Erin McRoberts of Awl Snap made her first bag when she was five. Sitting in a shared studio space in the Manchester neighborhood of Richmond, McRoberts is self-deprecating when she talks about the bag made of poster board, tape and velcro, "It was a briefcase for my mom. She was a stay-at-home mom, so I don't know what I thought she would use it for."
But there is a trace of pride when she mentions the bag's gussets and details and she ends the story wistfully lamenting the bag's loss to time. "It wish I still had it, because I remember what it looked like and how I planned it out."
McRoberts makes bags out of leather, waxed canvas and organic cotton fabric these days. Her efforts have garnered loyal fans and earned her a finalist spot in Martha Stewart's 2014 American Made Awards.
Awl Snap was born when a friend gave McRoberts some leather and suggested she make herself a bag since she was unhappy with retail offerings. This was in 2009 and that bag, the Tomtom Tote, remains one of her best sellers. She's sold enough of them, and her other bags, to quit a full-time job in marketing and make bags full-time. She says the creative community in Richmond has played a key role in her success and she has no plans to leave the River City; no matter how big Awl Snap gets.
McRoberts works out of the Plant Zero Art Space in Manchester. She said she likes meeting customers in person and working with them on custom orders; just give her a heads up before heading to the space. Her bags are available online now, though she has plans to expand into retail in the future.
Some of our favorite pieces are Awl Snap's HotShot and Beer Koozie with Vintage Opener. We suggest grabbing a koozie and cracking open a Legend Brewing Co. beer from the same neighborhood. We'll have some other Manchester favorites from McRoberts, and us, in a post soon.