Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chemical Wedding Backpack

A year or two ago, I saw this stunning handbag in Andaluz over in Columbia City.


Because I don't like to carry handbags, I didn't buy it, but I did obsess over it. I must have talked about it a lot, because later on, my husband returned to Andaluz to buy it for me (to shut me up?), but someone else had snapped it up.

I looked up the designers, Jon and Tracy Haaland of Chemical Wedding, online, and I found out that they're local. (South Enders, in fact!) I sent them some fan mail, asking about store locations, and continued to admire their industrial-yet-organic, goth-meets-western (and sometimes sinister, and always gorgeous) designs whenever I'd see them in shops around Seattle and Portland.

I mean, seriously, folks. Look at the work they're doing. There is nothing else like this around, is there?


But I continued to resist their charms until a recent upload to their blog put me over the edge:


Then I knew I had to have one of their bags. But I still wanted a backpack. And when I first e-mailed them a year or so ago, they sounded open to the idea of custom work. So I sent them another message:

Hi, there. I love your bags, though I pretty much exclusively carry a backpack, as I hate having to carry something around. ... Do you think you might be able to adapt one of your styles to the form of a small, slender backpack (16 in. x 11 in.)?

Tracy responded very enthusiastically:

We would love to make a backpack for you! ... We have never made a backpack but would love to give it a try.

I then sent a 600-word manifesto on backpack usability, which it seems that they actually read, bless their hearts. And within two weeks of my original e-mail about wanting a backpack, it was done!

They invited us over to their lovely home studio just south of Georgetown, and welcomed us with bourbon cocktails. Old Crow with apple-pear juice, on the rocks. These are my kind of people.



I was honored that we were the first customers ever to see their basement studio. And that's a privilege that I won't be sharing much of here, since I was feeling like it would be too presumptuous of me to ask to take photos of it. Besides, I was kind of overwhelmed by the quality of their handiwork.

But after the bourbon kicked in and we were upstairs again, I asked to take some shots of their cool stuff.

You can't really see it, but on the top shelf of this curio cabinet, there's a bottle of Old Crow (Jon's liquor of choice) signed by Maakies creator Tony Millionaire. Dook dook!







Tracy explained a little about the inspiration for their name, a 400-year-old Rosicrucian allegory about alchemic transformation.


And the backpack? I couldn't be more pleased with it. Here's a shot of it in Smarty Pants, later in the day.


And here's a photo that Jon took of me wearing it in their backyard. If you can get past how badly I need a haircut (I still only go to Dirty Little Secret in Portland), you may notice how perfectly it fits me. Nice work, Chemical Wedding! And thanks so much, Jon and Tracy. You'll be hearing from me after Jon takes his cobbling class and announces that he's going to start making custom boots!



chemical wedding said...

Wow! You are quite the story teller. We are honored to be part of your blog. It was very nice meeting you guys! Take care and cheers! Tracy Haaland

Wendee said...

That bag is fantastic! Andaluz is my favorite place to shop. I always find something I can't live without.

I'm delighted to have stumbled upon your blog. I'm a southender too - tucked away on a dead-end street off Beacon, a few blocks N. of Graham. Now I know where to find happenings in my hood.


JvA said...

Welcome, Wendee!

I just checked out your blog and saw that you're a friend of my old pals Daphne and Seth.

And I see that you live by the Buddhist temple. My husband and I looked at a house out there just over two years ago. It might have been on the same side of the block as you, even, because it sort of had a view of the amphitheater thing from the front steps.

(It was a cute house, but it had settled a little bit crooked, and it was a little bit small. But I sure loved that block! Do you know what house that might have been? It would have been on the market in April 2005.)

See you around!

Carol Banks said...

ok, so where can i buy their bags online? love them!

JvA said...

I just looked at their rather lengthy list of shops where they're carried but didn't see any that I recognized as having an online presence.

If you're not in Oregon or Washington or the handful of other places listed here:

then you should e-mail them at They're super-nice!