Matt & Jill visited Sea Bags in Portland, ME while they were exhibiting at the New England Made show. They got some great photos while they were there and we thought we’d share a little about the company with you
What are Sea Bags?
Sea Bags designs and manufactures nautical-themed totes, accessories and home decor from recycled boat sails on the working waterfront in Portland, Maine. The company has saved an estimated 500 tons of material from going into landfills since they started. Products are fun, functional, and stylish.
How did Sea Bags get started?
Sea Bags was founded in 1999 by Hannah Kubiak who learned how to make bags using recycled materials from her father. She joined forces with Beth Shissler in 2006, whose mother owned a boutique selling Sea Bags on the Maine island: Isle au Haut. The company was founded on three tenants: being green in product in practice, being good stewards in the community, and making everything in Maine to support jobs. In the past ten years, the company has grown from 3 to 83 employees, from making 75 units a year to making 100,000 units a year, and from 1 store to 10 stores.
Sea Bags in Portland, Maine sells Mystick Knotwork products!
Where do you get the sails that you use to make your bags?
They are collected one at a time through a network of passionate boaters who love our community and our waters as much as we do. Through our Sail Trade Program, we make the process of donating a sail easy. And for every usable sail, we offer a Sea Bags product in trade to our customers. There is also the option to make a charitable donation to Sail Maine, which gives a child the opportunity to learn to sail. Additionally, we hand-pick the rarest bags from our Vintage Insignia Collection to be auctioned on our website. These are truly one-of-a-kind.
Sea Bags craftspeople creating the bags.
Can you tell us about one of the most interesting sails that you’ve acquired?
When a sailmaker in San Diego received an order to replace $70,000 worth of sails - they knew Sea Bags would find a way to recycle them all. They said, "It's going to be bigger than anything you've ever seen before." And they were right.
Measuring 295-feet long, the Athena schooner is one of the world's largest sailing yachts on the water. Removing its sails would be a huge endeavor. With our sail acquisition team and members of the crew, the boom of the vessel was turned into a crane - necessary to lower more than 2,000 pounds of sail. The shiny, thickly woven material was shipped to Maine where hundreds of Sea Bags were made from Athena's sail.
What do you do with the parts of the sails that can’t be made into bags? Are other products made from them?
After the “sweet spot” of the sail is dissected to become one our Vintage Insignia bags, there is a lot of white sail material left for making totes and accessories. Over the years, we’ve developed an eco-friendly printing process that allows us to design almost anything on a bag, including Custom Design bags made by our designers for customers. We’ve also developed innovative solutions to reducing sail scrap by making it into hang-tags, coin purses, and coasters.
Sea Bags in Mystic
One of the Sea Bags stores is located at 36 West Main Street in Mystic, so you can stop in the next time you come to visit us!