I was approached a few months ago by a lovely editor from Rodale's Organic Life Magazine
, asking to feature my Las Pampas purse in the March issue of their magazine. All press is good press and I was thrilled to take part.
She asked me a series of questions that really got me thinking about my business- mostly how I started, and why I do what I do the way that I do it.
When the magazine went to print she wrote me and said that my bag was featured in their "Top 100" section and her exact words were "find attached the small but mighty! blurb on Brass + Blade." She was unable to include a longer piece (I got 8 words!) but the interview questions prompted me to put into writing the more personal and in depth story behind Brass + Blade.
So here, I share with you the unwritten story behind those 8 powerful, published words!
What was your inspiration to start Brass+Blade? Was there any “aha” moment in founding it? What was your biggest goal?
The story of how I came to start Brass + Blade is not totally linear, but I'll do my best. What I started deer hunting in Northern CA I immediately knew that I wasn't going to let one piece of the animal go to waste. In order to fully honor the animal, I didn't only want to use all of it's meat, but also it's incredible hide. A good friend introduced me to the process of turning a deer hide into buckskin- a process that includes using the animal's brain and can take up to three days of work. While it is very labor intensive, it is also an unbelievably rewarding process to watch a "throw away" piece of an incredible animal turn into something so beautiful and valuable.
Since making a buckskin takes so long I didn't want to mess up the next step- turning it into a useful bag or garment. So, a friend of mine in the interior design business gave me a cow hide to start practicing my hand stitching on. Her only request was that I make her a tote bag....and so the seed for Brass + Blade was planted! More friends and family asked for bags, and as I got better I started charging to cover the cost of material. When the tech company I was working for downsized, my fiancee at the time encouraged me to put my energy into my creative outlet and make it my full time focus. He is now my husband, and I now have a business! My biggest goal is simply to create with my hands something useful and beautiful.
How did you first start hunting? Can you tell us a little bit about what hunting means to you?
Growing up in rural Mendocino County in Northern CA, my brothers and I would often accompany my dad on hunts. Whether it was deer season or he was hunting wild boar, our family ate almost entirely wild hunted meat. Only when we moved away from there did I realize how special and unique that was, and began learning how to hunt myself. I'm fortunate that my dad was and still is the most enthusiastic and encouraging hunting mentor I could ask for. Senior year of high school I shot my first wild boar and three seasons ago I had my first successful solo black tail deer hunt. You'll never know how loud and uncoordinated you are in your everyday life until you hunt a black tail deer which requires you to be silent and invisible. Hunting is my way of inserting myself into the natural circle- the food chain if you will. When I hunt, I notice everything, appreciate everything and it makes me so intensely protective of the health and well being of natural, wild spaces. When you get your food from the wild, it matters so much more that The Wild remain a thriving and healthy place.
Do you produce all of the bags? Are they all from deer hides you hunt and tan?
I produce each of my bags one at a time, but hand, by myself.
I make most of my bags from cowhides that I pick out by hand. I do custom buckskin bags and pouches for those who understand the intense amount of work that goes into making them, but the cost is rather higher than the cost of a bag made from a tannery cow hide. I don't ever use commercially produced buckskin, as it is an entirely different end product than naturally tanned buckskin.
What are you most proud of about your products? About your company?
I am most proud of the integrity of my products. I love knowing that in 20 years, someone with a Brass + Blade bag will still be getting joy out of using it.
How long does it take to make each bag?
The time it takes to make each bag varies. If you are asking about a custom bag with a new design it can take up to a week to understand what exactly the customer wants, whether or not it's physically possible, and then deciding how to make it look good! I take most of my inspiration on new styles of bags from the hides I get! Like the Las Pampas bag, I love to let the raw edge of the hide dictate what I will do with it. And since that is the case, most of Brass + Blade bags are uniquely one of a kind. Once I have a design down as one that I will replicate, it takes anywhere from 6 to 12 hours to cut, hammer the holes, and stitch together. Sometimes I will come up with the idea for a bag in a split second and be able to make it, sometimes I will think about a a bag for months before I attempt a prototype. I probably have 5 bag designs floating around in my brain....waiting for their moment of cohesion. But I would say that design and prototyping is by far the most time consuming and exhausting part of this business- unless you count making buckskin.