This question is posed to us regularly and it is a very interesting question. “How exactly are your Laga Handbags made?” People can see that Laga Handbags are not your typical mass-produced product and they are genuinely curious about the process. Here is the short answer: all of our products are comprised of hand-guided embroidery done by free motion and by memory on non-electric treadle machines. Although this is a pretty impactful statement on its own, there is much more to the story than this!
In our Laga Training Program which typically lasts about 30 days, a student will commit to memory the patterns drawn on a white board and then translate them onto fabric, using no feed dogs or presser foot, so basically free-motion. It usually doesn’t take long for us to determine whether or not the student has the coordination/talent to perform this unique art form. But by the end of the 30 days, they will have mastered level 1 of their training.
For those who can master this intense skill, we begin training them to make the smaller items such as the Saku pouch or the eyeglass case or checkbook cover. They will graduate to the Tari mini and large cosmetic bags once they have achieved the second level. Once they have mastered the smaller pieces, they graduate to the larger pieces.
Now, if a student is unable to coordinate the movement of their feet on the treadle as well as the movement of the embroidery with their hands, all is not lost. There are a lot of other jobs that require their skill. We always will have something for them to do. We have teams to do piecework such as drawing out and cutting pattern pieces of fabric used in the different styles of handbags and accessories, gluing the interfacing, cutting and sewing handles and straps, attaching hardware, and constructing each piece. Depending on their skill-level, we assign the student to a team. We also need people to sort and coordinate and do quality control as well as packing the bags for shipment to the US. Everyone works together in a comfortable, non-stressful assembly-line type process. Each does what they can do and there are lots of breaks, food, drinks, fun and laughter.
Some of our artisans work in our workshop, some work in their homes, some work in small village co-ops and still others work in other workshops around the province which are led by local people. All of the artisans’ work is coordinated and gathered by our team leader, Hana, who is also the trainer in our workshop program.
My husband Roy and I are so blessed to have our team in place and to have Hana who manages all the day-to-day goings on of Laga Handbags in Aceh province, Sumatra, Indonesia. We do go back whenever needed but I must say that Hana has things well in hand, along with the help of her husband Denny who often helps pick up newly finished product from around the province and also drives the packed and labeled boxes to the airport for shipping.