Cook & Gates Makes Tote Bags Gallery-Worthy

And piles in enough sand for a faux beach party.

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Ethan Cook and Sara Gates turned their hand-dyed, aesthetically complicated bags into the sort of art pieces that earn gallery shows—as evidenced by the one they held at Live With Animals in Williamsburg. Here, Sara, who now runs the biz on her own, explains how the whole thing—including the massive fabric waves—came together.

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“That gallery space is actually pretty big—you can do whatever you want. We had these grandiose plans to build rooms and cover everything with our fabric, and we realized it was just too much. I asked Ethan what would be the most inconvenient thing to make out of fabric, and his first response was, ‘Liquid.’ We were like, ‘Let’s make an ocean!’ and went from there.”

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“I bought a 1,000-yard roll of canvas, and we used almost all of it. We built a structure out of wood and chicken wire and used fabric stiffener to create the ocean. We did this whole line of beach-bag-like bags, and we made blankets with Mary Meyer.”

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“We had a closing party, and surf bands played in the ocean. The whole thing was quite a construction project—it was great, but it was an undertaking. I’ve done installations but nothing this huge. The waves were probably eight or ten feet tall.”

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“We had a ton of sand. To do something so simple like that and alter the entire space—we could have not built the ocean at all and just had sand on the floor and still changed the whole experience. You can get caught up in wanting to do bigger and to do more, but we’ve found that keeping things simple and to-the-point always makes it better—a better bag, a better installation, whatever.”

Now’s the time to score Sara’s latest Of a Kind edition! This hand-dyed duffle is pretty mind-blowing.

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Sara Gates Shows Off Her Space

She’s adorned it with all kinds of massive printing tools.

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Sara Gates has been live-working from the same location in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for the last six years—long before most people were converting lofts and familiarizing themselves with the G train. “When I first moved in, I lived with a bunch of people, but over the years, the business has sort of taken over. It was half-house, half-studio, and now it’s more like three-quarters studio,” the woman behind the dye-happy bag line Cook & Gates explains. Here, she shows off some of the highlights and heavy machinery of the studio, where she also runs a screen-printing company. 

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“These are the two screen-printing presses that I use. I tend to do pretty small runs. I work with a lot of local artists and designers. I do up to a 1,000 pieces but not usually more that that.”

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“To create the printing designs, you put photo-sensitive emulsion on a screen, let it dry, and tape the image—which is black on clear—to it. You put it in this machine, which vacuums it in place, and turn a 6,000-watt light on it to expose it. It’s really bright—and also really loud. The light hardens the emulsion, and the black blocks the light. Then you hose it down.”

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“I do a lot of oversize printing, which a lot of printers don’t do because you need huge screens and huge equipment. There are little versions of the equipment, but printing tiny objects just on T-shirts is not that compelling for me.”

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“The dyeing I do for Cook & Gates happens everywhere. I have buckets all over the place—I do a lot of it on the roof. That bag on the clothesline has been living on the roof for three months. That’s its home.”

Get Sara’s latest edition now! Her sturdy-as-hell hand-dyed duffle is the coolest.

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Sara Makes Us a Totes Amazing Tote

There’s bleach. There’s leather. There’s a whole lot of radness.

Sara Gates makes the sort of bags you’ll use until they start coming apart at the seams. Thankfully, her handcrafted Cook & Gates creations are damn sturdy, and each piece is unique: She dyes and bleaches the canvas with her very own hands. Here, she shares how her Of a Kind edition came together.

You’re going to want to check out the finished product. There are only 30 bags, and each one is something special.


“It starts with a big piece of canvas. For this, I used a heavyweight black canvas, and I folded it, bent it, and wrapped it in our special method. One of the things that drew me to dyeing is that it’s so hard to create exact replicas. This bag is bleached—I soak it and pour the bleach into the fabric. It happens very quickly.”


“The whole pieces of canvas are so amazing! If I could sell giant pieces of fabric, I would.”


“I have an amazing seamstress. She sews the bags and sews the handle on. I couldn’t get away from the screen-printing—I had to bring that in—so we do our screen-printed pocket in all of our bags.”


“This bag has leather handles—I’ve only started working with leather recently. This is a half hide. I get the leather from a place in Manhattan called Global Leathers. They have such amazing stuff. Leather stores are just crazy places.”

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Sara Shows Off Her Space

She’s adorned it with all kinds of massive printing tools.

Sara Gates has been live-working from the same location in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for the last five years—long before most people were converting lofts and familiarizing themselves with the G train. “When I first moved in, I lived with a bunch of people, but over the years, the business has sort of taken over. It was half-house, half-studio, and now it’s more like three-quarters studio,” the woman behind the dye-happy bag line Cook & Gates explains. Here, she shows off some of the highlights and heavy machinery of the studio, where she also runs a screen-printing company.


“These are the two screen-printing presses that I use. I tend to do pretty small runs. I work with a lot of local artists and designers. I do up to a 1,000 pieces but not usually more that that.”


“To create the printing designs, you put photo-sensitive emulsion on a screen, let it dry, and tape the image—which is black on clear—to it. You put it in this machine, which vacuums it in place, and turn a 6,000-watt light on it to expose it. It’s really bright—and also really loud. The light hardens the emulsion, and the black blocks the light. Then you hose it down.”


“I do a lot of oversize printing, which a lot of printers don’t do because you need huge screens and huge equipment. There are little versions of the equipment, but printing tiny objects just on T-shirts is not that compelling for me.”


“The dyeing I do for Cook & Gates happens everywhere. I have buckets all over the place—I do a lot of it on the roof. That bag on the clothesline has been living on the roof for three months. That’s its home.”

Score the edition that Sara made for us in this very space. It’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s perfect for lugging around all your stuff.

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Notes

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Cook & Gates Makes Tote Bags Gallery-Worthy

And piles in enough sand for a faux beach party.

Ethan Cook and Sara Gates turned their hand-dyed, aesthetically complicated bags into the sort of art pieces that earn gallery shows—as evidenced by the one they held at Live With Animals in Williamsburg. Here, Sara, who now runs the biz on her own, explains how the whole thing—including the massive fabric waves—came together.


“That gallery space is actually pretty big—you can do whatever you want. We had these grandiose plans to build rooms and cover everything with our fabric, and we realized it was just too much. I asked Ethan what would be the most inconvenient thing to make out of fabric, and his first response was, ‘Liquid.’ We were like, ‘Let’s make an ocean!’ and went from there.”


“I bought a 1,000-yard roll of canvas, and we used almost all of it. We built a structure out of wood and chicken wire and used fabric stiffener to create the ocean. We did this whole line of beach-bag-like bags, and we made blankets with Mary Meyer.”


“We had a closing party, and surf bands played in the ocean. The whole thing was quite a construction project—it was great, but it was an undertaking. I’ve done installations but nothing this huge. The waves were probably eight or ten feet tall.”


“We had a ton of sand. To do something so simple like that and alter the entire space—we could have not built the ocean at all and just had sand on the floor and still changed the whole experience. You can get caught up in wanting to do bigger and to do more, but we’ve found that keeping things simple and to-the-point always makes it better—a better bag, a better installation, whatever.”

Don’t miss out on the bag Sara made just for us: It’ll serve you well the last few weekends of beach season and carry you straight through the fall.

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Cook & Gates

When Ethan Cook and Sara Gates started their line of hand-dyed bags, they were looking for an outlet. The duo had launched a screen-printing company in 2006 that relied heavily on masterful repetition, but both founders had painting backgrounds that compelled them to make something fresh and different every time. “With screen-printing, I can produce 200 or 1,000 things that are identical,” explains Sara, who studied fine art at Chelsea College of Art & Design and Pratt and now runs the awesome bag operation on her own. “I got into dyeing because you can never produce anything identical.”

The form of the pieces she creates is classic: a basic tote made of high-quality canvas (“As painters, we had both worked with that material for years.”) that allows moody, multi-color designs and ornate bleaching to really shine. “The tote makes it so much more accessible to people. We realized that

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