From Napa, With Love

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California continues to be a seductive, siren of a place luring me closer and closer with each visit. It is a place where my east-coast-drive melts into a west-coast-commitment-to-self. A place where the passing connections I make with the Golden State’s natives turn into intimate memories. A place where the heart-wrenching beauty of the everyday becomes routine, but never loses its power.

Even months after my latest trip to California I remain blissfully under its spell, allowing myself to be lost in frequent, passionate day dreams of a perhaps, not-so-distant future amidst its cacti and redwoods. During my stay in wine country at the end of May, I was excited to spend time with Oona Achard, a prolific leather artist, whom I met during the designer trunk show I was working. Indulging my most beloved pastime of meeting the movers and makers of the places I visit, we chatted about her art over the course of the weekend. In between tidbits of her Swiss background, talk of the micro-climates of Northern California and advice on where to eat and drink in Napa and Sonoma Valleys (Goose and Gander in St. Helena, Aroma Roasters in Santa Rosa), she explained that, after attempting to commission the teachings of an age-old artisan who was just too tired to continue his work, had purchased his antique machinery, site unseen. She had then hired him to tutor her in the privacy of her home where his tools enjoyed a brand new chapter in their long-lived story.

The fruits of her labor are the leather creations, the bucket bag pictured here among others, all stamped with the custom brand she created. The timeless, fashionable beauty of the pieces characterizes a bit of the California way in my mind, the stunning result of so many diverse, yet complimentary elements: rustic and refined, natural and manmade, fluid and structured. Just like Oona, with her Italian and Louisiana roots, living in an Americana small town within a Mediterranean climate.

Oona described her struggle to keep herself focused on her work and to maintain her creative practice even as life continues to throw obstacles her way. It is a struggle that I am intimately acquainted with, and we bonded that weekend on how to keep motivated toward our respective crafts. For me, meeting Oona reignited my passion to tell the stories of talented creators whose stories might otherwise go untold. Our meeting will remain another lovely memory I have of California and one I keep close to my heart until my next visit.

For more of Oona’s work: www.atelierachardleather.etsy.com

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