meet the craftswoman behind the thick tote bag: kim ryan
To celebrate the re-stocking of our much-loved Thick Tote Bag, in collaboration with Mosey Me, we are shining a spotlight on the craftswoman behind each tote - Ballarat based, Kim Ryan. We asked her about her craft as well as the process involved with creating each Thick Tote Bag.
Kim Ryan - craftswoman behind the Thick Tote Bag
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your craft?
I accidentally fell into the work, starting with a company that was integral in the implementation of Seatbelts becoming mandatory. Hemco [Australia's Premier Seatbelt Manufacturer] also had a Health and Safety Division that was the passion of the Owner, he taught me to question methods and always look for improvements. It was fantastic working with him [and] over the course of about 10 years we developed products for the Healthcare Industry that are still being used today.
I then moved into working with bag designers and have had the pleasure of working with some very clever and original thinking designers that have fought hard to remain Australian Made. A quick side trip into the Building Trade Tool Bag area opened up other opportunities, with me starting out on my own about 9 or 10 years ago.
With most people [and brands] now going offshore for their manufacturing needs, I have managed to remain afloat with a very understanding and tolerant husband. However, over the last few years, people's attitudes are changing, as they realise the consequences of being made offshore.
The niche I am now in allows me to work with some great designers and manufacturers. Sometimes [clients] will come with a drawing, other times they already have patterns. Sometimes they are manufacturers that are not price competitive and so I work with them to re-evaluate their processes and streamline/improve to place them back in the right market.
My children recently told me that I don’t “just sew”, I turn their design thoughts into reality. And you know, I think they are right. [We think so too!]
What is the process involved with making each simétrie Thick Tote Bag?
Simone [originally] brought her design to me as a ready made unit, complete with her patterns, so the process [was fairly] simple. [Initially], we cut her fabric to panels based on her patterns, then assembled [the bags ]. [This part wasn’t so] simple, as we discovered that [the thick hemp] fabric is sturdy and heavy, so [the] machines need to be set up to suit it. Once the units of [the] main body [were] assembled, the [internal] binding [was] added - this not only gives the design a nice finish on the edges, it [also] adds to the durability of the bag.
What do you personally love about the Thick Tote bag that you have been working on?
Of all the different fabrics I have worked with in nearly 30 years, this is the first time I have worked with Hemp canvas. The texture of the fabric is unique and has added some challenges to the assembly, but the finished product has such a wonderful look to it.