About The Artist

Diane T. Wilson • Cleveland, OH
Clothing & Accessories • CUSTOM COMMISSIONS

Bread (basics) + Roses (beauty, inspiration, art) sums up the philosophy behind my artisan bags. Each is conscientiously designed & hand crafted from start to finish in my one woman studio. I majored in Design/Crafts: Textiles at Kent State University but am self taught in my work. Every piece has a story to tell and miles to go. I repurpose an eclectic range of authentic vintage / historic textiles & leather to create durable, utilitarian goods with modern sensibility & understated style.


Artist website

Q&A with the Artist

Tell us how your work is made.

Slowly. Time/labor intensive. After hunting/gathering vintage materials (a job in itself), washing, hand picking apart the vintage duffel bags, nail aprons, bank coin sacks and other utilitarian textiles, I study the placement of original markings, condition of fabric and mentally design the bag. There's a lot of math involved to make maximum use of the military duffels, in particular, since there's less usable fabric available than one would imagine. I design in a deconstructing manner, from my vision of finished product on back to cutting materials. There's much 'measure twice, cut once' involved. I do not use patterns. Each and every bag is a one-off and cannot be exactly reproduced due the distinctive nature of vintage objects. The inside is as important as the outer, even though it's never seen: I sew in the interfacing and all edges/seams are finished, just as a couture garment should have. Details matter: seams are tack stitched where needed, pockets are double ply & top stitched, leather ring tabs are reinforced with hand dyed cotton tape (old deadstock, of course) to ensure durability. My linings are seamless at bag bottom, so no crumb catcher seams. I invisibly hand sew the lining opening so it's smooth. Lots of ironing every step of the way, too! Form follows function.

What makes you passionate about the medium you work with?

The quality of old school textiles and the embodiment of their time simply cannot be replicated. They carry stories, sometimes profound history, especially felt in the vintage military duffels I recycle into my own bags. The more worn/distressed duffels are poignant because they accompanied real men (and some women) into wars with all it entailed. I see beauty in commonplace utilitarian textiles that speak of the labor of other's hands, i.e. vintage carpenter aprons. There's humor & wit to be found in the graphic advertising on these, too, though they're now so hard to find and can cost quite a lot. Regular people made all these textiles in American factories, mostly anonymous women sewing in less than comfortable/safe conditions for low wages. They took pride in their work and did their best. Working in a slow, deliberate manner with old textiles allows time to think more deeply, which I do. I even love hand washing then hanging them out on the fence to dry! It's grounding. I buy my leather upholstery remnants from a former-Amish man, who buys the larger remnants from an American furniture manufacturer for his artwork, so it's a nearly no-waste circle. The hunting and gathering of can be fun, though mostly it's time/travel/work, but meeting folks from all walks of life can be pleasant and sometimes eye opening.

What is something unique about you or your practice?

I've had a sewing needle in my hand since I was not quite 5 yrs old, truly. Being the 1st Gen American on my mother's side and spending my earliest years in a large Cleveland ethic neighborhood, I was lucky to have multi-cultural exposure to all kinds of folks, languages and traditions, including folk arts. My mother immigrated from France following WW2 where she apprenticed as a tailor/dressmaker and passed on to me not only her stylish, yet practical, aesthetic but couture sewing skills as well. During that war, she made winter coats from army blankets due to shortages and still practiced recycling of fine fabrics from 'better' yet outdated clothing found in thrift stores once in the U.S. It wasn't from necessity anymore but a sense of not wasting what's still useful, beautiful & fine quality. I absorbed these lessons well and the appeal of making from what's at hand, overlooked &/or undervalued remains an intriguing exploration. In our present time, such conservation of resources and the energy used to produced materials is of paramount importance, as we all know.