I have just returned from a two week trip to the East Coast of U.S., where I had the pleasure of spending time with a very talented young man, David Jensen - a health care professional by day and a self-taught designer by night. David makes all his designs by hand and therefore each piece is unique and has a hand print of its own. I received a beautiful leather sling bag from him and since it will be a part of future posts on this blog, I wanted to open up the story behind its creation process and share this interview with the maker himself. Enjoy!
You are a health care professional with an unusual hobby of making hand-made garments and goods. What drove you to designing in the first place?
I have a background in studio art (painting, drawing, and photography) which led to an interest in design. Having no formal education in pattern making made this a challenge. I could envision what I wanted to make in my mind, but needed to figure out how to go about creating a 3D version of it. My health care profession has allowed me to make several hand splints, casts and adaptations. These splints are created on the body itself, rather than by use of a pattern. I took what I had learned professionally in health care and apply it to almost everything I make now.
What was your first creation and how did it come to life?
The very first item I created was a pair of buffalo leather gauntlets for myself. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I tried to model them after the hand splints I create professionally for patients. I had to staple them at first to help hold the shape, then went back and sewed them together anatomically to my hand. I left some of the staples in, as a reminder of how amateur the approach was. It was a great learning experience and gave the spark to start making more complex designs.
What is your usual design process like?
I don’t use any sort of pattern, I usually fold the article until the desired shape is gained and start hand sewing it from there, adjusting as I go. It’s a very non-traditional approach, I guess you could say (and tedious… haha).
You choose to sew by hand, why is that?
I prefer the imperfections in the seam and stitching. It gives each piece a particular patina and hence a life of its own. Every single stitch is placed by hand, and I often end up jabbing myself in the process. It not only serves as a self-discipline and testament to the time invested in creating each garment, but also to maintain an art that has been phased out by the machines of the modern day.
Your work consists mainly of leather goods, is there a reason for that?
I’m a fan of leather goods myself; I think that is what draws me to working with various animal hides. Leather is visceral and raw, providing a tactile experience that other mediums just cannot replicate. There are also so many creative options when it comes to leather and therefore room for experimentation (painting, washing, dyes, etc.). I feel this also serves as a personal inspiration and helps to drive my design process.
Can you tell us more about the experimentation methods you have used with the leathers?
I first started experimenting by washing leather and allowed it to wet dry, which created a very heavy crushed / crinkled effect. I then conditioned the leather to protect it from drying out, but it still maintained the crinkled effect. I also used liquid rubber to coat the 2nd iteration of the “Two Face” bag (which was actually made from man-made Lorica – not leather); it created an “always wet” appearance. Most recently I used Aljo dye to vat dye the “Ouroboros” bag, which was originally a very bright orange due to the natural color of the reindeer hide.
I had the privilege to receive your latest creation, the aforementioned “Ouroboros” bag. It was made from a reindeer hide I brought back from Finland. Could you tell the story behind the creation process and how the bag took its shape and form?
It suits you well! I originally set out to create a sling bag, which would be shaped in a way that hugged the hip and seamlessly wrapped around the body. The irregular shape was formed to be a pyramid of sorts. The user can access the main and inner compartment from the exterior YKK Excella zipper, which runs along the top portion of the bag. The bag is designed specifically to take on new shape over time with use, hence the name “Ouroboros” (which stands for a cycle of constant re-creation). The reindeer leather is very pliable, and will take new form with use. The dye process also took to the leather irregularly changing the color. I was pleased with the end result, and didn’t feel the need to re-dye it.
You are obviously very talented. Have you ever thought of designing full time?
Thanks, I think when you adopt a passion into a full time job; it loses a small bit of its charisma. I like the freedom of designing and working whenever I have the time or inspiration. Since I work alone, and by hand – I don’t think I would be able to meet the same production quota of other small designers. I find a nice balance between what I do professionally and what I do for fun. In some respects the two cross paths, making for a very rewarding lifestyle.
Do you have new projects in mind and if so, what kind of materials and processes are you going to use?
I would really like to construct my own leather jacket. It’s a big project but I feel confident that I could complete it with some patience. I would like to source some thin calf or horse leather for this project. I have been sourcing hides from the Midwest for some time – I have a wonderful supplier. On the side, I may create some smaller leather wallets; I have a few new ideas to work with
Thank you for the interview and I am sure we are all excited to see what you come up with next.
Thank you for the interview Anna-Maria!
You can follow David’s design projects on his blog D. Jensen.
Bags and pictures by: D. Jensen