My name is Jennifer Maxwell and I am the founder of Bent LA!
When I was young I was super into puzzles and crafts; as I grew I developed a skill for math; and when I graduated high school I went to The University of Michigan College of Engineering. My life was great – it was all going according to plan.
And then it crumbled. I had a wave of mental illness and was forced to drop out of school. I lived in western Massachusetts for a few years making art and working on my health. After some time I felt ready to pick myself back up and move forward. I transferred into Hampshire College (a small liberal arts school in Western Massachusetts) and studied animation. Animation felt like a logical step. I had started in engineering and had spent the last few years making art; why not combine them?!
College was hard. I was a few years older than most of the other students and I never really fit in to most of the social scenes there. I was also still trying to hold it together mentally. Yet, as college came to a close, I began feeling incredibly strong! I graduated and decided I needed a fresh start in a new city! So I moved to LA!
Let me take a moment to just say that the decision to move to LA was one of the best of my life. It allowed me to really bend my life in a new and wonderful direction.
When I moved to LA I got an apartment in West Hollywood and got a job at a company called Whalerock Industries. I was a 3D Technology Associate making Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality games and experiences. It was my dream job! I was loving it! But there was something missing that I couldn’t find on the computer screen. About six months into living in the city, I found what it was. I was shopping and saw a really unique black leather handbag. And, instead of thinking, “wow, I want that”, I thought, “wow, I could make that! So I did! I went to a fabric and craft store, bought some leather, a variety of odds and ends, rope, and this crappy little hole puncher that hurt my arm every time I used it! I imagined a design and built a bag that afternoon. And two the next day, and two the next, and I was hooked.
About a month later I upgraded to a nice hole punch and some upgraded materials, and a few months after that, I finally invested in a sewing machine!
I was doing it – living in LA, managing my mental illness (I mean we all have to manage something or other, right?) working a job, and becoming more and more preoccupied with making cool handbags.
And then Whalerock let me go.
At first it was awful! I felt panicked and anchorless. I had to go on these awful interviews and do these awful art tests. I could write an entire blog post about how awful the hiring process for animation is but I won’t do that now. The point is I just didn’t want to do it anymore. While, I think that animation was right for me for a time, I realized it wasn’t and isn’t my life passion.
Making bags does feel like a life passion.
Bent LA was created from so much self-discovery and self-love. From so much creativity and understanding. This is it for now. I love my life in LA and I want to celebrate that with this brand. My life has bent in so many directions and has led to this spectacular place. Bent LA is me, and I am ready to share it with the world.