INRO BAG (1993)

The handbag is not just about practicality, or even luxury; it is about pleasure – the aesthetic, spiritual and, indeed, fetishistic pleasure that can be had from a beautiful object, especially one that is held in such intimate relation to the body.

The handbag is also about wonder. A woman’s handbag is a receptacle of mysteries, a Pandora’s box of all things feminine, an intoxicating place of secrets and desires.

Pleasure and wonder are certainly the hallmarks of the exquisite limited-edition bags made by the London-based designer and writer Nathalie Hambro, part of a generation of British artist-makers who sought to regenerate the craft tradition in the early 1990s. Hambro deals in the elaborate, the recherché and the strange, constructing works that blend art and design, modern materials and painstaking technique and research. The Inro bag is just such an objet d’art.

It derives in form and name from the tiny cylindrical Japanese nested caskets that were traditionally worn suspended from a sash and were used to carry personal belongings such as medicines. With its body of stainless-steel gauze, the Inro may at first sight seem a somewhat fastidious and puzzling work,

But that is just the point. In an age of ostentatious display and mass-market design, the Inro restores intimacy and idiosyncrasy to the bag.