During the Bike Swap last month, we ran across an interesting group of crafts people. We have already run a post about Nikki the masterful pannier maker, today we will profile the Black Rose Bags Collective.
While we try to stick strictly to Twin Cities area companies this group, based in Duluth Minnesota, piqued our interest enough to expand north. Read on to learn more about their bags, process and what exactly the Collective is.
CTC: It was great meeting you at the Twin Cities Bike Swap. Just as a background question where is your shop located?
Black Rose: Our Sewing space is up here in Duluth MN. Duluth has a wonderful crafting community and everyone is extremely supportive of one another. Black Rose Bags would never have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for the support and solidarity of our fellow crafts people.
CTC: You call yourselves the Black Rose Crew, how many people are we talking about exactly, and where does the name come from?
Black Rose: The Black Rose Bags Collective is tough to describe and much easier to imagine. Two of us do most of the sewing while others take care of the online stuff. Our friend Peach out in Oregon helps test run our prototypes and gives us design input. Still others help us acquire materials, take photos, and help brain storm new bags. We all contribute parts of ourselves, it’s a beautiful thing. As for our name, the Black Rose is a symbol of the Anarchist movement which we all embody collectively.
CTC: How long have you been making bike accessories?
Black Rose: About a year and a half ago Sadie and I found ourselves broke and simultaneously planning a 1400 mile bike tour around Lake Superior. We decided we had enough confidence in ourselves to make all of our gear. We made our ultra-light weight tent from dumpstered nylon, sleeping bags filled with recovered down, panniers, randonneur bags, and clothing and of cores we built or bikes.
CTC: Why did you decide to focus on making bags and accessories for bicycles?
Black Rose: We started sewing bags for friends and strangers who came through the Bike Cave, a community bike shop Sadie and I are part of, who could hardly afford to pay the heat, let alone afford expensive panniers at the shop down the street. As we grew in our abilities we started selling bags to pay the bills.
CTC: We see that all of your materials are reclaimed and recycled, where does most of it come from?
Black Rose: That’s a secret. Next question.
CTC: Well, we love a good mystery so we will leave that one alone. How long does it typically take to manufacture one bag, start to finish?
Black Rose: Well it depends on the bag and how the sewing machine is feeling that day but generally we can construct a messenger bag in about a day. Gathering all the materials on the other hand can take up to a week.
CTC: Any plans to expand your current offerings?
Black Rose: We are always developing new bags and have a few we hope to unveil in the next month or so. Sometimes people contact us with a custom design they want us to make for them and we keep the design going.
CTC: What makes your bags unique from other messenger style bags?
Black Rose: Our bags are a strong clenched fist to the flimsy crossed fingers of capitalists and their ill conceived bags. Our bags get passed down to the next generation while other bags get passed on to landfills. Not to mention we make our bags from material others deemed “Trash”.
CTC: How do you suggest that someone cares for one of your bags?
Black Rose: Ride them every day, through the mud, the salt, the rain, spill shit on them and otherwise abuse them, they are strong enough to take care of themselves. Once a year wipe the leather down with some oil and the waxed canvas with some Filson Oil Finish Wax.
CTC: Are your products currently available in any bike shops?
Black Rose: Nope. We look forward to the day when people go to a crafts-person, rather than the store, when they need something. The heart of our work is getting to know the people whose bags we are making. It’s about collaborating not cranking out cookie cutter bags and cramming them down people’s throats.
CTC: Any events around the Twin Cities that people can to go to see one of your products?
Black Rose: We are in the process of lining things up for spring. We will post a heads up on our blog once we know what’s happening. If anyone out there is organizing an event they should totally invite us!
CTC: Anything else that you want our readers to know?
Black Rose: We love doing custom orders; it’s the heart of our work as bag makers and revolutionaries. We want to make you the bag that you want, rather than advertise a certain style and coerce you into buying it. So drop us a note we would love to work with you and make something you will love and ride with through the years.
We have seen these bags in person and they are very well-built. We are currently doing some major testing on their bags and we will report back later this month. You can pick up Black Rose Bags on their ETSY website.