A handbag made of wood? Designer uses furniture techniques to create distinctive clutch

Posted by Rumin Mann
September 14th, 2011

Joëlle Andrew recently received one of the best compliments of her life: A curious man stopped her on the street and proclaimed that her handbag was the most exquisite thing he had ever seen—and that he wanted to be cremated, and then buried, in it.

After a year of prototyping, testing and admitted trials developing the unique bentwood bag herself, hearing his otherwise morbid declaration was a thrill.

After a year Andrew became transfixed with bentwood—a light, pliable material—in architecture school when she attempted to create a bentwood chair for a school project. It was a failure, but it launched an even greater desire to get it right and improve on the process, as traditional bentwood work can lead to a lot of waste, rely on very toxic glues and are messy and unruly. She studied the techniques of furniture designers and instrument makers, some of who told her that manufacturing layered veneers which are flexible yet are rigid enough to maintain its shape was not possible.

Andrew, along with her children Gavin (7) and Gella (5) and her husband Brett, tested and tweaked their process until they mapped out a method that was sustainable, natural, utilized low VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) and water-based glues. The wood is soft, supple and uniquely grained, so each handbag is as individualized as a custom piece of furniture.

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