Goatskin Leather Bag with Magnolia Carving
By Yonezawa Leather
The leather used for this handbag is an Indian goatskin tanned in Japan via a process introduced to Japan during the Meiji Era. During this period, engineers from abroad were invited to improve leather production in Japan. An American named Charles Henicle taught the Japanese about a special tanning process that has since been nicknamed “Chari Leather.” Because the process requires much time, and thus more cost, its practice lost popularity with tanneries that chose faster and cheaper methods.
Yone came across Chari Leather goatskin at a small tannery in Tokyo. He was amazed by its beauty (note the fine texture of the skin). The staff informed him that there were very few pieces left because they, along with other tanneries, had stopped practicing that particular tanning process. Yone made the decision to buy all remaining hides that day and began using it in his work. After developing a relationship with the tannery, they eventually began to tan goatskin inspired by the old Chari Leather process for Yone – no one else in the world has these skins and they’re made specific to his conditions.
Yone built his Mongolia-inspired handbag for the Pendleton Leather Show Handbag Contest back in November of 2019. He chose this particular skin for three reasons: 1) He thought it would be interesting to use a Japanese-tanned skin where its origins tied back to America; 2) most people don’t carve on goatskin, so Yone wanted to ensure that his custom Magnolia design would be visible against the unique natural color; and 3) the skin will change color over time, so he is looking forward to seeing how the bag’s appearance will evolve.
As you can see, this bag was a labor of love to get each detail right. Every part of the construction and assembly was done by hand – Yone bent and shaped the frame, created the handle out of leather, hand-carved (freehand) the Magnolia design, he hand-engraved a delicate design onto the brass lock, and hand-stitched/sewed the entire bag without any machines.
Frame: Because the frame provides the groundwork for the bag, Yone focused on the measurements of the pattern to result in a balanced and strong presentation. He shaped the frame by hand and then wrapped it with leather to cover the metal.
Handle: “A bag handle is like a person’s face; it sets the bag’s identity,” Yone said. He made the bag’s handle entirely out of leather because unlike most bag handles that have cores of steel, a leather core can soak up sweat, has a softer feel in hand, and can mold to the owner’s grip over time. To make the handle, he glued together multiple pieces of leather and then using knives shaved the core into a shape that feels natural and balanced to enable proper grip.
Magnolia Design: Inspired by Japanese wood carving, Yone wanted to create his own original style of carving that reflects speed and power. He also wanted his carving to feel wild, free and alive, so he directly freehanded the design onto the leather and purposely did not use borders. “Every spring I cherish the magnolias that grow in my backyard,” said Yone. The magnolia flower is associated with nobility, perseverance, dignity and a love of nature.
Hand-stitched/sewn: To preserve its simplicity yet magnificence, Yone hand-stitched the entire bag.
About the Artist
Takeshi ‘Yone’ Yonezawa started leatherwork nearly 20 years ago in Tokyo, Japan.
In a world of speed and consumption, Yone invests his passion, love and time into his work. It’s not about creating for profit, but creating with the intent to change the perception and standards of quality leather goods. A firm believer that handmade is better, Yone spends countless hours of effort and thought as he goes the extra mile to combine flawless execution, balanced form and function, and beautiful design in everything he creates.
Yone specializes in Japanese, American and European leatherwork. He is a proud member of the Portland Leather Guild and the Lone Star Leather Guild. He lives with his wife, son and dog in Beaverton, Oregon.
“I choose leather because it naturally changes with a person. Products may look the same at the beginning, but once a piece belongs to someone, it begins to share the journey of its owner. Each piece ends up telling a story – no other material can do that.”