By Ben Olson
Nowadays, it seems like everything is made overseas. The personal touch that once defined American made products has gone missing, especially in the textiles industry where the consumer usually has no clue where their item was manufactured or what conditions the employees work under.
One local artisan is trying to change that, one stitch at a time.
Sandpoint local Kimberly Stoddard has been sewing all of her life, and first began with leather in 2009, when she made chaps for a Halloween costume.
“I thought it was so cool,” she said, of her finished product. It intrigued her so much, in fact, that she started sewing leather handbags exclusively and built her own company, 14x Bags.
“The first bag I made was a gift for a friend,” said Stoddard. “I did the hand stitching with X’s to reinforce it. There were fourteen of the X’s. Since fourteen is my lucky number, that’s what I decided to call my company.”
Stoddard makes each bag by hand, and utilizes genuine leather combined with recycled and vintage elements. The leather stock originates from the United States, most often from the Tandy Leather Factory in Spokane.
“I try to incorporate vintage textiles,” said Stoddard. “I appreciate the look and texture they provide. Overall, I’m just trying to do something unique and different.”
Some of Stoddard’s bags feature twists like hair-on-hide and modern minimalist styles merging with a vintage leather feel. One of her most popular styles is the “Hobo” design, which is slung across the body like a messenger bag.
Since 2009, Stoddard has done very well with her hand made wares, selling over 700 bags. Over 500 were sold on Etsy alone, and the others from her shop on the second floor at the Cedar Street Bridge Market.
“I always wanted to have a show room to show local people my work,” said Stoddard. “It’s nice to talk with people about the process, and they really like meeting the person who made their bag. Sometimes they’ll come in and buy a bag and take a photo of the maker. It’s really important to some people to know where their products come from.”
Stoddard’s showroom in the Cedar Street Bridge is minimally decorated and fun to stroll through. Incorporating her desire for high quality recycled material, the bags are displayed on a wall made from repurposed pallet planks. She makes the bags out of the back of her show room, and her husband Howard sometimes pitches in and helps with photographing the finished products.
It’s sure a step up from her tiny laundry room, which is where Stoddard began her leather stitching journey.
“It’s amazing I was able to fit all my material in there,” she said. “Lugging that 200 pound sewing machine around was interesting.”
Stoddard said it took her almost three months to finish her first bag. Now, almost seven years later, she has honed that down to about eight hours per bag.
“I didn’t have many of the tools I needed when I first started,” she said. “I’ve been accumulating them here and there.”
While Stoddard’s bags are primarily women’s styles, she said she is eager to enter into men’s items such as shaving kits and passport holders.
“Different leather goes into making men’s bags and other items,” she said. “I’m looking into it.”
With a baby on the way and the looming gift giving season around the corner, Stoddard is working doubly hard to generate enough bags to last the season.
While she hasn’t dabbled yet into selling her bags at the local Farmers’ Market, Stoddard expressed a desire for Sandpoint to establish a Christmas Artists’ Market.
“I’d love to see Sandpoint put that together,” said Stoddard, who envisions the market as a show case for local artisans to sell their products in one location during the holiday season.
To check out Kimberly Stoddard’s 14x Bags, go to her shop on the second floor of the Cedar Street Bridge Market, 334 N 1st Ave. in Sandpoint.
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