WE ARE SUPPORTED WITH GOODS MADE BY OVER FIFTY HUMANS. TO BETTER UNDERSTAND WHO THEY ARE, WE’RE SPOTLIGHTING ONE ARTIST MONTHLY-ISH. AS 98% OF OUR MAKERS ARE WOMEN, WE’RE SHINING A LIGHT ON WHAT’S MADE HER, THE MAKER.
Found’s Make(Her) Series No.4 spotlight lands on Paige Bruguier (PB) —Accessory Designer and Owner of JPAIGE— interviewed by Found Natural Goods Founder, Jacqueline Smith (JS) over the course of one almond milk latte, one peppermint tea, two three-year-old dogs that adore each other, and many shop days of drops offs, collaborations, pickups, payments, text messages, and years of crossing paths.
The two first met at Thump Coffee in 2013 where Jacqueline sat and did freelance marketing work almost daily and Paige worked as a Barista. Paige grew up in the small, artsy town of Sisters, Oregon and has a very genuine, strong presence about her. After leaving Bend multiple times for stints in France, Poland, and Seattle she seemed to continually come back to Bend, and to her company, JPAIGE, with her vision refueled. Her work can be found at many shops including with us at Found Natural Goods, even our online shop is carrying her coveted Square Leather Backpack.
PB: I was just here yesterday for another meetup!
JS: Oh, you should have said so we could have gone anywhere—but I do love it here. [The Commons]
PB: Is that Stella outside? [Paige immediately runs outside to play and love on Jacq’s dog, Stella]
JS: Do you call yourself a Leather-smith?
PB: I think I would call myself an Accessory Designer.
JS: A Leather Accessory Designer?
PB: I mean, I like to work with a lot of different materials—I’ve found that I love working with brass, and leather the most. Especially when I was making jewelry for a while. I’m all over the place when it comes to making products.
JS: What do you have at Abode right now? Is it a wind chime?
PB: I started out making them [Abode] wall hangings, but this last project —once I started designing it, it started to become wind chimes— but it’s still a wall hanging. I’ve seen a lot of really cool wall hangings that are so inspiring and that one is really a smaller version of this gaudy, giant one I want to make.
JS: It almost looks like a mobile too…
PB: Yeah! I love projects like that—when home goods stores contact me and I get a new project—I get to step out of the bag realm and do home decor stuff. It keeps me motivated.
JS: Is that because you have creative freedom?
PB: Yeah, I always love that. It fuels me. I get that freedom and also it’s such a challenge. That wall hanging in particular was actually a really big challenge. I had to think about it for over a week before I started because I didn’t know what I was going to make.
JS: Did you sketch it out?
PB: No, I won’t sit down and draw out my ideas but sometimes I wish I was like that because it would be really helpful. [laughs]
JS: So you just scrapped that whole process?
PB: I’ve done it before but the end product was never like the plan on paper. I’ll get an idea, like a shape and make a prototype then I’ll perfect it with the actual material.
JS: Is that the same process for JPAIGE bags?
JS: So if we ever see you around town just pensively staring out of a coffee shop window—we’ll know you’re actually mentally sketching.
PB: Exactly. Yeah, maybe I should try sketching.
JS: I think it’s great that you have your own process!
PB: Honestly, my dad works in the same way. He’s so organic in the way he works as a Sculptor. So say he’s doing a buffalo and he’ll just start molding it and start over until it feels right.
JS: Because you work with so many different materials, do they ever become something on their own or inspire a certain shape or use?
PB: Yeah and leather is always different—no hides are exactly the same. Leather is a natural material and often times people forget the fact that an animals life is what makes up for all of the imperfections. If you look at high-end designers—their work, often times, doesn’t even look like leather. [Paige grabs one of her bags on the coffee table] If you look at this leather, you can see scarring, stretch marks, even brands sometimes—and I want my customers to see and acknowledge that—that character and sacrifice. Often times when I’m designing, I like to treat a piece of leather like a canvas and just start creating and tweaking things as I go. When I do that it seems like it puts the pressure on to hyper-focus and actually helps me create new designs that I wouldn’t if I were using a material I was okay with wasting (pattern paper).
JS: What do you listen to while you work?
PB: I love Armchair Expert, Ted Radio Hour, Radio Lab, Criminal, Invisibilia, Conan, Rewilding, and this Spotify playlist Swashbuckle has been really good lately.
JS: Wall hangings, aprons, jewelry, bags, clutches, wallets…
PB: Yes, and my dream when I was in school was to make shoes. I got sucked into bags after a handbag course and never got a chance to design shoes. It kind of unfolded with bags because I got a job in Portland after that in bag manufacturing… shoe making has always been a dream, but in the past it didn’t seem accessible.
JS: What is it about shoes?
PB: It’s so funny, I make all these different types of bags but rarely do I use one. But every day, you need shoes. Shoemaking to me, it’s an art form that is being lost and it seems important to keep it alive—handmade shoes versus machine-made shoes. The bag industry seems much more saturated.
JS: [Looks at the time] Should we start walking?
PB: Yeah let’s go get your girl (Stella).
JS: Could you see yourself having a shop one day?
PB: Maybe, one that is more of a studio rather than a store. Like a place where straps, bags and hopefully shoes could be custom-fitted.
JS: What’s your dream for JPAIGE?
PB: I’d love to put my bags on everybody and be recognizable in my style. To walk down the street and have people notice a JPAIGE bag from another. And also to have someone working with me so I can design more. That would be amazing.
JS: What about those vegan leather bags you were making?
PB: I’m looking for a better quality pineapple leather supplier. Right now it just doesn’t compare to the animal leather I’m currently working with. Oh man, that is really cute. [grabs second-life basket backpack hanging in Found]
JS: Oh, yeah that I was actually thinking you could make leather straps for so it’ll last longer. But, we’re getting distracted! OK, I wanted to ask you about how you decide where to source your leather.
PB: I only work with USA leather suppliers and some Italian leathers but that’s an important and safe zone to stay in ethically when sourcing leather. My favorite leather is a wax-based leather. Like this kind of leather [grabs one of her bags inside Found] is awesome. It’s so thick but still supple, and the waxy-ness keeps it strong.
JS: What did you want to come in for again?
PB: Oh, right. I need a couple of brass coins for orders I’m shipping out today.
JS: Got it. [Found hand-stamps all the brass JPAIGE coins that hang on her bags to brand Paige’s work and to offer a 2” pop of bling]. Ok, I think you should also mention your family since they’re all creative like you.
PB: Yeah, I have 4 siblings that are all Makers of sorts. I have a couple of jewelry making sisters, my dad sculpts, sews, and paints, and my brother loves playing music—there’s no competition between us but you feel the drive to meet reach their heights... you know? We’re always pushing each other. For example Justine, her jewelry always inspires me to do better in my art. And my dad, he sculpts and paints beautiful Native American inspired art which gives me the drive to be a self employed artist.
JS: What does your mom do?
PB: She’s an Interior Designer. We’re all creative in some way. I guess because I’ve been around it for so long it just feels normal, honestly. My parents struggled with five children and their own business, and we grew up seeing that you have to work hard to make your own money. That lifestyle was so attractive to me—to make my own money at something I love doing. They taught me that although it isn’t easy to do what you love, it’s still possible.
Paige’s handmade leather bags and so many other lifestyle products, like delicious leather placemats and functional aprons, are available on her website and inside Found Natural Goods downtown Bend, Oregon. If you’d like to be a JPAIGE Stockist, be in touch with Paige directly. Follow Paige on Instagram to see her daily makings that sometimes get listed on her stories with a sale price. Thank you for reading another Make(Her) Q&A — we appreciate your interest and support.