Carbondale,IL 62902,USA
featherleather6@gmail.com

How Ideas are born

Quality Old World and New Style Leather Goods

How Ideas are born

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that saying is all too true. The products of mine that I use everyday, are born from a need. And due to us all having similar needs, the similar products get designed independently over and over again. I’d like to walk you through my journey of filling that need.

The bag model I call, Hildisvini, or the tactical bag, was born on my sketch pad due to travel plans. My aunts where taking me to a massive event, a gathering of people far larger than I could previously conceive of and we were flying.  At that time, I was using a purse I dearly loved, after all, I did bestow it with a name and anthropomorphized characteristics. But it was not an item to explain to TSA, or really something to have lost in a sea of peoples. Admittedly, it wouldn’t have been a likely pick pocketing target, but that would have been due to its uniqueness, not the lack of ease in getting into it.

Now, if you have ever noticed, most of my bag-type creations aren’t designed to be clutched or carried. I personally feel the goal of anything labeled a bag is to hold my stuff for me, not to give me an extra item to hold.  If you ever spy me out and about, and I’m holding a clutch or tiny handbag, I am either holding it clutched to my chest, as if it were a stuffed animal I am overly attached to for fear of losing it, or in the same way one may hold a dead fish a few days out from the market, repulsed. Either way, rest assured, I am uncomfortable.  I am of course more than willing to make you a clutch, but don’t be too surprised if I ask if you want a belt loop or a cross-body strap for it.

My first step in the design process is a sketch. Often followed by several dozen other sketches as I hash out how I would like the piece to look. Here is a picture of the first sketch I accepted as a build-able item. 

The first real sketch of the tactical bag.

As you can tell from the initial drawing, the idea stayed true, but I altered many design aspects in order to construct it.  Although, I neglected the fringe in the prototype, I reintroduced it back as a workable option.  

The sketch is the easy part. After all, physics and tensile strength of a chosen hide matter little to a two dimensional doodle. And hardware price isn’t usually dominating my thought processes when graphite, paper, and time is the only factors in the cost of a doodle. For the next step, one must don their engineer’s cap. 

Engineering the prototype, turns my sketch pad more into one of a mathematician’s work book. Equations and values are scattered almost madly across the margins. Seam margin calculations, the hide stretch coefficient (which happens to be a measurement I made up to classify the stretch of a particular hide.), and other mad science-like ratios are scrawled and scratched in every page corner. At some point, I gain confidence that the math is correct and the design will not only be aesthetically pleasing, but structurally sound and I draw out the individual pieces and their measurements. From that, I make the pattern. 

With my paper pattern cut, I select the hide I will use for the prototype. With dozens of species, tanning processes, thicknesses, and textures, the versatility of leather can be overwhelming. For this bag, the qualities desired were a medium stretch, medium to high durability, high water resistance, and a thickness of 2-4 oz. For the first prototype, I selected a black pebbled goat skin that was chrome tanned. Through years of experience, I have learned assuredly, the qualities of leather are not consistent throughout a hide.  Generally, although this can vary between the species used, the back of the animal has the greatest recoil and ability to hold it’s shape after stretching.  Flanks and napes are often spongier. Some pieces of the bag are best cut from certain areas of the hide. So laying out and cutting the pieces for the first time involves far more rearranging than one might like to admit. Eventually, I have a lovingly stacked pile of leather pieces and a haphazard pile of scrap for the scrap bin.  The Hildisvini bag requires two different types of leather as the front panel was designed to be carved.  Although, at least here, I won’t bore you with the details of construction. Eventually, I had a completed shiny new bag.

The shiny new bag in tow, means little for the end of the process. All of my self-designed pieces need a vigorous test run. I completed the dragon wing belt bag on the drive to the Grand Canyon. I proceeded to break it in on a rather strenuous Grand Canyon adventure before approving it for production. The Hildisvini tactical bag was no different. I took it through the airports, malls, crowded gatherings, hiking, rock climbing, dance venues, concerts, music festivals, everywhere I thought it would be presented with unique challenges.  I wore it in all the ways I designed it to be worn and a few unconventional ways as well.  I filled it to the brim with fishing weights to see not only how cumbersome it could be, but how well it could hold up to stress. For the last two and a half years, I have continued to test it daily as the prototype is still my daily bag.  Beyond that, I made notes and improvements and also added options to the design.  In one instance the diameter of the D rings changed. I found I did not need or use the roller buckle on front pocket as the weight of the d rings does an excellent job of keeping it closed.  So the buckle was made as a potential, but not needed function. 

Note the style changes between the prototype on the left and a recently made bag on the right.

Once approved, I make the first commercial piece and bestow it a name. The first few bags of this line off my table were constructed of a dark boar split with a wonderful napped texture.  This boar hide was far larger than most that I had worked with before.  As I set my mind to determine what carving I should do on the first bag, I was inspires by the size and might of the boar it was to be made of.  I picture Frey and Freya upon their boar mounts as well as the symbolism of the boar throughout history.  I was being called to carve the famous Pictish boar icon found on the Knocknagael Boar Stone. Originally, I was just going to call this model the Tactical Bag. But, after the first commercial piece was done, I opted to name it Heldisvini after Freya’s boar. 

The first of many, and the inspiration behind the name.

Side Bag Leather

I even brought the fringe back as an option.

The journey from necessity and idea to a fully customizable product, is the part of the journey I rarely show. Though I feel, it is the most important part of the design process. Designing, testing, and creating the variations of a unique product line, is often messy and rife with pieces that never make the cut. Oftentimes, it leads to placing potential products back on the design table. Without the work I put into making the perfect piece, I couldn’t offer the perfect piece for you.

 

 

 

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