Creating a leather bag is like playing a game of tetris, according to Julie Boocock.
On our seaside adventure to Tofino, British Columbia to shoot our Summer Lookbook, we visited Julie’s island studio to learn more about her quality-conscious business.
In 2014, at the time of Market Canvas’s creation, Julie was on the hunt for a bag that she couldn’t find in Tofino. Inspired, rather than defeated, she decided she’d make her own.
“I think to myself, ‘I could use a smaller bag’ or ‘I need something to carry my whole life in’ and that’s where each bag really gets its start,” she says.
This inventive spirit and drive is the force behind Market Canvas’ expanding lineup. Each bag is handcrafted, and can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day to complete.
“It totally depends on how much I’m hustling that day,” she laughs.
At the root of Julie’s business is a devotion to beautiful, natural materials.
It took her years of research to track down a leather vendor that had what she was looking for — real hides in neutral tones of tan, brown, and black.
Initially, her heart was set on keeping Market Canvas an entirely Canadian business, but no suitable tanners existed in the country.
“I looked really hard for a Canadian leather source and I eventually found out that the tanning industry is not really something that survives in Canada. I know we have a million cows here, but all of our hides seemed to get shipped down south to get tanned,” she explains.
A hallmark of a Market Canvas bag, says Julie, is that they’re all unique and not made from perfect hides.
“I love that my leather is forever changing because it’s real,” she says. “Often on my bags you’ll find natural markings or variations in color. I find that the variation brings so much character and interest to the bag.”
Investing in leather furniture can bring that same level style and interest into your home. Part of the appeal of a leather sofa, like the Sven Chame Tan sofa, is its natural color variations, wrinkles, scar marks and creases — courtesy of a full-grain aniline hide.
It’s no wonder Julie says it’s the next article she expects to add to her home (in addition to a navy blue velvet sofa she already has in her sitting room).
“It just makes sense for the Sven to be in my life,” she laughs. “I’ve slowly been incorporating so much leather into our house that it’s the perfect next step.”
The attraction, she notes, is that, much like her leather bags, the leather sofa will patina beautifully over time and develop even more character and variation.
I love that my leather is forever changing because it’s real.
With so many islanders carrying her bags daily, Julie gets to see the changes of her leather in real-time while walking around town.
“It’s so cool to see them transform right in front of me. A bag might be light brown when I sell it but will change so much over time because it’s oil tanned,” she says. “I frequently have women come up to me to show me bags they bought years ago so I can see what it looks like now.”
It’s this kind of tight knit island community that Julie attributes to a large part of Market Canvas’ success.
“I think I would have had a lot harder time building the brand into what it is if I didn’t live in Tofino. People here are so supportive of one another,” she says. “In the past, there were just no jobs in the winter so people had to find a side gig to make it work. I think that’s a big part of why there are so many people doing cool, interesting things here because it’s sort of out of necessity. You see your friends doing it and think to yourself, ‘Why can’t I do that?’. There’s a great creative spirit here.”
Bringing her work’s material and philosophy home with her, Julie’s sensibility about investing in quality pieces — like a bag you could carry your life in — is ever present in her decor.
“The first good sofa I bought for myself that was not a hand-me-down or something my roommates already owned was life changing,” she says. “Having somewhere comfortable to hang out to spend your downtime is so important and I honestly think having a good sofa changed my quality of life.”
As she continues to expand Market Canvas into accessories (like the sweetest pair of leather earbud holders) and complementary leather pieces (fringed keychains for the inner cowboy in us all) to her minimalist bags, demands for custom work are also on her radar.
Her strangest custom request?
“Boat covers,” she answers, deadpan. “I mean, only in Tofino right?”