2024 Renegade Craft Tour! →

Renegade Craft Fair

April 7, 2016

Aegis Handcraft

Maker Spotlight



There is a lot of leather goods out there, but there’s something about Aegis Handcraft’s passion that shines through. Meet Jess Murray, the crafter and designer behind these goods, in person at our San Francisco Fair at the end of the month! 

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Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind?

When I first started Aegis Handcraft, I wanted a name that sounded like that of a person. A character of sorts, so that I wouldn’t be limited to what I could make under the name. Turned out that the word Aegis means protection, and together with Handcraft, spelled out exactly what I wanted to accomplish as a maker; to protect the craft of handmade goods. Slow made, made well, and with great vibes.

Have you always been passionate about design?

Oh, for as long as I can remember! I’ve tried it all! That seems to be something I share with most makers. Got to feed that hunger for crafting somehow!


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When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?

Growing up all I wanted to be was an attorney. Random how I end up here, right? During my senior year in high school, I had an epiphany and went off to earn a degree in fashion design. I worked in the industry for a bit, trying out different roles. Finally, after one too many unpleasant work experiences, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth and felt the only way to continue on in the world of apparel and accessories was to forge my own path. Thus, Aegis Handcraft was born, and I haven’t looked back since!

What do you think sets your designs  apart from others?

This is a tough question. I love to think of Aegis Handcraft as one big collaboration. In a way the bags I make, because of the materials I use and how I use them, leave my workshop “unfinished,” they don’t really earn their character, their story, until I pass them on to their new owners. It’s almost like saying, “Here’s a bag I made with lots of love, now you go on and finish it. Make it your own”. So even if all the bags I make were to be identical, once they leave my shop, they all become unique.




Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?

When I first started Aegis Handcraft, I somehow got trapped into running it the way a standard business to operate. I made decisions based off of what I wanted to believe was the best for my business, because everyone else was doing it. Which completely went against the grain with why I started Aegis Handcraft to begin with. I had put my big girl pants on, and do things my own way. It was the best decision ever! I wear so many hats, from being the head designer to fulfilling janitorial duties. I make mistakes daily, but more often then not they turn into happy accidents simply because I followed my gut, and run Aegis Handcraft the way I want to. At the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow after a long day the workshop, I feel overwhelmingly happy knowing Aegis Handcraft is all my own, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?

Oh man, we’re getting heavy here. I wouldn’t say I regret this, but when you start your own business, and you get to the point where you need sacrifice most of the consistent things in your life, things can get a bit scary. Usually, it’s trading a stable source of income for an unpredictable one. You have to weigh your options, and finally take that leap in order for it to really take off. When you love what you do so much, there’s no such thing as failure. You either accomplish your goal, or bust. In other words, no regrets here!


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What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?

Without getting sappy. I get butterflies every time I step into my workshop. I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly loved by all those who support my work. It’s because of that love, and support, that I get to even have a workshop to begin with! I love my “job”, and the fact that I can continue to do it, is my proudest moment, even more so that just creating it. It has become way more than I could have ever dreamt it would be, can’t beat that feeling. You just can’t.

How does the city you live in influence your work?

I wouldn’t say it’s the city that influences my work, more so the people that live here in the Bay Area. Everyone here really loves to know how, where, when, and why the things we purchase are made. The community itself is extremely supportive of us makers, and really, as makers we are all supportive of each other.

What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?

It would be safe to say that most of my experience and knowledge came from dipping my fingers in the fashion industry before starting my business. Yet my most valuable experience, my most valuable knowledge, comes from the trial and errors I experience daily since starting Aegis Handcraft.


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What made you take this leap into being your own boss?

I am not my own boss! Currently I have a couple hundred bosses, eventually I’d love hundreds of thousands!

All jokes aside, because I try to keep Aegis Handcraft as a big collaborative between myself and those who support my work, I don’t feel like I work on my on, or that I am my own boss. More like a partner to many, and I love the process behind being able to keep it that way. It also helps that I make bags in very limited runs, and in small batches, so I love being able to keep in contact with folks that support my work, ask what they’d like to see next, and take on the challenge of creating it from start to finish with the help of their suggestions and requests.

What are some inspirations for your work?

I am constantly inspired by the materials I use to make my bags, and more so by those who use and wear them. The materials start off raw. I cut, sew, hammer, and work with them to create that “unfinished” bag, that I get to pass on to someone who will help it really earn its character. The waxed denim begins to fade and mark up, the leather straps soften and tan, and the rivets oxidize, all telling the story of the wear they get on a daily basis over the years. Nothing beats being inspired by the way your old work ages, and applying that inspiration to what you will create next.

What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?

Do things your own way, and follow your instincts. At the end of the day you are a maker ​to not just hopefully earn a few bucks, but to fill that constant hunger to create something you can share with others. So it’s a bit of a struggle to get the ball rolling? You have to sacrifice free time, and are lucky if you catch a few Z’s every night? Nothing will taste better than when you accomplish success, overcome obstacles, and live off your craft. Take your time. It can come quickly to some, and it’ll be struggle to most, but working at your craft at your own pace feels so much better than trying to catch up to others.


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Beautiful work by Aegis Handcraft will be on display at our San Francisco Spring Fair. See you all soon!

All things Aegis Hancraft: