Got a new story below on Omaha’s own Artifact Bag Co. In my mind, this is one of the most unique things happening in the city, a one man shop that seems to be garnering attention everywhere but here. Let’s change that.
SELF-MADE IN OMAHA
Originally published in Metro Neighborhood News
Like most of the great Omaha factories of old, Chris Hughes’ Midtown home is full of highly specialized machinery. Next to the washer and dryer is a leather skiver. The laundry room wall is full of wooden mallets and punches. The next room over features an adjustable cutting table and a century-old, skillet-black sewing machine. Almost every corner of the basement is crammed with large hunks of American iron and steel, 50- and 60-year-old tools that were built to turn out products that lasted even longer.
The same products Hughes is currently producing by himself as the founder, designer, cutter, sewer, marketing team and mind behind Artifact Bag Company.
In early 2009 Hughes, an Omaha native, was laid off from his job with a web start-up out of Atlanta and left looking at a crowded job market full of overqualified workers scrambling for anything they could find. Worn out with relying on others for his livelihood, Hughes looked inward.
“I had a great job,” Hughes says. “I lost my job. No one would hire me so I had to make a job.”
The answer was waxed canvas and leather bags. Calling on his experience buying and selling vintage military gear and clothing, Hughes decided to start a company where he could produce the rugged, American-made products he used to hunt down.
“Nothing is made in America anymore,” Hughes says as he cuts a length of canvas by hand. “Wouldn’t it be neat to try to make these bags in America, using only American-sourced materials and see if anyone cares about it.”
Hughes is finding that plenty of people still care. Artifact Bags was recently featured on the popular technology website Gizmodo and the influential menswear blog A Continuous Lean. Orders poured in over the holiday season but Hughes says having to produce hundreds of bags on your own is a good problem to have.
“I can’t tell you how many 16 hour days I’ve put in to Artifact Bags, but I enjoy it,” he says. “I like to monetize my hobbies because then it justifies it.”
With a backlog of 60 orders still to fill, Artifact Bags is now more than a hobby – it’s a job. Just the way it was designed.
Artifact Bags are available locally at the Denim Saloon, 4914 Underwood Ave., and online at artifactbags.com.