Meet The Young Female Hunter Making Beautiful, Ethical Leather Bags By Hand

The story behind the hand-stitched, one-of-a-kind goods from Brass + Blade Leatherworks.

February 3, 2017
Brittany Davis
Photograph courtesy of Brittany Davis

A good leather bag is hard to find. A one-of-a-kind leather bag handcrafted by a young female hunter who values her connection with animals and nature—almost impossible. Enter Brittany Davis and her bespoke leather goods shop, Brass + Blade Leatherworks.

Growing up in rural Northern California, Davis would often accompany her dad on hunts and eat primarily wild meat, from black-tailed-deer to wild boar, which, she explains, instilled in her a passion for the environment and protecting natural spaces.

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“When you get your food from the wild,” she says, “it matters so much more that the wild remain a thriving and healthy place.”

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When she started hunting on her own, she knew that she wasn’t going to let any part of the animal go to waste, including its hide. Davis started stitching and selling  handmade bags from cowhide, and the more labor-intensive buckskin, in 2014.

Now the 31-year-old hunter and craftswoman creates supple bespoke leather bags in Oakland, CA for her own company. We caught up with her for a brief chat about nature, hunting, and design.

leather bag made by Brittany Davis
Matt Rainey

Tell us about how you became a hunter.

Growing up in Mendocino County in California, my brothers and I would often accompany my dad on hunts. Whether it was deer season or he was hunting wild boar, our family ate almost entirely wild hunted meat. Only when we moved away from there did I realize how special and unique that was, and began learning how to hunt myself.

I'm fortunate that my dad was and still is the most enthusiastic and encouraging hunting mentor I could ask for.

What are some of your most powerful hunting experiences?

Senior year of high school I shot my first wild boar and three seasons ago I had my first successful solo black tail deer hunt. You don't know how loud and uncoordinated you are in your everyday life until you hunt a black-tailed-deer and have to be silent and invisible. Hunting is my way of inserting myself into the natural circle. When I hunt, I notice everything, appreciate everything and it makes me so intensely protective of the health and wellbeing of natural wild spaces.

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How do you make the bags?

I make most of my bags from cowhides that I pick out. I do custom buckskin bags and pouches for those who understand the intense amount of work that goes into making them, but the cost is rather higher than the cost of a bag made from a tannery cow hide. I don't ever use commercially produced buckskin, as it is an entirely different end product than naturally tanned buckskin. I produce each of my bags one at a time, by hand. I take most of my inspiration from the gorgeous hides I get. Like the "Las Pampas" bag, I love to let the raw edge of the hide dictate what I will do with it. Once I have a design down as one that I will replicate, it takes anywhere from 6 to 12 hours to cut, hammer the holes, and stitch together. Design and prototyping is by far the most time consuming and exhausting part of this business—unless you count making buckskin. The “Las Pampas” bag in particular was partly inspired by living in Argentine Patagonia some years ago. I'm headed there on a honeymoon this coming March to learn more about the gaucho art of rawhide braiding, which inspired the handles.

My biggest goal is simply to create with my hands something that has potential to become someone's favorite thing—something that they will still be using twenty years down the road. 

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How did you start Brass + Blade?

When I started hunting, in order to fully honor the animal, I didn't only want to use all of its meat, but also its incredible hide. A good friend introduced me to the process of turning a deer hide into buckskin—a process that includes using the animal's brain and can take up to three days of work. While it is labor intensive, it is also an unbelievably rewarding process to watch a "throw away" piece of a beautiful animal turn into something so beautiful and valuable. Since making a buckskin takes so long I didn't want to mess up the next step: turning it into a useful bag or garment. A friend of mine in the interior design business gave me a gorgeous cowhide to start practicing my hand-stitching on. Her only request was that I make her a tote bag. With that, the seed for Brass + Blade was planted. More friends and family asked for bags. When the tech company I was working for downsized, my fiancée at the time encouraged me to put my energy into my creative outlet and make it my full time focus. He is now my husband, and I now have my own business.