vintage painting bags by swarm

by Grace Bonney

i have a feeling this one is might be a bit controversial, but i am so, so in love with designer leslie oschmann‘s new painting bags. leslie is the talented designer behind swarm, and is perhaps best known for the way she rescues furniture and paintings from dumpsters and gives them new life. her latest series involves turning trashed or found paintings into seriously gorgeous tote bags. i know some people don’t like when artwork is used or changed for other purposes, but i think it’s fantastic the way leslie has literally reached into the trash to find something amazing and turn it into an object you can take with you and enjoy all day long. click here to check out leslie’s work and contact her about purchasing.

*ps: leslie’s amazing amsterdam home will be in the d*s book! it’s such an incredible space, i can’t wait to share the photos wouter van der tol took.

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  • i think what she does is great! it’s better than just throwing those paintings away, that would be a sad waste of art.

  • love these — especially the reused-leather handles. does the paint gradually flake off, or is the canvas coated? it’d be kinda great to see the images degrade a little as you break in the bag (though that thought might upset the art purists!)

  • these are gorgeous! i would love to own one. where exactly does she find these paintings trashed?! i would be so interested to hear stories behind her findings.

  • On Leslie’s website, it doesn’t sound like the paintings were scavenged from dumpsters, but rather found in markets and antique shops. Still, they’re nice – I don’t mind that she used them, even though they weren’t destined for the trash.

  • I dont have a problem with anything re-purposed from the trash….but if it was bought as a painting well, jury’s out on that one. I do HATE it though when an old quilt is cut up for clothing or pillows. Just my thoughts.

  • Wow! I love the creativity! Not only a great idea, but the execution is great and the bags are gorgeous and unique. I dig.

  • very neat idea! Makes me want to go dig around my parent’s basement for my old college projects. I was never destined for painting stardom–they might be better cut up! hehe And I do love to sew!

  • These are certainly interesting, but I have to second the question about how the painted canvas will stand up to wear and tear as it flexes and moves. Even with modern coatings to prevent flaking the paint layers will eventually split and delaminate. Still, they could be enjoyed and admired for what they are: pretty and unique.

  • I think these are great. I’m a little torn… but I’m guessing these were neither valuable or in great shape to begin with. And the great thing is, a really, really ugly painting could make a seriously fab bag. I’d only recommend to anyone thinking of doing it themselves that you research your “source materials” just a little before cutting them up!

  • Pretty, but Beware!
    Most of these paintings would have been painted with heavy metal based pigment paint. The pigments of oil and acrylic paint are most often very toxic lead, cadmiums, cobalt, and worse. Paint does flake, chip and dust off a painting if folded, sewn etc.. .

  • What a great idea. I really like them. Maybe also my peintings would fit. I am painting through synesthesia which makes me see colors when I hear names and numbers. These colors I transform in paintings. Colors are my life.

  • i’d love to know where she gets all those paintings…i’m surprised some of them were thrown away: very beautiful…kind of a shame i think.

  • hm…just read rest of thread…maybe a little antiques roadshow would do some good? sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got…i’d be so paranoid my ignorance was leading me to cut up something that might be important, rare, or valuable, let alone beautiful…

  • It is a great idea and beautiful execution, however it breaks my heart to see somebody’s hours of painting turned into tote bags. I’m a painter and artist myself, and when i read that the totes made of ACTUAL PAINTINGS it made me cringe. Controversial posting indeed.
    Would buy one for myself.

  • These are very cool looking, but it makes me very uncomfortable. As an artist I really have a problem with the cutting and sewing of a canvas that was painstakingly painted by someone. I am torn

  • People are so funny. There are paintings at my local flea market/junk store that have been hanging on those walls for years. The bottom line is: no one wants them in their homes. Some would look beautiful as purses – that get “used up”, sure, but better used and thrown away as tiny bits than hanging forever in a big frame on a wall getting dusty! If you want your art to be used as art on the wall, paint something nice enough that people actually want to do that. If not, be happy it can be pretty as something! I love and would use these purses, I would hang none of these as art in my home.

  • These are freakishly fantastic! I love them. There’s nothing wrong with turning art into a purse. The point of art is for people to see it and enjoy it. The art’s getting way more eyes on it hanging on someone’s arm than on a wall.

  • As an artist I would lie on the floor and weep if I saw someone walk past carrying one of my hacked up 400 hours or so of painting.
    They do look lovelly, and its such a creative idea. but for me theres a lack of respect and appreciation for art when you start chopping it up with a pair of scissors. Im sure I will get hammered for this answer, Apartment therapy feedback is getting more and more brutal, but Im just saying what I think.

  • Is this the same (ex-Anthropologie) Amsterdam-based American artist who was featured in Man Shops Globe? I recall those canvas-covered school chairs from the Netherlands/Belgium episode. Loved those chairs! (More than the bags.)

  • The bags are lovely … which leads me to believe that the paintings would have been lovely to someone too. A painting can hang on the wall of a vintage or antique story for years before it finds the right owner. But it will find one.

    It doesn’t bother me if someone takes a print of (say) “Starry Night” and uses it as they wish, because they aren’t destroying the original. And I can see re-purposing a painting if the original has been damaged in a way that defies restoration. Otherwise, no.

    Years ago, silent films were judged to be ugly and useless. Today, there is a race to preserve the few that weren’t lost or wilfully destroyed. Now, I realize that applying that example to (let’s say) something done with a paint-by-numbers kit is a stretch. I would just advise caution when we judge art as not popular or attractive, then dive at it with scissors.

    Full disclosure: I write books, and if, in the future, only a few remaining copies exist, the idea of someone taking one and making it into a side table or ripping off the cover art and making a purse from it breaks my heart. I would rather that that copy wait til it finds its reader. By all means, please rescue it from a landfill — and give it to a library.

    I love design and decor. I love repurposing. That’s why I love and read d*s. But this is a tough area, and I think discussion of both sides is a good thing.

  • I think Melissa hit the nail on the head. It all boils down to the fact that art is a very personal thing. Is it better for these paintings to languish for years on a dusty flea market wall or to have a chance up be admired and loved in a fresh way? I’m in favor of the latter.

  • Hmmm. . .This IS a tough one! I love her work and thought wow, how cleaver when I first saw her work on Man Shops Globe. I actually think she has been very respectful with the way she has executed the re-purpose of these paintings. They have new life and will be enjoyed by many people who otherwise would not have seen them. Would die for one of those bags, especially the floral one!

  • I’m reminded of when Ralph Lauren used quilts for his collection in the 80’s. The debate still lives. Passing no judgment, I think the bags are “to die for”.

  • I love the idea of taking a piece of art and turning it into usable art. Simply gorgeous. I don’t think it would bother me one bit to see my paintings used this way. These paintings are begging to be admired whether on a wall or on your arm! I’d love one!

  • This work is amazing. I work in the Creative Industries and I have no problem with the concept. Beautiful and great for the planet. Why not recycle paintings that would otherwise end up in landfill? I cringe that people think that it’s wrong…it’s wrong to be wasteful!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I think they are fantastic!
    All these artists weeping for old paintings found in flea markets, get over it, I think it’s a great way to give new life to these paintings. Go Swarm, great idea.

  • If they were valuable paintings would not end up in a dumpster. These are NOT 400hours worth of painting, but mostly academical studies and works from amateur painters usually from the ’50s to the ‘8os.
    I am sure that Leslie would spare the really good ones and hang them on her walls! Besides, there is plenty of bad art around, holding a brush doesn’t make one an artist. Better to use them for something esthetically pleasing and useful as Leslie does.

  • I think they look fab, but wonder if perhaps one could do the paintings oneself first & then chop them up? Talent might be useful, mind.

    I am also certain that if I tried this, I would cut up a lost masterpiece.

  • Just an observation…I purchased one of these bags at Anthropologie. I doubt that my particular bag was an original painting. This is is because I have seen other bags with the exact painting as mine. I think some may have been mass produced with the same lovely effect without actually being made from a cut up piece of art.

  • I love these bags, I’m a huge vintage/antique perso….not to say I’m antique haha! I collect antiques and when I saw these, they spoke to me, especially the floral ones, love them!

  • I am an artist and have lots of studies and workshop paintings that I can use and not have them in the closet! Just washed a couple oil paintings and they are good to go! Thank You

  • Are the bags treated in any way to protect them or to protect your own clothing as to not rub off on you? Are they waterproofed? If so how were they treated and what was used?

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