Hand-sewn leather bags with horse tack closures
What does your business do?
I create hand-sewn one-of–a-kind, quality constructed leather bags and goods. My business started in Hotchkiss, while sewing/designing for a Buffalo leather furniture company. Having scraps to go wild with, a business partner and I started making bags, something we had both wanted to do for some time.
Cibado is a one-woman operation now, but meeting my ex-business partner is how the story begins and is worth mentioning. We met when I attended a yoga teacher training in Hotchkiss in 2007. An instant connection when meeting it did not take long to realize we had a shared aesthetic and love for design and well-crafted goods. And we both wanted to start making leather bags! She is an artist, painter, designer and an incredible ideas person. I came to the mix with a background of apparel production and sewing. She had just started to work for a Buffalo leather furniture company and the were in need of someone who knew how to sew. Thinking I would be returning to Philadelphia after my yoga training …things took a different turn after our meeting. I decided to move to Colorado and she and I set about creating Cibado with scraps from our furniture projects. Having never worked with leather there was a huge learning curve (and I am still learning)…there was a lot of research, a lot of making friends with boot makers and saddle makers, and other experts in leather, a lot of mistakes and a whole lot of practice! Learning to work with leather and starting this business has been and continues to be an adventure.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
My product has a unique aesthetic. It was in Hotchkiss, in that small town where my ex-business partner and I decided we did not want to use shiny new hardware for closures, no magnetic snaps or zippers, while this would have been much easier we decided to take a walk during a frustrated moment. So glad for that walk because we stepped into an antique tool shop that had a huge stash of old horse tack/hardware. No words needed to be said, we just looked at each other and it was decided, old horse tack brought it all together and would be an important element to our bags. Old reins, bridles, cinches, billets, saddle string and latigo straps all get utilized for handles and hardware such as trace carriers, rein buckles, halter snaps get utilized in various design elements or functions such as closures. So far I have been able to utilize horse tack sourced locally. I make all the bags myself. Most of my bags are hand stitched (no machine) with waxed linen thread. It is a labor intensive process, but the hand stitching is an integral element to the design of a Cibado bag.
What is your key for surviving the recession?
I do what I can to continue this business. Other work I have done has included sewing for a furniture company, working in a local artisan store in exchange for trade for studio rent, special projects for other designers in need of sewing and leather work and I currently work part time at an alterations sew shop learning the skills for alterations.
My studio is in a beautiful historic building, The Silver Club Building (the building that houses the Italian Underground ) here in Glenwood Springs. There are other creative makers and services….It’s a supportive environment and helpful on many levels to be able to exchange ideas, talk, even do trades of our respective works for what otherwise might be unaffordable services/goods or might be outside the realm of our abilities.
In our current economic times, the move towards the importance of “locally made” makes sense. In addition to locally made, I believe many people can understand the relevance of quality made and that a quality made locally produced item, although costlier upfront, if a product can withstand time and trends the extra money put toward that item is worth every penny. I think seeing exactly who your money is going to or where your money is going will continue to grow.
What do you enjoy about running a business here?
The Western Slope is chock full of artisans. It’s very inspiring to be around so many creative people most of whom are supportive and willing to share their experiences, knowledge or just a listening ear. As for using horse tack on my bags, this came about as a direct result of being surrounded by farms and ranches in Hotchkiss. Even here in Glenwood Springs I have found sources from Aspen to Rifle for (mostly) old tack. I’ve been a city dweller most of my life and now I’m developing relationships with farmers, ranchers, horse trainers/boarders, auction goers to dig through their stashes and find new life for their old tack. I am mostly self-taught in leather work but again, whenever I’ve sought help I have come across so many people willing to share their knowledge. There are unique characters all up and down this valley and I feel fortunate to be meeting them. The people I meet, the landscape, the stories and experiences I have in this unique area are a constant inspiration that all go into my bags. They are modern enough to carry in the city and rugged enough to sling over your shoulder while riding your horse.
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Several Carbondale businesses are scrambling to relocate and others are just plain calling it quits following plans for one of the town’s oldest strip malls to be redeveloped.