"They just don't make em like they used to." This old adage holds true of almost everything these days. With the rise of mass production, synthetic materials, and the never-ending reach for the bottom line, good old fashioned craftsmanship has all but been forgotten in favor of the quick and the cheap.
This fact was made all the more real to us after a brief stint exploring the beautiful country of Turkey. There in the open fields you can walk amongst 3,000 year old buildings still standing (mostly) today. You can stand face to face with artistic sculptures and mosaics from antiquity giving living testimony to the craftsman of old who labored on them. The workers are long forgotten but their art lives forever. They built things to last in those days, hewing their legacy from the marble mountainsides, carving out their place in history with each skillful strike of hammer and chisel. As you can imagine, Turkey is the kind of place that leaves an impression.
While there we met one leather craftsman who's family has been in the leather industry for generations. Ali was his name and he was proudly carrying on the tradition in his shop in the small town of Selçuk on the outskirts of the ancient city of Ephesus. His shop is filled to the brim with every kind of trinket, bit, and bob to inspire the imagination. From exotic magic lamps swinging in the windows to Turkish archery equipment gathering dust in the corner, from handmade jewelry to jewel encrusted backgammon boards, from exquisitely handmade ottoman style shoes to beautiful unique leather bags. Naturally, we were drawn to these leather bags...
After a brief chat and a spot of tea (all social interactions are carried out over a cup of tea in Turkey) Ali disappeared for a moment and came back carrying a worn leather bag and a small smile peeking out the side of his mouth. "This is my most precious piece." he says proudly, eyes beaming. The bag itself was a gorgeously patinaed mahogany leather that betrayed its age. Hand stitched seams and hand placed hardware were showcased unabashedly with an intricately embossed bronze plate that was sewn onto the front. The leather shoulder strap was barely hanging on by a thread as a testimony to its heavy use through the years. I admitted it that it was indeed quite beautiful and a most unique bag, which led me to ask just why it was so precious.
Ali told me the bag is over 40 years old. His grandfather made it by hand many years ago and sold it to one European man (possibly Henry Jones Sr.). "The man asked how long the bag would last, and my grandfather told him the bag would last forever," Ali told me matter of factly, and then sipped some tea. As the story goes- 40 years later the European man came back to Turkey looking for Ali's grandfather, only to find Ali instead. He told Ali that his grandfather had promised the bag would last forever but now it needed some repair. You see after four decades of use, the shoulder strap was starting to fray!
"I saw very quickly that this was my grandfather's work. The bronze plate on the front, not 10 people in Turkey can do it like this anymore." he said. Instead of repairing the bag Ali managed to convince the man to give it to him instead. Negotiate too long with a Turk and you'll end up either buying their grandmother for "a most excellent price" or giving them your own shirt and shoes. Let that be a lesson to you. After all, it was a piece of his family's history that had come back, and how often does that happen!
And there it was, a beautifully crafted leather bag made even more beautiful with age and use, built by his father's father using ancient knowledge passed down by even older generations. There is a legacy for you!
As craftsman we aren't just making products, we are building a legacy. Like the craftsman of old it is not just work, it is art. Whatever it is we are creating, we can make it "good enough" or we can build so as to weather the test of time, crafting a legacy one piece at a time. Though Intrepid Bag Co is little more than a year old at this time, our legacy is just beginning and this is the attitude we bring to every product we make and every happy customer we give it to. Because our legacy isn't just in our bags, it's in the lives and adventures of those who use them.