The Bohlux Bag
Louise was classically trained by a former Hermès employee, who was herself trained at Hermes and worked on the Kelly bag. Over the years Louise has honed her skills to become a Master Leather Artisan, resulting in BOHLUXTM...Bohemian Luxury, where her motto is "Handcrafted one beautiful piece at a time..."
At BOHLUX, we make bags one at a time. We start by examining the hides and skins to identify which area will work for each part of the bag. Size and color of the bag may differ according to the hides and skins being used, as different leathers have different elasticity.
The amount of leather needed depends on the design. For example a 14” x 10” x 6” with rolled handles:
• 1 calfskin.
• 3 - 4 Alligator skins (as only the stomach is used, the rest is covered in bony scales).
• 1&1/2 ostrich skins, so that there are as many follicles visible as possible.
• 4 – 5 lizard skins (the heads and tails are not used.).
At BOHLUX we use cotton thread or wax linen thread, which has excellent dimensional stability and will not be affected by different climates for hand-stitching. The thread is coated in beeswax so that is it waterproof and smooth.
BOHLUX uses the same tools that artisans did 200 years ago (we love that!) The most important tool is the human hand; but there are four other important tools that assist in the construction of a bag. The pricking fork resembles a comb with slanted pointed teeth that imprint the leather so that we know where to stitch, and to ensure the stitches are even. The awl is a thin, diamond-shaped pick that punctures the leather and makes room for the needles to pass through the leather. The third tool, needles, are quite blunt and are used concurrently in pairs. The fourth tool is the stitching post. Like a thimble to a seamstress, we have our own set of tools, which are extremely personal, and mold and conform to our hands and movements over time.
We start with saddle stitching. The saddle stitch is a very solid stitch now used on all custom bags, belts, wallets and most other leather pieces. The technique involves crossing two needles holding a continuous thread, over itself between two pieces of leather, and it is very strong because if one stitch breaks, the rest remain intact.
While saddle-stitching, the leather is held in a large wooden clamp (stitching post) that is held firm between the knees while stitching the item. It is quite a challenge to make a row of perfectly even hand-done saddle stitches, let alone an entire bag.
Other details on the bag include the bar tacking, which is always done by hand. The bar tack is used to finish the edge of a stitch. There are a few parts of a BOHLUX bag that are machine sewn, which may include the inside pockets, the shoulder straps, and the zippers, and even these have hand-sewn bar tacks. You can’t just leave the threads loose and you can’t cut them off at the end, as the stitch will unravel. Rather than tie a knot, at BOHLUX we hand-sew a bar tack which is then flattened with a hammer.
The edges of the leather that are visible will be buffed with sandpaper, dyed, waxed, and polished several times to ensure they are soft, the correct color in order to match the bag, and are safe from humidity.
Any creases on the bag are pressed in by hand with a hot tool that needs a very strong, stable hand. The linings are always leather, usually a very soft lamb, goatskin or plonge so that when the owner’s hand reaches into the bag, the inside feels soft and luxurious. Even the zipper teeth are polished to ensure they don’t have any rough edges and are soft to the touch.
Essentially a bag ends up being a part of the person it is created for, and accordingly Master leather artisans take about 2 to 3 months lead-time to assemble a bag. We start by stitching the lining to the inside pockets, and the linings for the small straps and the gussets. The straps are then sewn onto the back of the bag, and then the base is stitched to the two sides. The next step is to create the rigid handle, and then the shanks or handle loops are attached to the bag. The bag is no longer flat when we assemble the body, front and back with gussets. The edges are then buffed and dyed, as explained above, and the jewelry is attached (hardware.)
When the bag is finished it may be turned inside-out, as many of the designs for BOHLUX bags are worked on from the inside out. After the bag is turned, it will be lightly hammered and buffed to ensure the perfect shape and removs any traces of handling.