Jane Burleigh is a dynamic artisan who specializes in high-quality handcrafted backpacks and other bags. She launched Black Rabbit Bags in December of 2018, the name inspired by a real black rabbit.

“Cosmo was the most curious rabbit I’ve ever met, and would hop right up to new people for pets and attention,” Jane says. “He had a kind of trust that was genuinely inspiring to see in an animal we often associate with fear.”

Each backpack features uniquely curved, hand-cut leather straps. Photo courtesy: Black Rabbit Bags.

Burleigh wanted this project to embody some of that fearlessness and curiosity. The Black Rabbit logo and business cards were designed by Kacie Guthrie.

Burleigh’s small-batch launch highlighted a roll-top backpack featuring waxed canvas from Scotland, brass hardware, and unique hand-cut straps made from vegetable-tanned leather.

Leather is, of course, made from animal hide, and 90 percent of the leather produced in the world is chromium-tanned. Chromium is caustic to those who work with it and terrible for the environment, so for her first design, Burleigh found a source of Italian leather processed with plant tannins. Her next bags will have straps made from the leather produced by Wickett & Craig, an American company that’s been making vegetable-tanned leather since 1867.

Black Rabbit Bags are hand-crafted in an attic studio. Photo courtesy: Black Rabbit Bags.

The curve of the leather strap is Burleigh’s own design and no other bag on the market has the same style. Each one is hand-cut. Burleigh takes pride in creating bags that are highly functional and made to last. Her designs are traditional and inspired by bags carried by Old World fisherman, lumberjacks and sailors.

She’s developed an all-leather version of the first bag, and plans to add a tote and a smaller version of her roll-top backpack to the product line.

Burleigh has always been a maker. She grew up in Telluride, Colorado, where her father was an architect. Her mother taught her to sew, and because she was Intrigued with “old things,” she began hand-making corsets in high school.

Tavish McDonald wears a Roll-Top Back Pack. Photo courtesy: Black Rabbit Bags.

Burleigh later studied biology at Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College. Though she didn’t complete her degree, she did go on to spend three years in sail training and environmental studies aboard a 1913 wooden schooner, with the non-profit organization Sound Experience.

Her British grandfather died during her first season with the group. He loved to sail, and Burleigh felt her studies honored him. She developed a strong work ethic and a love of the traditional skill sets of sailors and fishermen.

Burleigh is also an industrial seamstress and works part time at Oyster Creek Canvas making canvas covers for boats. The Bellingham company has allowed her to expand her skill set, and she values the high standards the management sets for the work they do, and the level of support they show for their employees.

The Black Rabbit Bags logo was designed by Kacie Guthrie. Photo courtesy: Black Rabbit Bags.

She says her customers tend to value artisan quality over impersonal mass-produced items. Such consumers choose what they own very carefully, and Burleigh likes the challenge of creating products for them.

A customer shared, “I love my Black Rabbit Bag because it’s perfect for adventuring. I never have to worry about packing too much because the roll top adjusts to what I pack. Also, it’s so durable I feel I don’t have to compromise on style for function. I feel so confident when I wear it.”

Black Rabbit Bags are available exclusively at Bellingham’s Brazen Shop + Studio.


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