Interview with David Jensen – The self-taught maker of handmade bags and goods, and the man behind design blog D. Jensen

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

Interview with Area di Barbara Bologna

For the past weeks I have had the pleasure of getting to know an Italian designer, Barbara Bologna, who’s brand Area di Barbara Bologna, has completely swept me off my feet with it’s dark playfulness, shapes and materials. After our excessive email exchange and chats, I decided to share this still rather unknown gem with you via an interview with the head designer herself. I am positive that we will hear good things about Area in the future, so keep her name in mind.

What is the story behind your brand Area by Barbara Bologna?

B: I started making accessories and selling them in a very small number of Italian stores. Afterwards, I began thinking that the accessory could expand and became stronger, so I started creating accessories that were like dresses or dresses that had parts of an accessory; after this route I began to realize the total look nearly as a physiological and unforced evolution, adding in every season new parts, shoes, jewels, etc. in order to have a complete collection in every detail. Each collection has a strong emotional concept and I needed that everything could carry the same sign. I did not want some of the parts to be missing; I wished that anything that a woman was able to wear, could carry the concept of the collection so that she could never forget it. I love to think that each person wearing parts of my collections conveys something beyond the dress or the accessory.

Where do you strive inspiration for your designs?

B: From art, music, and theater. I started my career as a performer and stage director, but first of all as a sculptress and this is for me a very strong source of inspiration. My route, the artists that I met and studied, are my muses and mothers. Often it is sufficient for me to observe a detail of a work to visualize an image, which surfaces in my mind and gradually completes itself. Music should never be missing.

How is your creation process like from start to finish?

B: I don’t really know how to explain where the realization of a collection begins, perhaps from a sensation of what I am living in that moment or often from the sensation of a future that will soon materialize. I choose the materials immediately through deep researches on quality and innovation of the fibers and sometimes unusual mixes. I always start from the matter in which I feel my origin. The models arise by themselves, I wake up and I draw, I travel and I draw, I eat and I draw but I never choose to do it, the models choose for me.

Often I realize the models on paper but I want the manufacturing to be made in the Italian laboratory where the production takes part; this because the model shown to the buyers has to be identical in shape and quality to the one that will be delivered. I often follow the realization of the models in the factory and this way avoid mistakes and find solutions that I did not consider before. When the garment is finished begins the phase that I prefer, which is giving life to the concept of the collection with images, videos, and music. The latter I do in co-operation with a friend of mine, Letizia Argenziano, who creates the collection soundtracks for me.

Could you tell us about your latest collection S/S12 and the ideas behind it?

B: My latest collection S/S 12 “Paradies” is a continuation to the A/W 11/12 “Purgatoire” , and will be also be tied to the next collection A/W 12/13 “INFERNO. I wanted to analyze and create this collection trilogy to represent what these three places mean to me. Particularly, S/S 12 “Paradies” (the paradise) is the place from which we depart, the white place in which we find carnal emotions (alternated passion), and long wires that tie us to this place that we love. From this place we cannot separate ourselves, our strong emotions, or opposed colors in a completely empty space; white, red and black, and a woman that wanders decorated with black diadems.

There are various elements: Wires, that tie and tighten the dress on the body and then fall towards the pavement, the three colors red-white black, and sharp shapes as an empty ambient, a cube with angles. Textures that remind of canvas and some of them polished to remind us where there is always a lot of light that illuminates everything. A paradise not as we imagine it, but as it really is.

What kind of materials do you prefer to use in your designs?

B: The materials change with every collection. I don’t like to always use the same ones; as the concept that I express changes, so do the materials. There are some exceptions like ceramic or leather or some lining to which I am attached, but I always try to find different declinations.

You live in the small town of Arcola in Italy. Have your surroundings influenced your
designs in any way?

B: Arcola is a very ancient town made of stone, wood and iron. I love these three materials, but I think that the influence that Arcola has on my design is that the stillness that characterizes it; It allows me to exist, therefore to create.

You use the famous Guidi leather for your shoes and leather garments, why do you
prefer to work particularly with this leather manufacturer?

B: I chose to work with Guidi’s leather because I love the sense of abandon that their leather represents. When I went into their showroom in Pescia, the owner Ruggero Guidi and I understood each other immediately. I talked to him about this leather that had to be “abandoned” and he knew exactly what I wanted.

You are now designing mainly women’s wear but there is a men’s wear capsule collection coming for f/w 12/13. Could you tell a little bit about this collection?

B: There is a man’s capsule for the next A/W 12/13 called “INFERNO”, an idea that has its origin in an unisex project were the major part of the collection can be worn both by men and women. Various models of the collection will be found in the next A/W 12/13 women’s collection (INFERNO). I decided to dress a man and a woman in the same way, and to allow the passage between the two sexes. I actually don’t really believe in distinction of the collections, I prefer to think that one can dress in both. Obviously there are very few garments that we will find just in the men’s collection, but they have been reworked from previous women’s collection, so they are always garments that could be used today by both sexes.

Will you be doing men’s wear also in the future?

B: I think I will continue the men’s line but I would like to expand it, and to find new “language guides”. It will be a very long and laborious project but I adore what is coming out from it right now.

You collection is now carried in the Stealth showroom in Paris and in carefully selected shops. You want to keep it that way, why is that?

B: I want to maintain a natural selection of the stores because I think that not all the works can be understood by everyone. I want special places for my collection, every work really needs to be understood. It’s true that we are not selling art works, but I believe that these dresses are surrounded by art, absorbed by art, and therefore they need the same deep respect. Stealth is the right place; I love their concept of a non-showroom – a place in constant becoming where every artistic form becomes possible.

Finally, what are your future plans with Area?

B: Feeling complete one day, and that I would have said all I have to say. I do not like success, I wish that art would overtake places, even if they are difficult to conquer.

Born 6th February 1976
1997-2001 worked as a body art performer in various galleries of Milan.
2000 graduate at “Accademia di Belle Arti” of Brera –Milan- (in) sculpture
– thesis on body art (critical and deep study of the topic).
2001 AREA starts up.
2004 the theatrical company Actor In Progress springs up.

ARTISTICAL : Marina Abramovic, Gina Pane, Rudolf Schwarzkogler,
Günter Brus, Vanessa Beecroft, Pina Bausch, Franko B, Francesca Woodman, 
Romeo Castellucci, Orlan, etc...
MUSICAL: Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division,
Diaframma, Nick Cave, Crystal Castles, Talking Heds, M83,
My name is Claude,etc...


OBSCUR women’s S/S12

Ever since my friend Richard Söderberg started his menswear brand OBSCUR, I have been constantly asking him to start designing also for the prettier half of the two genders. Finally the prayers have been answered, as he debuts with his OBSCUR women’s collection for S/S12 this year. This capsule like collection features elements typically known to the brand: Treated leathers, rustic zippers and that certain dark aesthetic – this time blending these familiar elements into a soft dream like state, embracing the feminine side of what defines OBSCUR. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see more of the women’s wear in the future.

“A myriad of forms embody this first complete exclusive cluster of pieces that is a feminine expression of OBSCUR. Constrained structures juxtaposed with playful anatomy create warped and skewed perception of shapes. Molded outlines uncover bare human flesh. Treated leather in a gradient, heavy exposed silver along with raw material melt and merge with one another to coexist within an extremely feminine silhouette.”

More images of the OBSCUR women’s S/S12 collection on OBSCUR’s blog.

Summer’s end

Summer is almost officially over and with the falling leaves you can definitely feel that season is changing once again. I spent my fall like Sunday visiting my aunt’s art exhibition at the culture center of Voipaala and picking apples, cherries and plums from the trees of a baroque garden that was hidden behind the main house. A beautiful day to sum up this summer, to turn a new leaf, and head towards new adventures which I will tell more about later this week.

Leather jacket: OBSCUR
Double layer long sleeve: OBSCUR
Jeans: Cheap Monday
Boots: Guidi
Bag: Zam Barrett