Bread, The Superior Labor, and a Flower Bag Evolution

MAKE  •  2020


As we were preparing to launch the retail arm of 26 Projects “26 Market”, we knew that, beyond curating a selection of goods from brands we admire, we wanted to engage every opportunity to contribute collaborative works to the collection.

Quite naturally, we asked our friends over at The Superior Labor (read our edit on their workshop and practice, here) to participate in our first collaborative project for the 26 Market. The product, though at that point was not yet conceived of, had a few initial criteria: it should be dynamic, neutral in style, and multifunctional. However, before we dive right into the process, perhaps some background on why we decided to create what we curiously and unofficially termed “the flower bag” as our first project.

The first phase of our 26 Market – a pop-up of sorts – began with selling fresh sourdough loaves, baguettes, and scones sourced from the locally-loved Pennyloaf Bakery. This was both an attempt to get to know the creative community – our neighbours occupying 70 Arthur – but also a way to make accessible some of the city’s finest baked goods right here in the Exchange District. Every Friday leading up to the holidays last December 2018, we would rise a little earlier than normal and pick up our crate of fresh baked bread and treats, and prepare for the rush of eager building mates to come through our doors.

Upon doing this, we thought increasingly more about other items that were astonishingly hard to come by in our neighbourhood – to offer at our pseudo market. We thought, of course, flowers! Who wouldn’t love a fresh bouquet of flowers on a Friday to surprise a loved one with or to enjoy over the weekend? So it began. Bread and flowers were sold together and even fresh wreaths were thrown into the mix for good measure.

The flowers evolved into a more engaged endeavour, as it was a chance for us to play, style, and photograph. We became flower obsessed, fixating on the various scenarios in which one would need to transport flowers delicately. From a garden, from a market, from one hand to another’s. Thus, The Flower Bag concept was born.

We presented the idea to the owners of The Superior labor whose workshop is located in Japan, just 50 km outside of Okayama on the mountain side. Remotely, we exchanged a few sketches and within a short period, we were holding the first prototype and examining it’s impeccable craft. The bag would be made of durable yet gentle canvas material that would soften with time, and hand-cut leather strapping for handles. It should be rigid yet soft and should lay flat when open; delicately designed to carry flowers, but accommodate the containment and transport objects in a variety of shapes and sizes. Items of almost unlimited length (architectural drawings, baguettes, carrots, etc) can be securely carried with the help of the cleverly-designed adjustable sides of the tote. The leather straps are removable to allow for ease of care and washing. For our first production run, we chose a natural canvas with tan, soft leather straps, and robust metal hardware. We aren’t afraid of a little colour over here. In fact, The Superior Labor applies colour to not only add aesthetic interest, but for waterproofing and durability. Perhaps you’ll see the next iteration in a bright apple red or army green. We’re looking forward!

TSL (The Superior Labor) – Thinking and Creating

MAKE  •  2020


June 2019, Pauline took her annual trip to L.A., as always, with the plan to visit Baum-kuchen, a shop and studio very similar to our studio and market. Baum-kuchen’s lifestyle brand is an integration of German Bauhaus and Japanese wabi-sabi ethos, brought together harmoniously in Los Angeles, and reflective of the owners’ Wakako and Fido’s backgrounds. The products they create and curate online and in their shop are beautiful, expressive, and very functional. They were one of the first retailers to introduce us to the TSL brand, and one of the first in North America to bring in their product.

The Story of TSL

Broad cuts, durable textiles, and vibrant tones. Each item developed by The Superior Labor is the culmination of engaging one’s imagination within the freedom of the open landscape, and the result of the hands and the histories of their makers.

A special collaborative workshop between TSL and Baum-kuchen was being held for those who wanted to experience and participate first-hand in the craft and process of making with TSL. Naturally, Pauline was in attendance. Raw canvas items of all shapes and sizes, already prepared to be customized by participants were organized and presented throughout the shop. Custom-made stamps, patches, a plethora of brass fittings, and a rainbow of paints were at finger’s reach to enlighten the creative process of making alongside the owners of TSL.

The Superior Labor brand and its prefecture reflect the owners, Makoto-san’s and Yoshimi-san’s growing understanding of the need to work and live within an open, unencumbered environment to fully express one’s self. Their compound is located 50 km from Okayama – just a 20-minute train ride away. Their workshop inhabits a previously active primary school that was built in 1949 and closed in the 1990’s. Always seeking freedom in their working environment, Nap Village – the name of the prefecture – is purposefully sited on the mountainside, surrounded by forest. Old cherry blossoms, maple trees, and ginkgo trees remain and thrive on the grounds, carving a space for employees and residents to rest, take their lunch, and socialize. The owners’ home is also sited within the compound where they live with their family (a dog and two children), while classroom spaces have been transformed into a leather atelier and office. The TSL retail shop in Nap Village offers a dynamic space that features standard products, new items, and limited-edition garments, with the option to order custom-made pieces on site. Unique experiences are always expected via workshops to help customers and visitors get a closer look into how the products are crafted. The couple also spends significant time at schools guiding workshops and sharing their love of thinking and making without boundaries. In this case, with children – which they attest – is paramount in its capacity to continuously inspire new ideas.

Combining experience and knowledge in leather and canvas material, in addition to a background in car mechanics, the work-wear inspired pieces created by TSL express a creative understanding of combining high-quality materials through attentiveness to the material’s inherent qualities. Original brass fittings are gently tapped with a wooden mallet by hand for dimension and presence, then tacked onto each piece. The application of paint not only adds colour but functionality, providing waterproof durability – ultimately giving purpose to this aesthetic treatment. By way of the machines they use every day, there is clear know-how and craft, from a treadle sewing machine for leather items for ease of rotation and beautiful stitching, to the use of other heavy-duty sewing machines that work to combine various materials like leather, cotton, and nylon.

Creating durable pieces that become more beautiful with time is their expertise – pieces that soften and weather. Fine leather notebook carriers, for example, the ones we use and love, are keepers and organizers of thoughts that we can sense will endure and grow beautiful patina. Expect a life of positive moments and perhaps a change in organizational habits with these products. We know you will covet them as much as we do.

In Touch with The Superior Labor

USE  •  2019


The Superior Labor flagship brand has its roots in Okayama Japan. Husband and wife team Makoto and Yoshimi guide a team of artisans and designers in ethical production of beautiful utilitarian lifestyle products that are carefully stitched by hand. They are a brand dedicated to absolute craftsmanship and tactility. Their workshop called ‘Nap Village’ consists of the owners home, an old school house where their factory is located, and a lovely restaurant. Each product is designed to promote and enhance the characteristics of the raw materials – primarily fine leather and canvas.

This past spring, our Creative Director Pauline Boldt was fortunate to connect with the owners of The Superior Labor in Los Angeles – a meeting graciously organized by longstanding friends of 26 Projects and owners of Baum Kuchen – a lifestyle studio and shop located in the heart of Glassell Park, where the the meeting was held. It was a profoundly inspiring afternoon spent in the company of creative, like-minded individuals – those who share a love and appreciation for beautiful, consciously crafted and designed utility products that, in essence, can be considered complete works of art. To witness hands at work while engaged in conversation / sharing dreams and ideas made for a truly unforgettable experience.