept to a minimum and unnecessary lines are kept at bay. All in all, everything is clean and classic, but ultimately built to be used.

Be sure to take a gander though the gallery below to check out some of their collection and some glimpses into their workspace. Also, stay up to date on their upcoming releases by periodically visiting their website.

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