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Our Creative Tension

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Thanks to my childhood hobbies, more than a decade of directing branding projects and my work as an artist, I am no stranger to the creative process. Well, at least the roller-coaster dynamics of a creative process which will vary depending on those involved. This process is usually a mix of curiosity, vision, joy, excitement, frustration, fear and tension. I don’t think I know anyone who is immune to all aspects of the creative process, so instead of resisting it I choose to accept each as inevitable, and try my best to move with each no matter how uncomfortable the experience.

Speaking of creative process experiences, one of the more interesting ones has been the making of The Peggy. If you don’t already know, this leather bag is a part of our legacy collection (bag’s designed around our collective grandparent’s lives) - The Peggy by Drew’s Grandma (you can read more about her here). As such, it was intended as a large, practical everyday bag, to use any time, any where.

As with all of our bag designs, the early creation phases are all about leather craftsmanship. In this process, Drew needs to take our preferred sketches and work out a pattern suited to leather’s unique nature (because as I’ve personally come to learn, leather is a very different medium to fabric). From the sketch, every part of the bag design is simplified into a shape, which must fit together and work with the bend and texture of the type of leather we want to use for the bag; all this without compromising on strength and durability.

Taking this brief, Drew conceptualized and designed what we know to be the Peggy today. In short we loved it! So much so that this bag prototype is now my everyday bag. And, accepting this bag as a part of our collection looked like introducing a creative process of joy. Yay!

This was until we decided to do what we do… add limited edition Charlotte Marie artwork lining inside it.

I know I know, we could have just left it as a raw leather bag - which is gorgeous in its own way (and actually a purchase option for customers) - but when we placed the satin fabric of artwork inside the bag, The Peggy changed from something lovely into something truly special. So we both knew having the lining option was also the right decision for Isbell & Co - it is the legacy collection after all.

Although a delicate process, bag lining with leather is usually fairly consistent in approach. So I designed the lining as I usually would. However, when it came to working with Drew on the lining’s placement and visible stitch line (the stitch you see on the outside), a problem pretty quickly surfaced.

You see, what we believe makes this “everyday bag” elegant, is the rolled edge of the leather at the top. To achieve this, the leather will meet on either side of the bag, creating a prominent seam on the inside. Without a lining, this looked perfectly in place, but in adding a standard lining, it created a prominent bulk … unless we changed the rolled edge.

For us both, the bulky inside was an absolute no.

For Drew the rolled edge was a non-negotiable. I agreed.

For me, the lining was a non-negotiable. He agreed.

Hello Creative Tension!

Walk away or problem solve?

In this case it had to be the latter, because that’s what we creatives do when we see a compelling vision of something that we want to come to life before us. We chose the adventure - we problem solve again and again. We arrive at turns and bends, and try climbing cliffs, and jumping over crevasse until we arrive at the place where we’re happy. This is where the frustration, fear and tension comes into play during any creative process - believing the happy place exists, seeing it, but discovering how to get there.

You have a vision in mind, and to reach that vision the perfect blend of courage, skill and design has to come together.

Four to five lining options later, we arrived at the finish product. Sure it took work, a lot of patience, a lot of thinking, a lot of cups of tea, maybe some wine, and the courage to explore different unknowns, but we got there. And we’re smiling because in addition to it being the bag we had envisioned, nothing elegant had to be compromised.

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