Baggage Claim

Kamryn Boelk is the woman behind the handheld hides and brass jewelry pieces that are as durable as they are eye-catching.

Leather in colors from chocolate brown to magenta hang on the wall of the lower East Side studio of Permanent Baggage, behind a form holding Kamryn Boelk’s latest design – a slouchy, hobo-style tote made of buttery-soft leather. The bag’s clean construction allows it to hang in a balanced, vertical drape.

Its simple embellishment is an outer pocket accented with zigzagged rivets.

Photos by Adam Ryan Morris.
BRASS BANDS: Clutch purses and slouchy hobo tote bags aren’t the only pieces in the Permanent Baggage wheelhouse. Photos by Adam Ryan Morris.

The tote is part of the evolution of Boelk’s business, which debuted in 2008 while the Oakfield, Wis., native was a sculpture and design student at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. From bags made of recycled plastic, her projects transitioned to fabric and leather-remnant wristlets with leather appliqué, exquisite brass patina jewelry, and small leather accessories (think Aztec printed card cases, and preppy tassel key chains) – all with a modern, yet soft edge ( That duality is no more evident than in her elegant leather envelope clutch with gold detailing and a magnet closure. It’s versatile enough that it could complement nearly any look, and is available in nearly 40 colors that range from distressed camel to metallic bronze/purple.

This has been a year of enhanced visibility for Permanent Baggage. Through a crowdfunding campaign on, Boelk and her husband – metal artist Jesse Meyer – raised the capital necessary to move to a new studio and retail space, in a building that once stabled Schlitz Brewery’s draft horses. The building now houses Permanent Baggage and Jesse Meyer Sculpture Studio, but will soon include a Permanent Baggage retail arm to better display these tactile pieces. The physical store opens with a holiday pop-up event on Nov. 13 (914 N. Hamilton St.) from 5-10 p.m.

‘Baggage Claim’ appears in the October 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.