Sketchbook Bags

Utilitarian backpacks handmade by a Minneapolis-based artist

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After working on a “bucolic sheep farm” in rural New Zealand, artist Amber Johnson returned to Minneapolis—where she received a BFA in drawing from the College of Art and Design—and began experimenting with wool in her parents’ basement. Her seemingly innate talent for hand crafting utilitarian bags took shape, and today the young designer peddles wool and leather backpacks online under the moniker Sketchbook.

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Primarily working with premium wool when she started out in 2006, Jensen has since expanded the collection to include leather and waterproof waxed canvas styles, increasing the durability while maintaining a classic aesthetic. The Great Outdoors Backpack, for example, reflects the simplicity of early mountaineering bags, but features a new type of waterproof fabric that more closely matches untreated cotton duck.

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While the exteriors are adorned with elegantly robust hardware, the interiors are equally beautiful. The gray Track Backpack is particularly stunning, a straightforward bag lined with a tangerine-hued nylon ripstop and accented with handles and straps made from Ralph Lauren remnant leather.

Each bag is prototyped and tested by Jensen before making several others, and every piece is made by hand. The packs can be purchased online from the Etsy Sketchbook shop, with styles typically spanning $150-200.