Black Anchor is approaching it's fifth year of being in business. I started this company for one main reason - to make my own bag. I don't think I had a particular bag in mind, but when I unpack what I was looking for back then I can pin point a few things about that bag. It would be useful to me every day, it would last me for a long time, and it would look cool as hell.
This past week I made a bag that epitomizes what I was looking for in December of 2012 - a month before I began this journey of highs and lows. I find that for the last four years I have been filling my tool belt with tools that have helped me get to the place I am today. It all seems like a blur, but in reality it has been a beautiful journey where one thing led to another.
Before I started Black Anchor I got my bags from REI - like, all of them. I have three bags to this day that I look at for inspiration that are labeled with the REI name. A city backpack, a day hike backpack, and a backpacking backpack. From time to time I find myself using each one - which is funny because I make bags for a living. So why haven't I made the perfect bag for myself yet?
Probably because I haven't felt like I make useful bags - until now. They started as trendy canvas and leather roll top bags where the main closure piece would rip out of the canvas. Then I made some messenger style bags that were complex and heavy - and I really hate messenger style bags. I moved on to less complex bags that were smaller and simpler to construct - when in all reality it was just as complex, just smaller than the prior. This past summer I finally decided I was going to make the perfect bag.
That bag was a basic varsity style backpack based on the classic Jansport. Ya, the one you probably had in the third grade. Well - I made one from waxed canvas and nylon hardware and webbing. It had a mix of metal and coil zippers because I realized after I started that I didn't have all the parts to make the whole thing with the metal teeth. That led me to the water resistant zipper - and I don't think I can ever go back to the metal teeth zipper - because in my mind it's actually sub par to a coil zipper in price and performance. I could be wrong, but today those are my thoughts.
I started playing with nylon lining fabric instead of cotton twills - probably because I have some excess material hanging out in the shop and I didn't want to use the "treasured" cotton twill. What I realized after lining a canvas bag with nylon was that the nylon actually performed better than the cotton twill. It's more durable, wipes clean with a towel, and in my mind looks better. This got me to thinking - perhaps what I've been doing for the last four years has been a bunch of romantic crap.
Made in USA has been a trend for half a decade now - and I'm glad I've been able to take part in the growth of that trend - but I am curious to see where the trend heads from here. I look at companies like Topo Design, Timbuk2, and other notable USA made bag companies and realize it's not all waxed canvas and leather. The romance for me has died off, and I'm ready to push into the world of synthetics and high performance trims. The bag I set out to make, after all, was to be useful, lasting, and beautiful. It seems my previous bags are none of those - but I think I am starting down the right path from here on out. Here are some images of the bag I got at the shop the other night. It's still a work in progress - but I think it's the best work in progress I've had since I've been chasing this elusive bag.