Patty Santos might not realize it, but her self-proclaimed awkwardness disappears once you get her talking about the things she’s most passionate about: crafting, working with her hands, and creating leather bags. Normally camera shy and a little sheepish, Patty isn’t particularly easy to find on social media, mostly because she isn’t on social media. Her strongest online presence comes from the Instagram account of Kuwit, the handmade crafts brand of which Patty is the sole creative force. It becomes easier to understand her reclusiveness once you see the places where she works: the living room and dining table of her home are draped in an assortment of tools and wide flaps of leather primed for use — and in the middle of it all, Patty working tirelessly on every single bag by herself.But before Patty’s hands touched leather, she and her sister launched Kuwit with a line of clutch bags dubbed the Nobela collection. “My haunt used to be Book Sale. I’d see a lot of Reader’s Digest books there and they weren’t in very good condition, so I thought they would make really cute bags.” Patty admits that it’s difficult, especially for a reader such as herself, to find old books that she would be willing to gut. Still, the Nobela bags proved to be a success. Each of them is, of course, personally handcrafted with the book’s frame completely preserved — making each Nobela bag a bookish fashion statement, or even just an inconspicuous way to bring around your essentials. But as orders kept coming in, so did more ideas for new projects begin taking root in Patty’s imagination.The birth of the Kuwero collection of leather bags best embodies the meaning behind the name Kuwit. “I like the idea of a comma as a visual representation of a pause,” Patty explains. “A lot of inspiring things come to me when I’m not so in my head with all the things I have to do. The breaks in between — that’s when inspiration hits.” So it’s safe to assume that it was during one of these breaks that the possibility of creating a line of leather bags revealed itself to Patty.Working with leather has offered Patty its own unique pleasures: the meditative nature of sewing, and especially the variety of things one can do with the material. The result is a collection that couldn’t be more different from the fixed concept of the Nobela bags, but carries the same elegance and handcrafted attention to detail. Among the designs that Patty’s come up with, one that instantly stands out is a circular canteen bag named Maude — a design that Patty had wanted to make since the beginning but felt intimidated by at first, since more challenging leather designs require more sophisticated tools to craft them. However, she adds, “I feel like I’m mastering using really amateur tools. It makes me feel like I don’t need the super expensive ones. I feel like I can get by with what I have.”After talking to Patty for a little while, the personal connection she has to her work becomes evident, almost tangible. It’s worth noting that each of Kuwit’s designs is given a special name, making them seem imbued with personality. Maude is named after the titular heroine from Harold and Maude, the Alison sling bag takes its name from a certain television character, the Scout and Veruca Nobela designs take their cues from To Kill a Mockingbird and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, respectively, while Dolores may be referring to Claiborne, possibly Lolita — but definitely not Umbridge, Patty confirms.But Patty’s passion doesn’t only come through in her bag’s names. She might not realize it, but her resourcefulness, enthusiasm, and dedication to her craft is obvious in every Instagram post and every second she spends with her tools. This isn’t just a job for her; with the way crafting helps her reach out to more people, it can be downright therapeutic. Patty might opt to spend most weekends indoors, but through Kuwit, she’s already pretty close to taking the world by storm.
Produced by Alyssa Castillo
Sittings by Sam Potenciano
Photography by Mica Abesamis
SHOP for KUWIT AT THE CRAFT CENTRAL IN GREENBELT 5 AND FOLLOW @HANDMADEKUWIT ON INSTAGRAM.