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WalkingBoy…and the curious case of the ‘Satchel man’

January 8, 2011

Ambling along King St one day between St Peters and Camperdown, the shoulder strap on my beloved satchel broke…well and truly, unfixable. The leather had torn and the gusset had split. I’d found it almost new in at Tempe Tip a large Salvo’s shop for 3 dollars, and used it every day. Battered, stained by grease and sweat, the front buckle was the first to go…Made from bog standard chrome tanned leather, Honey Tan in colour and machine sewn in a factory. It wasn’t an artisans finest work by any means, nor was it made by an artisan, resembling more like those tooled bags you see in 70’s DIY leathercraft books. But it became my favourite bag. Now in bag heaven.

So I needed to find a replacement, and since I couldn’t order a bespoke piece from Tanner Krolle or Hermes just yet I had to look elsewhere..nothing close. Nylon and synthetics – even synthetic leathers – up n down the High Street. But what I was looking for wasn’t here…anymore. Victorian quality leather bags had disappeared from the bagosphere decades ago. Then it dawned..make it myself. If you really want something made the way you want it, make it your self. And that’s how it started for me….at least that’s part of the story.

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The queue waiting for the bus on Oxford St into the city was getting longer. After a long day of drawing and painting at the National Art School I was pretty buggered. I noticed a young guy crouch down and open his bag to get out a ciggie..not a beaten old North Face backback you’d normally see, but a large leather satchel. It caught my eye…It was very big. Simple boxy shape, amply proportioned, and made from thick cow hide. It was a handsome piece and definitely hand crafted. The satchel was something you’d never see on a Sydney street. The bag would have required careful planning and thought, an acute knowing of what you wanted and an aesthetic that was more Edwardian and industrial, than now. So it was sheer coincidence and luck that I saw him. A kindred spirit…? Perhaps. I hoped.

Before I could accost him to find out where he got it and who made it…he scrambled onto a bus and that was that. A month later I was browsing the vintage boot rack in Zoo Emporium on Crown Street, Surry Hills, and there he was again…his bag on the floor next to the counter. But when I turned round he was gone…I rushed out and he’d gone from sight!

So from then on I called him the ‘Satchel man’…I kept glimpsing him for months afterwards, walking around Surry Hills still thinking of that bag and how I wanted to make one just like it. I finally plucked up enough courage to ask him where he got the bag made..he told me an old guy at a local craft market made it, and that the guys at Serpentine Leather Galleries in Enmore had made him a few more bags. Mystery solved..in a way. I bored my friends with the story and they laughed..’the satchel man?’, that’s you isn’t it, always walking round with your leather bags…he’s just your doppelganger’. This was way back in 1997….

Only in recent months do connections become clearer. The EDF bag I posted below comes from the same pedigree and aesthetic lineage….the hand crafted, hand stitched workers bag.

…and one last view

 

E.D.F. Sac a Outils, 1950's?...now in private collection of retired EDF manager, France.

Warm thanks to Peaudane60, copyright.

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A few more years passed of lurking and tinkering round the leather and bag scene. I scribbled a messy little thumbnail drawing on the back of shopping list while talking on the phone…a boy striding along with a large satchel slung over his shoulder. I made nothing of it, but kept it in my diary ‘just in case’. After I made my first ‘test’ bags I found the scribble again and it later became the symbol for ‘Leatherpress’…WalkingBoy bags started to take shape and took it’s first little steps.

thanks.

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