I made my first leather bag on Vashon Island, WA in 1971. My friend, and excellent leather-smith, Dennis Hensel gave me leather, an awl, flax, needles, shoemakers wax, oil, and the use of his stitching horse to satisfy my desire to make a bag for myself, by myself. Dennis showed me how to go about the process, and left me to it. I made a pattern, cut out the leather pieces, and stitched them together. It's a saddle-stitched essentials bag with a 4 braid strap. I still have that bag -- 44 years, and counting. Oiled well, once in awhile, a leather bag will last a lifetime.
Between then and now, there have been a series of bucket/bathtub hand-dyed canvas bags -- totes, small cross-body bags, shoulder bags, and drawstring bags, to hold for example: a book & a wallet, lunch, spin shoes, or clothespins, and a bag large enough to carry groceries from Fairway up the hill to my apartment just off Riverside Drive.
It was in NYC that I met shoe designer/maker, Mike Nash, and was invited to visit his deluxe studio. Mike is the first leather craftsman I've met since Dennis. Like Dennis, Mike gave me a few pieces of leather and supplies to begin again.
Now, here in Virginia, I've gathered necessary tools and equipment to make items from leather. I began again with small essential bags, and made the first cross-body wallet for my friend Joni. It supplied a need, and design ideas. My wallet was #2. Since then I've made several, and I like them all.
I've set up a small, functional leather making studio of my own. I've found a reliable distributor for sides of American tanned cowhide. I buy leather by the side. That's half a hide from a whole beast. I figure beef cattle. Recently I've chosen leather with brands, it speaks to the history of the hide, and the beast who wore it -- an homage of sorts. And, I purchase brass hardware from a local harness shop. All my bags are saddle-stitched, or hand-stitched if the object being stitched is too thick, or too small to work with my stitching horse. It's labor intensive for sure.
After the first dozen or so bags, it was suggested by concerned friends, and family that I should open a shop on ETSY. Then the problem became what to name it. I felt the name needed to be significant to me, sound good to the ear, and roll off the tongue. Amendolia was my grandmother's maiden name. My store became Borsa Amendolia.
My Nonna, my maternal grandmother Santa Amendolia Amante, made stunning beaded evening bags. She made one for me, as well as the other women in the family. Although I don't make beaded evening bags, I loved my grandmother and her willingness to try new things, like coming to America from Torrefaro, Sicily when she was 12, to make a new life -- she was a brave woman. She brought with her all her needle-work, and sewing skills as well. She taught my mother needle work, to knit, and to sew. My mother was a meticulous seamstress, and a dress-maker. It was from Mom that I learned to construct garments, take care of my tools and supplies, and pay attention. It is with these skills, my history and imagination that I bring to leather making.
Within the past 7 days, my niece Chandra opened a Face Book account for this shop. That along with a bit of advertising encouraged by Sam, my son, the number of visitors to borsa amendolia has increased 10 fold, and this endeavor has become a family affair. So hugs and kisses.
Thank you for visiting my shop! It's very exciting -- I love it. You are from China, Serbia, Russia, and Germany, United Kingdom, Brazil, and France, Latvia, Malaysia, Australia, and Canada, Romania, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Israel, Ireland, Japan, Singapore, Colombia, Italy, Myanmar, The Netherlands, and the USA.
The Barn Swallow in Charlottesville, VA. carries my bags, I've sold a couple bags while a vendor at horse shows at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, VA. , and at Appalachian Piecework in Staunton, VA.
If you have any comments, or questions -- even criticisms, let me know. Dialogue is helpful...
Ben Wyrick -- ace web designer, and photographer -- helped me put this site on-line. I couldn't have done this without him.