Olga Saldivar has always been creative, but she only started painting 15 years ago when someone asked her if she could. “I was like, Of course,says the Houston-based artist, though her work was mostly confined to drawing and crafts at the time. She did, and she’s never looked back. “Since then,” she said, “I paint everyday. “
More recently, she has started experimenting with a new canvas: leather. Under the brand name blackhummingbird, Saldivar uses its visual arts background to handcraft luxury leather bags with a distinctive touch, whether unique embellishments or actual painted designs.
This month, it will launch a new line of pouches. Houstonia caught up with the designer to discuss her love of leather and what sets the Black Hummingbird apart from other manufacturers.
How did you go from painting to making handbags?
I really like leather. I would buy little bits; I would do little things. I fell in love with it and started looking for places that sold bigger coins. I just started doing it for myself and people wanted to buy it, that’s when I opened an Etsy store. My biggest item was personalized luggage tags and leather bags. I started doing different designs and started my own website. Etsy is really good, but it’s also a lot of words “who can make it cheaper or faster?” I felt like I needed my own store.
Where do you get your leather?
I have a wholesaler and they source all over South America. They have a store here, so I choose it myself. Every room, literally, is different. It shows on the leather.
You are now creating pouches and wallets. What do you plan for the coming months?
The tote bags are the bestsellers – I have them in different colors, and it’s an easy bag to throw everything away – so I’ll always have the tote bags. I feel like people want something smaller to hang out and just something more unique. Sometimes I make small prototypes and use them to see if they’ll work. For the pouches, I plan to put embellishments, different hardware, like beads. I want to paint on it and make each cover unique.
What type of paint do you use?
Leather paint. It’s actually acrylic paint, so it’s easy to work with and very durable. It’s great on leather.
Where do you find inspiration for your bags?
I love everything Gucci has done over the past three years. It’s kind of my inspiration for clutches. I want to draw on anything that is different. I love hummingbirds, snakes and insects. I will definitely include this with the embellishments.
Speaking of your hummingbirds, how did you come up with your brand name?
It was probably 2010, and I wanted a good name for Tumblr. I did an interview with a magazine and they described my art as beautiful but slightly strange and filled with mystery. I wanted something pretty with a dark side and I was like, what about black hummingbirds? I draw a lot of flowers and pretty faces, but I always like to include something a little scary and a little dark. I had the impression that the black described this side. Then it stuck. I used it for Tumblr and Instagram started to become a thing. Now a lot of people are like, “Are you a black hummingbird?” They don’t even know I’m Olga.
What else should the world know about your aesthetic?
I always want to include my art in my leather. I want to show my artistic side on something classic. That’s why I started to paint on leather. Many people started to make handmade leather accessories. I think what I am offering is very unique.