Thursday, November 11, 2010

Etsy Seller Spotlight: Hoakon+Helga

As a vintage and handmade item enthusiast, I got very excited when I got to interview Canadian designer Andrea Strand, of Hoakon+Helga’s handbags. This handmade handbag line, named after the designer's Norwegian grandparents, fuses together the past, present and future seamlessly into beautiful designs. Andrea Strand sells her items on and if you read this blog regularly you’re well aware of my etsy biases. Thus, having the pleasure getting to know more about a designer and her work thrilled me.

Andrea Strands hunts for vintage leather jackets that she incorporates into her designs, which gives them a unique one-of- a kind look. Each one is an original due to the nature of the initial recycled material. This is perfect for those that want modern looking handbags, but still want something that is as individualistic as they are.

Through an interview, I had the opportunity to get to know more about Andrea, Hoakon+ Helga and her digital magazine ANTLER.

Tell me a bit about yourself: name, location, affiliations, pets Hi! My name is Andrea. I live in Calgary. I make bags out of vintage leather jackets and run an online magazine called ANTLER which features creative people from all over the globe. I graduated in 2006 from the Alberta College of Art and Design with a Fine Arts Degree, majoring in textiles. During my second year at ACAD I discovered my love of making bags and haven't stopped since. I do thrift store hunts around the city at least twice a week, take lots of bike ride breaks from sewing during the day, and drink way too many chai lattes. I love anything Art Nouveau, old Hitchcock tv episodes and comfy Fall sweaters. 

Apart from creating what else do you do? To be honest, I don't have a lot of free time doing anything else.
My business is still quite young and it requires a lot of invested hours to help it grow. I spend a lot of my time searching for materials, cutting patterns, sewing, promoting and marketing, researching etc. etc.

What are your most cherished handmade items?
Handmade lace pieces from the 1920's that I bought at a flea market in Paris a few years back would be my most cherished. The intricate detailing and amount of work in them is amazing! Out my own pieces that I've created, I would have to say a ceramic piece I made while at ACAD is my favorite. It is made from twigs that were dipped and after they were fired in the kiln, the twigs burned away to leave these fragile organic ceramic skeletons of their original shapes. I have them displayed in these grimy antique rusty jars. They look like bones.

How did you come up with the idea to use vintage leather jackets for your latest collection?
My mom opened an antique shop for a few years in my early twenties and I spent many hours there wandering through and learning about objects from different eras. I started to collect vintage barkcloth and upholstery materials amongst other things and began to stockpile them. While at ACAD I began to create fabric collage pieces with both these materials and the hand-dyed screenprinted fabrics I was making. This was the beginning me making bags, and also the beginning of my love for materials from the past. After that I started going to thrift stores to find more upholstery materials and came across some vintage leather jackets. I figured out how to sew leather and really liked the weight of the material and how it creates a casual, slouchy style. I've been making my bags out of vintage leather jackets for two years now and still incorporate vintage upholstery fabrics in to some of my designs as well.

What made you sway towards accessories?
I've never really been interested in clothing design. For my fourth year final project at ACAD I designed a series of garments for ArtaWEARness, but after that I've never really felt the urge to continue down that path. Accessories just seem right for me.

What are the defining features of your work?
Eco-friendly and casual. I design bags I would want to wear myself. I think about how I like to quickly throw my keys in an outside pocket after I leave my apartment, or an easy storage spot for my phone. I also think about how I like to have a longer strap sometimes if I'm carrying too many things or taking a bike ride, yet still prefer a shorter strap for the rest of the time. Each time I find a new jacket I get inspired and think about the possibilities and what style of bag it would look great as. I love the fact that each bag becomes one of a kind because of the vintage jacket used and I think my customers enjoy it too as it gives them something that is uniquely their own.

Where do you get your inspirations?
I get inspired from strangers walking down the street and international street style blogs. I like to make bags that are practical and for the every day person so noticing what people are carrying is the best inspiration there is for me.

What’s your favorite fall look?
Grandpa sweaters and hand knit scarves.

Where are your 3 of your favorite places to shop?
Etsy, thrift stores + garage sales, and Joe from Superstore. Yes, that's right, Joe is awesome!

What can you be found doing on a Saturday afternoon?
I live downtown so I like to wander, bike ride, or meet up for a coffee date with friends.

How did you find out about etsy and what made you decide selling there?
I found out about etsy shortly after the website started... I think it was through word of mouth in the art/craft community. I opened up my shop in 2007 but didn't start selling until October 2009. Etsy is great because it brings traffic to you and is almost risk free. I think it's something everyone interested should give a try.

Is there anything you’d like to try your hands at doing? 
 I've always wanted to refinish vintage furniture and daydream often about doing that instead of making bags. Maybe one day but right now I'm pretty content.

How have your products changed since you started creating?
They've changed quite a bit actually. My current work is very simplified visually in comparison to earlier bag designs. I used to mix a lot of bold colors and fabrics. I would screenprint and use quilting techniques to make my designs. I think that's just how evolving as a designer goes. Things change... who knows what my work will look like 5 years from now.

What inspired you to create ANTLER, the digital magazine, and can you tell us a little more about it? ANTLER was kind of like my current urge to refurnish vintage furniture... I had the idea one day and it stuck around for a while so I decided to go with it and see what happens. I had no idea it would take off as much as it has. I like to consider it a place to feature emerging artists/designers/creatives. I think there are so many interesting people around the globe that feature their work online, and I thought it would be so great to see them compiled in to collections for each issue. Some themes I've done are Dream girl, Vintage, Cabinet of Curiosities, and the latest issue is Cosmic. My favourite part of compiling each issue is seeing how far apart everyone is geographically. This current issue features artists/designers/creatives from Alberta, Russia, Spain, Los Angeles, Berlin, Australia, Brooklyn, Austin, and Chicago, to name a few.

What are your future plans with Hoakon + Helga?
I would like to see it continue to grow. It took a long time for me to be able to do what I love full time and I want to continue down that path.

What’s in your handbag?
ha ha, well umm chapstick, iphone, wallet, keys, a heck of a lot of reciepts, thread, scissors, magnetic button closures, a business book I took out from the library, and a notebook full of to-do lists from the past 4 months.

Photos courtesy of NicoleIrene Dyck.

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