Local Artist Creates Watercolor Designs On Leather Accessories

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Hadden & Ev Illustrations is a design house that focuses on hand-painted illustrations that “epitomize you,” according to owner and designer, Hadden Bennett. The design house’s two areas of expertise are leather painting and watercolor. As a result, Bennett is able to take leather accessories like bags or shoes and hand-paint her personalized and unique illustrations onto the items, making customer’s accessories one-of-a-kind.

“I love being able to take a leather piece you already have, like a bag, jacket or shoe, and bring life to it with a special hand-painted illustration,” said Bennett. She continued, “I have always thought of fashion as an art form, and I love that my illustrations can turn someone’s closet into a walking art gallery that carries meaning.” Hadden & Ev Illustrations offers custom fashion portraits, “bag portraits” and even fantasy fashion portraits when it comes to its watercolor paintings. Bennett explains that this immortalizes customers’ favorite pieces.

303 Magazine: What really inspired you to start illustrating, specifically on leather pieces like bags?

Hadden Bennett: I have been painting since I was a young child and exploring new mediums and techniques over the years. When looking for business ideas, I loved how niche leather illustrations were and the fact that painting on clothing items and accessories offered the perfect fusion between fashion and art.

303: When and where did you discover that you had a passion for illustration? What do you think caused that to happen?

HB: As long as I can remember, I have always been painting, drawing, creating. I developed most of my techniques during high school where I was art club president and in AP art. One of my favorite traditions growing up was making hand-made Christmas gifts for my friends and family that I would paint and draw myself. It’s something I still do and I think makes everything a bit more personal. Thankfully, my mother encouraged my creative side and helped me discover various art forms from a very young age. I thank her for my passions today and I approach painting as a meditative practice.

303: Take us through the process of painting on a bag.

HB: Once a design concept with a client has been approved, I start by roughly sketching the design to size on paper and transferring that to a bag. Then, I will block everything out with white leather paint to act as a primer and follow by adding details usually with a pencil. Then, I take a picture or sketch exactly what I want the design to look like and use that as a reference to begin painting the design. Illustrations take multiple layers of paint and extreme attention to detail. Once everything is perfect, I seal it with a few coats of a clear protectant layer to help keep illustrations lasting for years to come.

303: How do you think your illustrations help your and other’s self-expression through fashion and art?

HB: Our illustrations give the opportunity to elevate and personalize pieces people already love. Each piece is hand-painted and completely unique. Fashion and art are already expressive in nature and fusing them together I think creates something special and meaningful for our clients. When it comes to our custom illustrations, it is all about telling our client’s stories.

303: What have you found to be the most challenging part of doing this type of work?

HB: The most challenging part of my business is working with personal leather items as a canvas. Painting on items like bags or shoes is extremely different than painting on a smooth flat surface like a canvas. Working with leather, there is almost no room for error when it comes to painting. I take all of my illustrations very seriously and enjoy the creative challenge that comes with making something that has never been made before.

303: And what is your favorite part of the process and this type of work/artform?

HB: I simply love adding life to our client’s favorite pieces. I think of each illustration as telling a story of our clients. Each piece has meaning and significance and I love sharing that aspect with the world.

303: What do you see or hope for the future of Hadden & Ev Illustrations?

HB: Looking into the future of Hadden & Ev Illustrations, my hope is that I can continue to create unique pieces that epitomize our clients and act as extensions of them. I would love to be able to expand my services and offer more ways to customize and even design my own bags and leather pieces.

All photography by Eugene Sharapov.