Adan Ballou - Adam French

Winner of the The Brother Best Handmade Handbag


2019 Finalist Adan Ballou Adam French


How are your bags made?
This bag is made from deerskin leather that I tanned myself using traditional indigenous techniques. The lining was sewn with a walking foot sewing machine. The outer edges are braided by hand with a four string round braid. During the hunting season, local hunters give me the hides from their harvest. They themselves harvest the venison meat, antlers, bone, sinews & fats before returning the remains to the wild for scavenging animals, They give the green hides to me because they like to know that it gets used. I flesh, scrape, and salt the hide for storage. When I am ready to process the preserved hide into leather, I rinse out the salt with water I draw from an old hand dug well I have on my property. All the water I use for my projects comes from this well. I use wood ash I collect from my shop stove as lye to get the hair to slip from the hide. After working the hair out & scraping the hide again, I scrub it as clean as possible, before soaking it in a light salt bath to equalize the PH. Once the hide is loose again, it is ready for the dye bath. This bag was mostly made from a hide that is its natural white (no dye). Once the dye has set and the hide has been acidified, it is ready to be dressed. I dress my hides in an emulsion of neats foot oil and Dawn liquid dish soap. Once the hide has taken up the dressing evenly, a few hours of working the hide over a steel cable and wood beam makes the leather soft and keeps the hide glue from setting while the moisture evaporates. Because different parts of each deer hide has different properties, I map out what part of the bag will go where. I save the thin parts for pocket edges and linings, the stretchy bits for parts that fold or to cut into lace, and the middle of the back for the main parts of the bag. I carefully cut out each part to leverage these characteristics, planing as much of the bag out as possible. When the animal has range marks (Scars the animal collected from running thru thicket, brush, ect), I try to feature these somewhere on the bag. This bag is lined in a blue Agave Cactus silk I bought in the souks of Marrakech. Also called Sabra, I am told that it is hand woven by the women there in a similar process as linen was made. I use this material for my linings because of its shine and colour depth and I like the story behind it. In my own small way, I like to promo the Moroccan handicraft industry as well. I put allot of effort into the lining of a bag because I think its the most important part. The inside of your bag is where you use it the most, like you live INSIDE your home. Parts that need to be thinned I skive down with a safety beveler on a marble slab. My edge paint process involves sandpaper, a soldering iron, and beeswax. I treat my zippers with beeswax and a toothbrush to make the action smoother. The zipper pull is made from reclaimed coax data cable. I like the idea that it once carried data as electrical signals. Its all stitched and glued together with Gutermann thread & Basic Adhesives glue. The inlayed braid on the front of the bag is made from bits of three different deer hides. The dark brown was dyed in oak bark, the lighter brown in coffee. I designed this braid to be a sort of Art Deco inspired tree like the ones we see here on the prairies in the winter. I braided the edges with lace I hand cut from the stretchy parts of the hide using an Australian strander. The bags structure is deer skin rawhide (in place of cardboard) so it is very strong and durable. The strap is a four string round braid around a waxed sinew core, so it won't stretch or break. A magnetic claps acts as a closure. My product tags say \An Adan Ballou leather bag merges bespoke craftsmanship with the rugged minimalism of vintage leather accessories. Each bag is an example of precise attention to details applied with handmade care.

What is the primary material used?
Handmade Deerskin Leather

Do you make all of your own bags? If not, please explain who helps you make your bags.
I make my own bags.

What is your design inspiration? Are there Instagram accounts that you follow for inspiration?
I designed this bag for my prairies in the winter. The white everywhere, a little bit of brown here and there for the trees. Its lined in bright blue Moroccan silk, like a clear winter sky. I made the braid to represent the leafless trees and the sundogs we see when it gets really cold. I follow Hermes, Dior, Gucci, and allot of big brands to see whats trending, but I find this just gives me license to try stuff. Most of my inspirations come from people, nature, and architecture. I like to blend the kind of precision and detail I see in luxury leather brands with techniques found in traditional or working leathers so I watch allot of motorcycle, western equestrian, military, & indigenous leather making hashtags/accounts when I find them.

What sewing machine do you use to make your bags? How long have you had it?
A Pfaff 1245 sewing machine I bought used from a friend 2 years ago. I often use a heavy duty saddle stitcher as well.

Have you ever sewn with or used an industrial sewing machine? If not, how do you sew with leather?
I've used a few industrial machines. I worked as an embroidery machine operator at a Janome 6 head, 16 thread embroidery machine for 2 years. I've owned a number of older Singer machines, but my PFAFF is the 1st walking foot I've had. I also like to try out different machines when I get the chance like shoe patchers, post machines, and anything I haven't seen before.

Bag Description
Adan Ballou, 'Winter', Clutch in White Deerskin, lined in Blue Cactus silk with Magnetic closure. $750

See other finalists from the 2019 handbag awards