How Kate’s Iron Hill bags are turning out: AWESOME

You might remember that when we wandered into Iron Hill a few days ago to watch Larry and Jean pour barley into the enormous copper “Mash tun”, Kate spotted a big pile of woven plastic grain sacks used to bring specialty grains over: “Munich Malt, Type 1”, they say in bold, no-nonsense sans-serif fonts. “Brau-,Röst- und Caramelmalzfabrik, gegründet 1879”. In some cases, these bags are marked with numbers identifying the farm the barley came from.

Kate wanted to try cutting up the strong plastic and stitching it into a bag. Which she did. And I think it turned out GREAT:

Barley sack! Kate with Muntons Bag

I think this idea has legs — the bags are strong, the graphics are big, bold, and interesting, and the whole thing is locally sourced. The material is number five plastic. Jean and Larry would have recycled them, but now they get to be bags, and THEN get recycled. Plus, THEY SMELL REALLY GOOD, believe it or not, with a kind of a grain-y smell from the malted barley they held.

So what’s the next step? Why, a WEB STORE, of course! Kate came up with the name “Last Call Bags“, which will be a web store with a big, beautiful picture and a “buy now” button.

And where do you go in West Chester when you need a big, beautiful picture? To Harold Ross, who uses a “painting with light” technique that is just the thing for capturing the wrinkly texture of a grain sack. Harold sets up the shot, then plunges his whole studio into darkness, then opens a shutter and waves a fiber-optic wand over the subject while a metronome goes “BEEP BEEP BEEP” in the background, allowing him to count how much light he’s putting where.

Composition Harold Composing the Image

Harold takes a bunch of different exposures — some straightforward, some with hard side light to bring out texture, some with just the background illuminated so he can “punch” the subject off the background later without nine hours of bezier-tool craziness — then he assembles them all on a Cintiq tablet, sandwiching all the exposures and “painting” masks to bring one layer up and another down. Making edges crisper here, and smoother there, and generally polishing the image until it looks hyper-real, but not quite like CG.

Here’s how the photo of the bags turned out!

Photo (before cropping)

Kate’s friend Ericka is on board, and they now have a formidable pile of awesome bags from cool corners of the beer-brewing world. In addition to the great big Weyermann logo, my favorites are “Thos. Fawcett & Sons Ltd: MALTSTERS”, and the big stamped word “CHOCOLATE MALT”. Kate and Ericka are prototyping the bags. I want to pester them for a motorcycle-helmet bag and some BMW hard-case liners, but I think I should leave them alone to perfect the tote bag first.

UPDATE: The store is now open, hurrah! You can buy a bag for $12.00 at lastcallbags.com!

How Kate’s Iron Hill bags are turning out: AWESOME

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