Forest City Portage

American Made Since 2010

Michael Hudecek

Lakewood, Ohio
Each is designed, cut and sewn by hand. The mixture of durable, tough-as-nails design with upcycled materials create one of a kind wearable art.

Tell us about your business.

Always interested in art and design, I spent my formative years getting sucked into the rat race. My creativity waned as the "career path" took over. Unsettled by this end game, I travelled and decided just to start making things again. As a car-free Clevelander, my most pressing need was a new courier bag and the adventure began. I'm a self taught sewer and my aesthetic and skill have developed in tandem. Whether it be burlap coffee sacks from a local roastery, salvaged sailcloth, an old cocktail dress, or your dad's old suit, I'm looking for a way to breath new life into it and create a bag that will last a lifetime. As I have grown I have added travel and tote bags, hip packs and backpacks to the list. As I mature in my craft and as an artist I hope to expand my product line to include luggage and have recently indulged my love of animals by creating a line of collars and leashes for dogs made from upcycled seat belt webbing. The future is bright with hand made heirloom baggage.

What makes your business stand out?

There are plenty of small messenger bag manufacturers out there. I like to consider myself an artist who happens to make bags, not a bag maker who happens to be an artist. The creativity and individuality of working with waste diverted, upcycled, and post consumer waste fabrics/materials allows every piece that leaves the shop to tell a story or paint a picture. I have taken pieces of foam from a motorcycle jacket worn by a man who died too soon, a seed bag from a family farm, and a favorite tee shirt that had been worn thread bare. Memories can become tangible and materials become memories. Because of the scope of my business I am also able to pursue new designs on a whim and am not boxed in by what I "do." While I started with courier bags I'm truly in the "bag" business and the portage in my company's name couldn't speak more to the baseline goal of helping people move things, however that may be.

What's the best business advice you've received?

Work as hard as you can and don't wait for someone to hand you success. Resting on you laurels at any level breeds complacency and you should always strive for bigger goals and greater ends. With that, though, comes an equally important lesson that work isn't your life and make time for your loved ones. It doesn't have to be for days on end, but don't forget who supports you along the way.

Mark Your Calendar

  • Nominations
    June 3–Aug. 29, 2014

    Nominate yourself or other aspiring makers.

  • Judging
    June 23–Sept. 8, 2014

    Judges will select finalists throughout this period.

  • Online Voting
    Sept. 15–Oct. 13, 2014

    Vote for your favorite American makers.

  • Winners Announced
    Oct. 17, 2014

    2014 Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.

  • American Made Event
    Nov. 7–8, 2014

    Join us for our annual event in New York City.

More Nominees

  • J & M Apparel Chemo Kimono

    Mary Barce & Janet McWhorter
    The Chemo Kimono is designed to be comfortable, functional and stylish. An affordable option for women under going chemo-therapy.
    Style, Fashion
  • Janie Belle Crochet Creations makes one of a kind crochet pieces. I love to find new stitches and make new patterns.
    Crafts, Fiber Crafts
  • A Card for You

    Anouk Olson
    my first contact with "cards" was an invitation of a friend, and the fever started. Love doing it and the people who receive them, love them!
    Crafts, Paper Crafts
  • Blue Copper Designs offers hand-crafted copper jewelry with a twist to adorn the body, lift the spirits, and inspire creative freedom.
    Style, Jewelry