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organic cotton drawstring bag:Portable Culture Portrait: Amy

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and what items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member Amy. The previous editions featured Forum members Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

What’s the most useful item that you carry?

My Original Halcyon Side Effect. It is the perfect compact size to hold my iPhone 7 Plus in the outer pocket, keys, wallet, pens, tiny notebook, mints, and other purse stuff. It fits into every larger bag I carry, from the Co-Pilot (where it rides in a one of the outer pockets) to the Synapse 19 (bottom pocket) to the Smart Alec (clipped to the top of the bag via triangle clips). At my office, a mail order music education company, I wear it all day since I’m constantly walking around the showroom and warehouse, always needing access to my phone and notepad. When I exhibit at music trade shows, I wear the Side Effect so that I have quick access to business cards, phone, and all my tradeshow supplies. It’s small enough to never feel heavy or in my way. I *seriously* love this bag! I even have a second aubergine one that I use just for the gym, containing only my gym card, house key, phone, and headphones. It hangs over the handlebars in spin class, and sits under the risers or next to my mat in group classes. So handy.

By the way, contrary to my initial sartorial fears, the Side Effect can pass easily as a small unobtrusive purse, even in fashion-conscious Dallas. I have found that the original halcyon seems to go with pretty much everything I have, and because it is black and small, it kind of flies under the radar. The aubergine is a surprisingly versatile color too.

What’s your most treasured item?

That’s a tough one, because I have a houseful of treasured items steeped in memories, and I’ve got a thing for bags. I have a really cool leather suitcase that my parents bought when we lived in Panama in the 70s. In it, I store all my old journals which I have kept since I was 9 years old. I love opening up that suitcase and seeing the worn journal covers (I remember them all) that chronicle the adventures of my younger self. In case of fire, I’d grab that suitcase first (sadly it’s lost its handle– I might need to get a Yeoman duffel to haul it!). But on the other shoulder, I’d take my Aeronaut 30 stuffed with every one of my beloved Tom Bin bags including the Smart Alec, Co-pilot, both my Synapse 19s and Side Effects, and my assortment of travel trays and pouches.

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?

The small Shop Bag. I don’t do a ton of shopping (my husband does 99%), but I really wanted to get one when the limited-edition Fjord blue was announced. Well, this thing goes everywhere with me now. It is a fantastic shopping bag, of course, but that’s not how I normally use it. It’s my daily lunch bag, thanks to its wide flat bottom that allows tupperware containers to lie flat without tipping, and the 2 big internal pockets which allow bottles to stand upright. It’s a fantastic carry-on bag, thanks to the ability to load it with a lot of large or awkwardly-sized stuff (blankets, pillows, ukuleles…). I love the o-rings, which let me tether all my stuff without fear of it disappearing, or attach smaller pouches. It’s so simple but just so incredibly versatile. When we visit my husband’s family in N. Ireland, walk to the shops and carry our wines and groceries home in this bag. Thank goodness (thank TOM BIHN) for those comfortable padded handles!

Portable Culture Portrait: Amy

This is what’ I’m taking to work today: Synapse 19 in Nordic with my computer and work stuff, and a Small Fjord Shop Bag with lunch, ukulele, and a chair.

Portable Culture Portrait: Amy

Contents of my Shop Bag:

– Alite Mayfly chair

– Soprano Outdoor Ukulele

– Simple Outdoor Solutions ultralite cooler, containing my lunch

Portable Culture Portrait: Amy

Contents of my Side Effect:

– Mini Organizer Pouch with bandaids, hair ties, Fenix E05 flashlight, Gerber Dime, Swiss-Tech Utili-Key, and nail clippers

– Chums wallet (cards on one side, cash on the other)

– Keys

– Tiny notebook, Stabilo pencil

– lip balm and mints

Not shown: iPhone 7 Plus (used to take this picture)

Portable Culture Portrait: Amy

Contents of my Synapse 19:

Main compartment:

– Macbook Pro in a cache

– Moleskine notebook with a bunch of work papers folded in it

– Ipad Air 2

– Music in Motion catalog

Left pocket:

– bunch of pens

– Knitting tool pouch with Adonit Pixel stylus and its charger

– Small double organizer pouch with assorted dongles, chargers, thumb drives, microfiber cloth, and tape measure

Right pocket:

– Small organizer pouch with Jackery charger and 2 cables

– Mini organizer pouch with earbuds

Small center pocket: keys

Water bottle pocket: iPhone

Bottom pocket: Side Effect

Portable Culture Portrait: Amy

Beloved objects

This old leather suitcase holds the journals I’ve kept since childhood– irreplaceable relics of my past. My Tom Bihn bags are my current day treasured objects and bring me joy every time I use them.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am the CEO of my family’s 41-year-old music education business, Music in Motion, based in Plano, Texas. We create and sell teaching materials for music educators and musicians of all ages. I am also a graphic designer, and have done work for print and web for the past 28 years. My husband, who is from N. Ireland, is an accountant and works with me. We travel whenever we get the chance–always carry-on, often back to the UK to visit his family, or to other pars of the country to visit our kids and family. I’m a ukulele fanatic and bring one with me everywhere I go (strapped to the Smart Alec), and have introduced my grandkids to it too. Fortunately, since I work in the music business, I am able to pass off my ukulele obsession as “research.” Ha!

Since discovering the TOM BIHN brand, I’ve become more conscious of a lot of other things that matter in the world of business as well as the world of things. As a designer, I’ve always been aware of the design and usability of the objects I use. The thoughtful design of all my TOM BIHN objects never fails to impress me. Even things as simple as the stitching, the direction of a zipper, or the fabric chosen for certain panels, all is there for a practical reason that helps make the object better. The designs are both innovative and timeless, both modern and classic. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of all the things that come out of the TOM BIHN factory. And I appreciate that they go back and visit those design decisions, and tweak them based on customer feedback.

But I am perhaps even more impressed by the culture of TOM BIHN, and the loyal following they have created. As a CEO, I’ve tried taking those things to heart in our own business. The loyal following that TOM BIHN has managed to create, without tricks or artifice or sales or giant marketing budgets, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve never heard a single complaint about poor customer service. They have a great product, and a great company. Prices are reasonable, and value is exceptional. They meet or exceed production dates and delivery dates. They communicate with their customers regularly. This is a company that I want to work with, and I want ours to be like.

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