Amee walks slowly through the woods, snow crunching into first tracks beneath her bright orange converse. Fat flakes drift to bedeck her hair, ephemeral jewels in the cloud-blown light. Her gaze knows no blinders, it traces the melt-stained bark of the repeating aspen, catches the puffball mushrooms poking fat and happy through the snow, and then her chin is turned towards bare branches tearing their matrix across the sky. Her body continues to walk, but her mind is taking tools to leather, scratching lines for dye to inhabit, pounding out the silver lining of the clouds; later in her studio she actualizes those images, using bleach, dirt, whatever comes to hand and does the job. Some weeks later a woman buys that bag and that moment of a matrix of branches against a snow-blown sky, flipped and filtered though this artist’s eye, continues its metamorphosis.
“I want people to use my bags. Throw it in the back of your dirty truck, take it out in the rain. Your bag is a character in your story. The ink splotch from the leaky pen given to you by that Butch Cassidy look-alike you met on a train; that scratch from your dog’s nails . . . let it evolve, let it change shape, color . . . these are the things that make it yours. I want my bags to be timeless, functional art. The creation of the piece does not end when it leaves my studio. They carry your story.”
Each piece caries Amee's story as well. Wild, curious, and earth-loving since forever, Amee grew up in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont where she wandered wild places in search of arrowheads and learned about working the land at the family farm.
Despite a deep respect and love for her roots. Amee's nomadic blood begged new air: at the age of 18, she left home to travel the world. She carried her life in bags. Where other people had rooms in a house, Amee had bags: kitchen bag, toiletries bag, clothes bag ... Somewhere between Nepal and Thailand, or maybe it was Texas and California, she became exhausted by the limitations of all her overly-pocketed nylon "functional" gear whose aesthetic fit so poorly into the urban stop-overs between the mountainscapes she tended to dwell in. These bags carried her life, but they didn't represent her. She bought a new bag in each city, but couldn't find the right one. They were too clunky, or to bejeweled; they lacked character or durability. Amee is not one to be defeated. So, she started making her own bags. Her creations are light, beautiful, precious, durable, suitable both for urban nights and rural days ... each bag is a piece of functional art holding stories of places she's been; each is a canvas ready to hold stories of places you'll go.
“There is nothing more personal than a bag. They carry our tools for life. They are our tools for life. I love to see my bags after a year, to see the stories they hold."
Amee has many bags, she has bags inside bags: they are big and they do not usually have pockets--"pockets are places to loose things"-- or hide things, and she is a woman who does not hide: not her wallet nor her heart nor the wild trace of her life. She wears it all with grace and dignity, for anyone to see should they choose to look. Mystery finds its end and its beginning: start looking at her bags: feel the soft leather of her love-worn wallet, hold it close to your nose and smell the damp memory of chai she spilled on it earlier, of the snow dripping down the sides of her tipi; tease out one story, you'll blink past the tributaries of many past, and find that another has already begun.
words: Alisa Geiser
photos: Elizabeth Riley