Southern Made: heart-felt gifts

City-cool bags

Classic yet contemporary, Rachael Riedinger leather bags are keepers — bags that never go out of style.

The designer: Born in Louisiana, Riedinger grew up in Alpharetta and graduated with a degree in art history from Georgia State. After a few unfulfilling post-college jobs, she fell in love with the character of leather and the bag-making process. The self-taught designer and leather maker took her hobby full time in 2014.

The company: Atlanta-based Neva Opet started in 2014. The company makes leather totes, backpacks, shoulder bags and small leather accessories designed to grow in character with age and wear.

The company name: Comes from her great-grandmother Neva and the ancient Egyptian Opet Festival, a nod to Riedinger’s love of art history.

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What’s popular: Marina Circle Bag ($150); Nico Backpack ($265); Marlene Tote ($275); and Carolee Clutch ($85).

Other favorites: Dorothea Fringe Bag ($250) and Ana Bucket Bag ($260).

Big break: In the spring of 2014, she received a large purchase order from Urban Outfitters. Also, being awarded an Emerging Fashion Designer grant in 2016 from the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

Claim to fame: Atlanta magazine’s holiday gift guide (2016). Also highlighted as one of five makers in Garden & Gun’s “Standout Southern Handbags” (2015).

What’s next: A slimmer tote, circle backpacks, a waist pouch for summer music festivals and laptop/iPad sleeves.

Where to

Atlanta’s Empire State Finery creates handcrafted jewelry using various elements, including bones and beads. CONTRIBUTED BY EMPIRESTATEFINERY.COM (For the AJC)

Fresh and fun

Self-taught jewelry designers Paige Booker and Alice Trahant choose materials for their handcrafted pieces that catch their eye and have a little history behind them.

The company: Atlanta-based Empire State Finery started in 2014. It creates handcrafted necklaces and earrings, weaving various elements including bones, beads, leather, vintage finds and recycled vinyl into the pieces.

The founders and designers: Booker grew up in Rome, Ga., and went to the University of Tennessee. After graduation, she spent a couple of years in Charleston, S.C., before moving to Atlanta. Trahant grew up in New Orleans and graduated from Rollins College (Fla). Following college, she lived in Austin, Texas, and New Orleans before landing in Atlanta, where she and Booker met.

What’s popular: Boars tusk necklaces ($225 to $375). Also earrings ($55), often using handpainted bone, recycled vinyl and Czech glass arrow beads.

Other favorites: The color-happy “Banded and Stranded” collection ($105 to $155), which can be worn alone or mixed and layered.

Fun request: When people ask them to work something personal into a piece.

Claim to fame: Featured in the August 2016 issue of InStyle Magazine, which the creators grew up reading.

Where to

Canoe makes custom leather goods, like these hand-dyed catch-all trays, in Austin, Texas. CONTRIBUTED BY CANOE.COM (For the AJC)

Leather chic

Natalie Davis, a graphic designer, artist and educator, uses traditional tooling and construction techniques to create her modern leather goods.

The designer/founder: Born in New York, Davis grew up in Texas. She earned degrees from UCLA (in Design/Media Arts) and Cranbrook (MFA in 2D Design) before moving back to Texas to start her studio.

The company: Canoe, based in Austin, Texas, was founded in 2009. The company makes custom leather goods, including hand-stitched cabinet handles, hand-dyed catch-all trays, poufs and mirrors.

What’s popular: Cabinet pulls ($28 to $68). Also the award-winning unisex perfume, Skive ($52), which captures the scent of the leather studio.

Other favorites: Leather light switch plates ($108). Hand tooled and hand dyed, they can be customized for any size of light plates.

Fun request: For an anniversary gift, a husband bought his wife a private leather workshop so she could learn how to make her own handbag. “I often teach group workshops, but it was fun to work one-on-one and customize the experience for her.”

Big break: The company’s light switch plates were featured in a 2014 New York Times article, “Highlights of NY Now Gift Show.”

Claim to fame: The perfume, Skive, won a 2015 Art & Olfaction award and was positively reviewed by perfume expert Luca Turin on

What’s new: Leather poufs.

Where to

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