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Made With Love: Store Specializes In Handcrafted Accessories

February 17, 2018

HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) — Behind the counter at Lineage sits Paul Hansbarger’s equipment: sewing machines, rolls of leather and tools.

Just as the farm-to-table movement connects consumers to food they would normally eat mindlessly, artisan businesses are also finding ways to reach out to consumers about where and how their products are made.

Hansbarger’s handcrafted waxed canvas totes and leather goods are showcased at Lineage, a new studio and retail shop in the Agora Downtown Market.

“It’ll be a working studio, so people can see me making the things that I sell,” Hansbarger said. “I do all the design, all the sewing, all the leatherworking from start to finish. From drawing on paper to the finished product, I do it all.”

Lineage, which officially opened Feb. 1, started as an online retailer. The new space allows Hansbarger to educate customers on the process of making waxed canvas totes and leather goods.

“That’s one of the things that excites me the most about having a retail space is for people to see actual things being made here, but also to be able to tell them about it and educate them on what I’m doing here,” he said. “I think people making that connection from a product to the product’s maker is something that’s kind of been lost over time, and I’m trying to revitalize that a little bit.”

Hansbarger attended art school at Virginia Commonwealth University for painting and printmaking. He then worked for a number of art nonprofits, including the Arts Council of the Valley, for the next 10 years.

He took a sewing class at the Visual Art Center of Richmond, which laid the foundation for his handbag-making skills. Hansbarger started his first online business, Wanderlust, selling bicycle bags for bicycle touring and mountain biking. He ran the business for two and a half years before selling it to a larger company.

Hansbarger taught himself leatherworking and waxed canvas-making by reading books, watching online tutorials and connecting with others in the leatherworking and artisan community.

He took a break from making bags until his first child was born. He was searching for a diaper bag and couldn’t find anything gender-neutral.

“I ended up making . a waxed canvas tote with leather handles and we used that as a diaper bag,” he said. “I had a lot of friends ask for one themselves. Some didn’t have kids, but just wanted a bag.”

That snowballed into another business for Hansbarger. He launched Lineage in the summer of 2016.

“I started with a website and then I started doing craft shows and pop-up markets around Virginia,” he said.

The mission of Lineage is to create “simple, durable bags and accessories that will last a long time.”

The totes are made of waxed cotton canvas material, or sometimes with oilcloth.

“The wax coating makes it water-repellent and that’s what gives it this kind of distressed look,” Hansbarger explained.

He uses full grain leather for the straps. The leather comes from a tannery in Missouri, Hansbarger said. The bags are practical and simple in design.

“You’ll notice they don’t have zippers on them,” he said. “I want to have as few potential failure points on them, so there’s not a whole lot to break.”

He also wanted gender-neutral colors and styles that go “with all tastes.” The totes come in earthy tones of blues, greens, grays and neutral colors, including olive, navy, khaki and charcoal. Although women are his primary customers, he said the totes with more organization make great travel bags for men.

Hansbarger makes three different styles of Lineage totes. The Potomac is the most basic bag that comes without pockets. The Shenandoah is the same size as the Potomac, but is made with exterior pockets. The Mountain Laurel, named after Hansbarger’s daughter, is the larger tote and is the exact same style as the first one he originally made as a diaper bag. The totes range from $108 to $168.

Hansbarger makes only small batches of totes at a time. Each bag can take a couple of hours to a whole day to make, depending on the details.

“I’ve done a few hundred bags at this point, so it’s gotten routine,” he said. “I’m a lot faster and a lot more efficient than when I first started.”

Lineage also sells leather shaving kit bags, slim wallets, passport and pocketbook holders, and other men’s accessories. The shop is also stocked with home items, kitchenware and other accessories and gifts from some of Hansbarger’s favorite brands that create an aesthetic of the artisan spirit.

“I wanted to curate nice, simple things, but most of it is made in America, and then I also have a lot of things that are made in Virginia,” he said.

Hansbarger plans to feature a local artisan each month during downtown’s First Fridays to showcase their work at Lineage. He also plans to hold hands-on workshops for the community to learn about what he does and give them the opportunity to make something to take home.

The open studio space has so far grabbed the attention of those passing by.

“I think people have been intrigued,” Hansbarger said. “I’ve been back there hammering, cutting leather straps and putting bags together. I’ve had a few people come up and ask what I’m doing, and even one person I let back behind the counter to see the process and tell them about the materials.”

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