UrbaBags — The Best Handbag

I mean…THE ABSOLUTE BEST!

UrbaBags is an Etsy shop owned by Constance Jacobs, a wiz in design with cork! Her bags are colorful, functional, and so well made that she deserves awards for her craftmanship!

The original blog below (after the asterisks) was published on July 29 2018 but I had to just add an update!

The bag I first ordered from Constance that prompted the blog was going strong for almost three years! I use it everyday and absolutely love everything about it…the cork fabric, the craftsmanship, the functionality, everything! Every time I would think that it was time to get a new everyday handbag, I would scour Etsy and other artisan/handmade sites for one that would call to me. None ever called.
But a couple of weeks ago, the zipper finally gave out and I had no choice but to prep this one for retirement and add a fresh handbag to carry my daily essentials. Because I am going to be traveling more and needing to stash my handbag into a carry-on bag when flying, I wished for a bag that was small but roomy.
For some ridiculous reason, I scoured the handmade sites again looking for the best bag. UrbaBags was, of course, at the top of my list, but she didn’t have anything in her shop that matched my vision. I almost, almost😳 (yikes!) bought a vegan bag from a corporation and just couldn’t make myself do it so I thought back to the fact that the bag I was carrying now was a custom order from UrbaBags.
I sent Constance a message and after a bit of back and forth, she worked her magic… in my absolute favorite shade of purple, in fact…and created a fabulous crossbody bag in eggplant purple! It is awesome!

She even sent me a wallet prototype that will be in her shop soon!
One of the reasons I love working with Constance is because of her creative mind and ability to make the designs she conceives come to fruition.
I usually hesitate to ask for a custom piece from an artist. I really do not like doing custom pieces myself and in fact, rarely accept custom requests anymore. If someone likes my art and pottery, I feel like they need to trust in the piece I will authentically be inspired to create for them.
So, I hesitated asking Constance for something I didn’t see in her shop. But then I remembered talking to her a few years ago about her always sketching out designs to try. I thought I would just ask and see if there was anyway she was working on something that would fit my needs. In fact she was and she was excited to have a customer ready for it!
This also speaks to the power of the word “no.” I trust that Constance would tell me if the pieces I was looking for was not something she wanted to create. As an artist and at this a very long time, I have realized that just like one of my customers having the power to ask, I have the power to refuse. It’s that simple. No hurt feelings, just honest conversation about what possibilities exist. That’s good business.🙌

Eco-friendly and handmade,
it’s a fabulous way to carry a journal!

Walk the walk is what I aspire to do with my green living commitment and green-wearing is a big part of that. As we focus on selling my Eco-Stained Paper Collection online, downsizing more, moving again, and step into a new phase in our life as our children flee off to college and adult life, I am making more conscientious decisions about my purchases.
Beyond deciphering the difference between “Do I need this?” and “Do I want this?” is the question, “Is this eco-friendly?” In my mind, eco-friendly covers the item, its packaging, its origin, how it was made, its life span, and what happens at the end of it’s lifespan. The ideal piece to me is made by an individual (preferably one that is identified) with sustainable and/or conscientiously harvested materials, has little or no additional packaging, is durable, and can be repurposed in the future. That’s quite a wish list that few items can brag about. So what I try to find are pieces that have as many as those qualities as possible.

I thought it would be fun to chat a little more with Constance, so she graciously accepted my invitation to share a bit about herself and her story behind UrbaBags.

Our Chat

Rachelle: Hello, Constance!
I am so excited to carry my UrbaBags everyday! It made my last trip go smoothly since it was able to stay slim and light while holding a lot. When I needed it, my iPad Mini, fit nicely in it without me having to take my journal or any of my regular contents out. Plus, I absolutely love its feel. The biggest surprise is that it withstood a down pour that I got stuck in. The skies opened up without warning and I was just sure my bag was going to be ruined. The fabric acted similar to a water repellent and dried almost immediately. I just fell in love with it even more!

Besides telling so many people I see about my bag, including my mother who is in search of the perfect crossbody, I wanted to see if you would have a chat and share a little behind the scenes of UrbaBags for my blog.
What do you think?

Constance: So glad to hear your stories! Now you know why I fell in love with cork fabric. Something similar happened to me when I was first working with the fabric, and I was shocked when the bag held up when I dropped it into a puddle and the shape still held up and the bag looked brand new. Many of the photos on my website are the prototypes I wore to see how they held up, etc. — I never stop being amazed at how “new” they still look!

I would love to talk to you about my journey with the cork bags. I really enjoy making the bags -and I love being challenged to make the “perfect” bag for customers. I’m very flattered you want to tell my story!

A Little Bit About the Artist

Rachelle: Let’s start with sharing a little bit about you, your background, and what led you to start sewing.

Handbags came into my life about 3 years ago. I prefer bags with classic simple lines that have practical pockets and zippers — I like to be able to get to my stuff easily. As a commuter, I also wanted bags that offered security so I didn’t have to worry about being in a crowded bus or train and worry that someone could steal something. Many of the bags I saw in department stores had a lot of hardware and zippers that were more decorative than useful, while others were outrageously expensive. There was one handbag line, Urban Oxide, that I had worn for years — it was the only line I had found that more or less my criteria for simple/practical/secure. But even then the line was limited to black, no colors, and the same fabric — recycled plastic — which was fine, except that I like color. I noticed over time the styles of the bag were changing, and when I learned the line was being discontinued, out of frustration I decided to try making my own bags. That was what started me down the path that led to UrbaBags.

As I had done when I learned to knit, I started reading books, taking classes and teaching myself how handbags are constructed, how to think about fabric, lining, hardware, all of it — I already had the sewing basics from my early days with my aunt and mother. I spent many hours perfecting the craftsmanship of making a bag — I believe handmade items can look professional and be of the highest quality, and I wanted my handbags to be top notch, from start to finish. I spent many hours searching for sources that offered quality products. Most of what I ordered landed in the garbage, but I finally found the right mix — much of the hardware I use in my bags is custom ordered from a company in Portland Oregon; I import my straps from Europe; my rivets come from a supplier in Los Angeles; and I recently found a manufacturer that I can order specialized color zippers from that will compliment all of the cork fabric colors I offer. Through it all, I kept designing bags that suited my criteria — classic and functional, and at the same time protected my belongings. I would design prototypes, make them and wear them to see if they met my objectives — if they didn’t, I went back to the drawing board, tweaked the design, and made another prototype until I got it right.

Cork!

I also fell in love with wide range of colors and patterns offered. For the first time in my life, I could make bags in colors I wanted. Again I felt liberated — I could make my own bags designed in colors I choose, in the size I want, with functional zippers and pockets. I love that I can get up everyday and choose a bag that compliments my outfit! I chuckle when I tell people I now have more handbags than shoes!

I discovered when I wore my bags, women started to comment on them and ask me where I purchased the bag. When I told them I made them, many asked if I sold the bags — that’s really what got me thinking about starting an Etsy shop, which I launched last December. All UrbaBags are made by me in my workshop — selling my first handbag right before Christmas last year was a very exciting moment!

Rachelle: This fabulous, Constance! You are a fantastic story teller!
I absolutely love the style and comfort I have knowing that my UrbaBag is durable for daily wear and has its own defense system against our Florida rains. I wish I was so easily back to normal after getting caught in downpours!

As one who has made a ton of handbags for myself over the years, I created based on my criteria of space, pockets, and security as well. Although I have used many manufactured bags before, I never felt like any of them suited my needs both aesthetically and functionally. I have handmade by others, but often they lacked the sophistication that I craved. Once I found you and UrbaBags I was hooked. I know we are going to have a happy handbag relationship long into the future with multiple bags!

So, is there a certain tool in your workshop that is most important to you besides your sewing machine? Something you cannot live without?

The Must-Have Tool

Constance: Thanks for the kind words — this is fun!
I can’t live without my rivet setter. From the beginning I liked the look of rivets in my bags — they set straps securely in place and at the same time they are an understated design element that doesn’t compete with the cork fabric and bag design. I can’t live without my heavy-duty rivet setter!

Rachelle: Is there an element that you make sure to include in each bag you do, even with all the customization that you provide?

Rachelle: Your story just keeps getting better! Who knew a rivet setter could be so…riveting!

Thanks for your time! I love getting to know you and I know my readers will too!

Are you working on any new projects now; perhaps accessories to add to your line…hint, hint: a slim wallet perhaps? LOL!

Constance: No plans for accessories at this time, but maybe in the future. I have a long way to go before I exhaust the many designs that are still in my head. At the moment, I’m focussed on designing the perfect large crossbody bag. On the one hand, the larger the bag, the more stuff you can put in it and that makes the bag potentially very heavy. Also, adding a top zipper limits the width of the bag at the top — if you place lots of stuff in the bag and then try to zip it shut, you can’t. So I’ve played around with adding a zipper, not adding a zipper, what kind of inside lining works best, etc., and I’m still not completely satisfied. I always wear my bags to “test drive” how they hold up and what needs to tweaked. But if I do start to make accessories, a slim wallet in purple will be the first item I make!

A Little More About The Artist

Rachelle: Let’s get to know a little more about you. Do you have any hobbies? What was the last great book you read? Is there a flower or other plant elements you would love to have in a garden?

Rachelle: Share a little about your local love of where you live.

Constance: I live in a 100 year old house in Oakland, California, a city that is changing before my eyes. As more people move to the San Francisco Bay Area, people are discovering Oakland as an alternative to San Francisco. What I love about Oakland is the diversity and tight-knit neighborhoods — things I hope don’t disappear as rapid growth continues at full speed. I also love how centrally located I am. I can jump on public transportation or in my car and go to San Francisco or Lake Tahoe.

Well that’s a wrap, or shall I say…this post is in the bag! To see Constance’s designs and shop for your own fabulous one-of-a-kind UrbaBag, visit www.etsy.com/shop/urbabags. You’ll be glad you did!

Originally published at https://www.rachelleeason.com on April 17, 2021.

Pottery, Classes, & Journals That Bring Out Your Unique Style

Pottery, Classes, & Journals That Bring Out Your Unique Style