Elias Grey of Lemolo Bags
I value items more if they have a good creation story, a story that can prove the item was crafted in a place that has character. And that’s what I think about when I visit Elias and he walks me through a labyrinthine concrete warehouse where his studiomates, a bicycle maker and motorcycle craftsman, make sparks fly as they let their tools tear into metal, building the frames and engines for their bikes. In front of this backdrop, Elias has been making waxed canvas and leather bags for bike-minded individuals since 2006. In the corner of the warehouse we find his studio, a modest room where daylight reveals bags hanging from the ceilings and walls.
But the hanging bags aren’t the Panniers that Lemolo made in its early days, they are daypacks for the urban hiker and duffel bags for the frequent flier. And this transition from bike-centric baggage to lifestyle bags is giving Elias a new sense of excitement. “I had lots of things inspiring me and needed to express more, so I wanted to make bags for everyone and not just people who ride bikes,” he tells me as he takes command of an old sewing machine and begins prepping pieces of canvas.
While Elias sews, his dog, Louis, and I walk the perimeter of the room and find letterpress pieces from Keegan & Meegan and a lineup of vintage cameras, items that hint at a reverence for the past, a reverence that is reflected in his bags, too. His bags are made from vegetable tanned leather and duffel and backpack designs which are rooted in the classic forms. He uses tools that have been used by leather craftsmen for generations: a puncher, a strip cutter, a burnisher, some bees wax. But there is a sense of novelty in the way that Elias overcomes obstacles with modern tools, like the use of water resistant nylon in areas that are prone to moisture, and the utilization of sewing houses in Portland to produce his designs on a larger scale for sale in stores like Communion PDX.
After Louis and I circle the entire room and return to Elias, we find him working on a custom bag for Keegan Wenkman. “Keegan pretty much left everything to me outside of color,” he says, “He wanted a dark bag, the rest he let me run with. The outer layer is made up of a mix of waxed and untreated canvas and leather, finished with metal hardware. The inner liner is a lightweight, highly water resistant nylon. As most of my custom projects do, the bag evolved some as it was being created.”
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