I’ve got another very special little piece from Wild Frontier Goods to show you today: the Hannoki (Alder tree) zip pouch!
You have probably already seen the two Aomushi bracelets from Mike & Chie at Wild Frontier Goods, Tokyo, up on the blog recently. When I learnt Mike also crafts leather using interesting Japanese dyeing techniques, I was keen to find out a little bit more.
The zippered pouch may look somewhat simple, but there has been a deceptive amount of work that’s gone into its making – this pouch is a small but involved piece that showcases what Wild Frontier Goods is about! Let’s take a look at what makes this pouch so special.
The layout of this pouch is relatively straightforward – one compartment, one zipped opening, the entire pouch made of one piece of leather.
The pouch is trapezoidal in shape, with rounded corners. The length varies between 15 to 16 cm, shortest at the top edge. I measure the height at 9 cm.
In the above photo I show the Hannoki pouch and the Frankie wallet (from mill handmade) side-by-side. The Hannoki is certainly an over-sized carry pouch, about the same surface area as a mid-wallet, though obviously much thinner. I’m using the Hannoki as a coin holder, but given the ample storage space it could also carry cards, notes and thus readily functions as an informal travel wallet.
The zipper is a high quality, metal teethed YKK zip. Attached is a 6.5 cm leather pull tab made with the same leather as the body. The actual accessible opening when unzipped is 9 cm in width.
In terms of fit, the pouch will be easily accommodated by jeans back-pockets, and should fit just right for chino or trouser pockets.
The leather used is a natural vegetable tanned leather which Mike has sourced locally in Japan. It measures 1.5 mm in thickness (almost 4 oz).
The most remarkable aspect of this leather is what Mike has done in terms of colouring it. This leather is first hand-dyed by Mike with East Asian Alder tree (榛) cones/fruit, resulting in the rich & buttery caramel base colour you see here. After this dye step, Mike then paints the leather with persimmon fruit tannin juice (kakishibu; 柿渋), coating the grain with 5 to 10 layers of persimmon as required, achieving the variegated shades of orange and brown which sits on top of the caramel leather.
All together, it takes Mike many hours to process and colour this leather – it’s actually days of work.
That’s pretty cool right?
The resulting leather is very supple without being soft, and has an interesting and fairly pronounced grain appearance.
Another really cool aspect of this pouch can be found if you look at the above photo carefully – does the blue/green colour of the threads remind you of the Aomushi bracelet? Yep, the threads are dyed with fresh indigo leaves!
Again, time consuming dye job even for these small details.
The construction of this pouch – much like the dyeing of the base materials – is done entirely by hand. The one piece of leather that forms the pouch is hand cut and hand sewn. The edges are hand burnished – I don’t think any glue is used here.
The overall shape is evenly matched in terms of the two opposing sides of the leather, so the edges sit neatly together. However, if you look closely, the left and right sides have slightly different curves, lending the pouch an organic look.
The hand-stitching comes in the form of a nicely tensioned saddle-stitch. The threads bite into the leather somewhat, but due to the relative density and suppleness of the leather there is no puckering.
There is the occasional uneven thread lengths, but it’s not dramatic and really forms part of the hand-made charm. The stitch density averages 6.5 SPI.
The top edge is nicely rounded.
The YKK metal zip is neatly sewn into the opening. The zip is pretty nice – very smooth to operate, no snagging or catching at all.
Finally, all the edges have been nicely hand burnished with what looks like a gum compound. Even the edges around the zip and the pull tag are burnished too!
This Hannoki + Kakishibu + fresh indigo pouch is another fantastic and happy little piece of very dedicated crafting from Wild Frontier Goods.
Mike and Chie have a strong focus on Japanese styling and techniques, and their crafts have an unique, homey Japanese charm that is quite different from the usual rugged work-wear styled leathers that you see on my blog. Their focus on dyeing, which we’ve already seen on the two recent Aomushi bracelets, again takes the spotlight on this work.
Despite being fairly simple in design – it is an one compartment pouch after all – the amount of time and detailing devoted to this pouch is pretty insane. Like I mentioned before, there’re days of work involved in this pouch.
Everything is done by hand, the old fashioned way – the indigo leaves which are used to dye the threads come from Mike & Chie’s homegrown plants, the indigo and alder cone dye baths are made from scratch and the process of dyeing the materials take many days, and finally the many layers of kakishibu are slowly painted on over many rounds of coating & drying.
The leather crafting, like I explained earlier in the review, is all completed by hand. No short cuts are taken here, and it’s fairly evident in examining this pouch that it was made by a fellow leather and denim hobbyist.
Just like the Aomushi bracelets, this Hannoki pouch has great synergy with Japanese denim. I’ve pair it with Samurai’s heavy chino pants and Oni’s 1001HM jeans in the photos here, and the Hannoki pouch combines great with the interesting and intense Japanese fabrics.
All in all, this is a very memorable and interesting piece of leather work that encompasses many aspects of our denim, leather and work-wear hobbies. At ¥6000 for a basic model, this pouch represents fantastic value, especially considering all the dyeing work involved that you won’t find on other leather crafts. Also, consider the fact that Mike & Chie produce their crafts in extremely limited batches – usually only for friends & fellow hobbyists – as dictated by the plant materials that are seasonally available in their part of Japan and the creative sparks that happen to strike them at the time.
I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to get to know Mike & Chie’s work and to share in the genuine passion they have for their hobbies and crafting. Our recent collaboration Australian Aomushi bracelet sold out before I could put it up on the blog, but I am very much looking forward to working with them again.
Highly recommended! Have a look at their Instagram account @wildfrontiergoodsbrand