Get a glimpse into the Pascal NU Studio, where Devon fabricates architectural handbags using contemporary techniques. Explore a sneak peek of the laser cutting and sewing process, and view some of her newest concrete bag designs.
Coming from a background in architecture, I design handbags that feature an unconventional combination of materials, including concrete, acrylic, resin, and leather. I design and assemble each bag from scratch at my studio using a hybrid of digital fabrication and traditional leather craft techniques. Most bags feature intricate hand lacing, fully lined leather interiors, and numbered acrylic hardware.
I began experimenting with handbag design at architecture school where I used laser cutters to create pristine building models. I was inspired to adapt those model making techniques to create acrylic handbags, and for the last 8 years I've been developing my leather craft, bag making and laser cutting skills while exploring casting and dying techniques. I officially launched my handbag brand, Pascal NU, in 2016 once I perfected the basic structures of the bags and honed in on a set of materials that felt uniquely modern and exciting. I specialize in making truly one-of-a-kind bags, designed with and especially for clients that want to bring their unique vision to life.
I hope to provide a glimpse into the process of creating my bags - something that I don't expect you to see when you look at my bags online or in person, and something that I wouldn't expect you to see during a traditional studio tour. Each bag that I design stems from a unique vision or impulse within myself, so I would rather take this written opportunity to describe the thread that weaves each bag together - my process and purpose.
I don't categorize myself as an artist - I describe myself as a designer who has developed a craft in bag making where I build each component from idea stage to completion. I've developed an expertise in laser cutting, through which I convert my digital designs into specific shapes for bag construction, primarily made from leather and acrylic. Laser cutting guides every step of my process, and it allows an achievable means for precision that is dictated by my ability to draft digital designs.
The speed of laser cutting allows me to be in a continual state of prototyping, modifying along the way by means of experimentation and detailed inspection. My architectural education introduced me to the process of making laser cut building models, but I sought more excitement focusing on the craft of production rather than production as a means for representation.
I love the scope of materials that I can assemble into functional bags, bringing together architectural elements like concrete and mirror to create sculptural objects. The most critical elements of my design process are the techniques I use to bring three-dimensionality and texture to my bags. Hand lacing custom dyed PVC around the edges of my bags is one of my favorite techniques, an age old leather craft that I have re-appropriated with plastic. The bound lacing creates intricate texture that is only achieved by labor intensive handcraft, while the clear plastic straps that I fabricate bring modernity and durability to my designs. Sewing is obviously a large part of my bag making process, and by drafting my own leather patterns I can create bags that blend soft and hard objects together into something that is functional and easy to carry.
Aside from the rivets and button studs which I embed into my strap hardware, the only other pre-made items that I utilize are magnets, which I design into the acrylic clasps of my bags and wallets. This gives me both control and versatility in my design process, enabling me to be extremely specific with each component in a way that pre-made notions and large factories would never allow for.
Clearly, my creative process is fueled by a quest for precision and control. I enjoy creating a set of design rules for myself, most of which I developed through experimenting and continually editing prototypes. I've created a set of archetypal bag structures that allow for the bags to function optimally and to be reinvented on a case-by-case basis. The spark that initiates each bag design is usually an impulse to break those rules - my attempt to create novelty and to challenge the perimeter of the parameters that I've previously established.
I used to see my hands-on assembly process as a potential problem that might keep me from pursuing larger scale retail opportunities. Now, I better understand that the appeal and true uniqueness of my designs stems from the way that I make everything from scratch in my studio. Because of that process, I'm able to create designs with and for clients who come to me with specific visions for a personalized handbag. This collaboration allows me to create bags and accessories that my clients will cherish and are truly excited to wear - objects that they use and appreciate, made explicitly for them.
I hope when people see my bags they see a sense of awe and perfection - excited by the material effect and curious as to how I created it. I hope they see potential in my work and the possibility of what could be created next.
Special thanks to the East Austin Studio Tour: I found MakeATX during the East Austin Studio Tour when I first visited Austin in 2011, while I was still completing my degree in architecture at the University of Michigan. Visiting MakeATX on that tour represented pure potential - it gave me a glimpse into the breadth of a maker space beyond architecture studio culture. I have been laser cutting custom projects for clients at MakeATX for the past 7 years. Through working at MakeATX I have learned (and I teach) the ins and outs of the laser cutters, and I handle the repairs and upkeep of the machines. I continually get to bring other people's laser cut projects to life, where I practice that same quest for precision and attention to detail that I use in my own bag designs.
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