Monday, January 22, 2018

When you need a new bag

Two words: Tom Bihn.  Do NOT go to the Tom Bihn website (linked, because I am a terrible person) if you would like to avoid buying, or at least wanting, a new bag.

Today's post will be illustrated by unrelated arty pictures, for your safety.

It may not seem risky at first - I have been many times over the last couple of years without any apparent lasting effects - but those bags will linger in the back of your mind so that some day, when you need a new suitcase and can't find just the right thing anywhere else, you click over there to remind  yourself why you didn't want one really, and - Blammo!

You are pining for a Tom Bihn bag.

There are forum pages at the Tom Bihn site, very helpful for people who are dithering over one bag versus another before opting simply to buy both plus one more because they will all be amazing.  But hello: forum pages?  Miles and miles of them on every conceivable subject related to luggage?  That's a big warning sign that these bags are addictive.

I have been reading this fascinating book called Women's Work, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber, a very lucky person who grew up knowing about spinning and weaving and actually managed to make an academic career out of the history of same.

Many items in this book are jumping out at me.  Like, there was this magic island lifestyle in a few different places where people didn't have to worry about being attacked since they were - on an island!  In that environment people were able to build a whole society around feeding and clothing themselves with help from the plentiful plants and animals they had at hand, and life was fantastically good, until they were wiped out in an instant because it turned out they were living ON A VOLCANO.

moral of the story: everything in life is a tradeoff.

But my favourite is the idea that the discovery of the wheel, which was earth shattering enough (perhaps even literally), takes a back seat to woven cloth.  Because woven cloth can hold stuff, which allows you to move around with tools, which in turn allows you to think about creating more tools.  I am probably misinterpreting what was actually said in the book because animal skins also allow you to transport things, but those predate the wheel too.  And I like thinking over whether the modern world did not begin with wheels but with BAGS.

I am pretty sure that people who travel for months in Asia with just one wheel-free carry-on would agree that it did.

(In my opinion, even if you are not vegan, woven cloth is best because it is much, much lighter to cart around than animal skins.  Recently I had to buy a new purse and there is no comparison - leather bags may look gorgeous, but a four hour urban hike is a lot easier if you're carrying a bag made of ripstop nylon.)

Back to Mr. Bihn, another lucky person who has been able to build a career out of something he's passionate about.  GAH.  Why can't we all do that.

After many, many hours on the site I think I have cracked the secret of why Tom Bihn bags are so very dangerous to otherwise rational bag-using people.  It's nothing to do with the fact that they are exceptionally well made, or thoughtfully designed, or perfectly sized and organized, or offered in many attractive colour combinations, or even that people say their bags still look new after many a long year of use.


It's because of the pictures and videos!  Wait, don't go over there to look, it's too risky.  I will just tell you, with 'The Maker's Bag' as an example.  Again with the link... oh dear, I really am not a nice person.

Okay: we are talking about a cross-body satchel with a top that folds over the front and clips down at the base of the bag so what's inside stays there, and stays dry.  There is even a waist clip, which is useful is you are wearing the bag while cycling to some scenic spot to make art.

I am particularly impervious to the lure of such a bag because as much as I love being hands-free, cross body bags have ruined SO many of my coats and jackets - plus, they look weird on me - and my shoulders slope too much for a bag to stay on me with just a shoulder strap.  In addition, I am WAY too lazy to unclip and/or lift a long flap up out of the way to get at what's inside my bag.  I prefer a big open bag that works as an extra pocket as I am racing along a sidewalk on foot, multitasking to a dangerous degree for a person who has already once fallen on a sidewalk and broken fingers.  With a zip closure and the option to hold it close in front of me, in case of rain or pickpockets.

And yet.  Every picture of The Maker's Bag shows it filled with things that are just a little More than what you might think of normally.  I mean you are not seeing gum in this bag, or Kleenex pocket packs, or elastic bands for whatever practical reason they exist, or even candy bars.  Healthy granola bars, yes.  Keys, demonstrating multiple doors to unlock and locations to be, yes - though those are always shown on a long tether so they never fall on the floor of your porch while you're fumbling over a new lock.  Also a phone and usually earbuds.  But mostly what you will notice are tools.  For knitting or painting or whatever. 

If tools are in a person's bag, you have to wonder: are those activities THAT big a part of their everyday experience?

Ditto the 'Shop Bag', a reusable grocery bag which is about as basic a bag as there is.  But is it shown crammed to the top with bags of milk and rolls of toilet paper and a packet of dishwasher detergent?  Nooooo!  Try, gorgeous leafy lettuce and fresh flowers.  Just thinking about the Shop Bag could make your life healthier and more attractive.

(I am not so foolish as to let a mere bag put such ideas into my head, however.  I would like you to know, I bought one on sight because it, like the Pop Tote I also bought, looks like a gorgeous lightweight everyday stand-in for my purse that died last fall.  NOT because of how pretty lettuce looks sticking out of the top.  Note to self: salad for dinner?)

The message is clear:

Tom Bihn bag owners are living lives filled with meaning and purpose.  People who carry them are not simply surviving, scraping through every day as a reactive experience to the things that happen to them, like runny noses or coffee breath; they are MAKING their lives, dreaming them and then acting upon them.

And also, there was a very strong message to me personally that I must buy a big wide watercolour brush for background washes.

(and maybe The Maker's Bag, too.)

(but not! because I am a tote girl foreeeeeever!!)

No comments: