You can plainly see from any dice bag in Mandy’s shop – she’s got not only an eye for artist flare but one hell of a set of skills. Without a closer look, many people avoid a $30+ purchase to hold their dice, particularly bags, but this offering brings a lot of style, design, and craftsmanship to the proverbial and literal table.
Let’s take a closer look at this unexpectedly creepy leather dice bag. (Creepy good, not ‘balding unfit neighbor watering your bushes with no shirt on in red gym shorts he had from highschool’ creepy.)
There was no box (it’s a bag, when you put a bag in a box, you’re asking for trouble) but I thought the packaging was simple, direct, and led to a cool experience!
The black tissue paper and simple sticker really helped me understand just how incredibly light this thing is – far lighter than other offerings. I think the minimalist packaging was a good decision for both cost and presentation. The sticker also features the prominent logo – which I sincerely enjoy. So far, so good.
Now just to look at the b-
WUT THE FFFFUUUUUUUUUU
I have to admit, when I uncovered this thing I freaked the hell out over it. Look at that thing!! Look at the detail in that eye! The time spent making sure the leather was pressed and formed just right to make it look like you peeled it right off a goddamn dragon’s face. This one moment alone – THIS ONE MOMENT – made the entire process of reviewing this item worth it. My god!
So I expected there to be some photo-magic tossed on these. All Etsy photos show them in lightboxes or on white sheets – photographed to show off their features so much that they almost look FAKE – but luckily for you and me, that’s not the case.
This dice bag is made of genuine (yes, I also have a storied history with spotting real and fake) leather. It’s far more supple than you would imagine. My grandfather would have called this “glove quality” while one of my friends would call it “underwear soft” – so take your pick.
The folds and creases in the leather show how broken in it is. Without any pilling or peeling – you can rest assured it’s not canvas with razor-thin hide stretched over it (some handbag companies do that). Even the draw-string is leather, which I appreciate. I think to keep the “premium” feel of this (since it’s not cheap) I’d like to see a wooden toggle on the string or even metal – but these plastic clasps are easy to replace, cheap, and work. Don’t tell me you ever had to think “Oh man, if only my 1990s Jansport backpack toggles didn’t break off the bungee cord” – those things will survive the apocalypse.
The bag’s front-face is the money maker – and it’s very sleek. Mandy chose not to use rings or runners for the leather cord – instead trusting the leather to hold up under abuse. This is the bag after I opened and closed it 300 times (approximately, I was opening and closing it during an entire episode of Jessica Jones so… ) The cord never bit into the leather or hanged, there’s no puckering – both signs of good, quality leather.
The front of the bag (the one that STARES AT YOU) is also painted! Which is radical. The blue on this one was so subtle and great that I didn’t notice at first. The eye is horrifyingly blue, so the surround being blue completely escaped me. The paint seems to be fabric quality and does not flake off or peel but can be rubbed off if you go at it long enough. Taking Alcohol or Nail Polish Removers to this bag will A.) be a sin B.) take off the paint and C.) ruin the bag and the leather and my relationship with you.
The eye itself is deep in-set into the leather. There’s a patch of thin leather on the inside of the bag that holds the eye in place, and I imagine enough glue to kill a few Regular Gnolls(tm). The care and time taken to make the paint match the luminosity of the eye blows my goddamn mind. Do you see how the paint on the far right thins out and becomes more and more transparent toward where a tear-duct would be? But the heavy ‘cheek’ area and the brow are a strong blue that leads the eye away from the edges of the bag? That’s pretty fucking awesome.
BONUS ROUND: Look at the above photo and see an evil, angry dragon….
now look at the photo and imagine the bottom right corner is a nose (sans nostrils) and a mouth… now you have a sad, fat, lizard woman with a unibrow!
How awesome is that?
The bread and butter of this venture: the hand painted glass eye. Just… Idk, man… it’s so good.
I see four different hues of blue in there, some white – plenty of metallic looking flakes. The whole thing looks almost ethereal. If we can figure out how to make the glass matte over the slit-pupil, this would just be a real goddamn dragon eyeball and that freaks me out.
Light levels play a lot with how the eye actually looks. Softer light and more oblique shots make the paint strokes stand out – like thorns of color. Even the pupil blends and bleeds more like a scar than a cat’s eye. I think it adds a very interesting look of magical ju-ju to the whole thing. I know the smokey ethereal quality isn’t for everyone, but I quite enjoy it.
The RAI Bag Mechanics
Marvelous, yes. Beautiful, yes. But how does it carry dice? To start out, let’s look at a pretty plush $14 felt and satin dice bag.
With its flat bottom and wide drawstrings, this thing does what you want it to. It’s got a little bit of room at the top, but when you close it, it’s a pretty tight fit for the number of dice inside (I’ll tell you later). Look at this for a second longer and take in the feel it gives you. It stands, it seems soft and sturdy. The inside is slick like the edges of a baby blanket. Noice.
Then we have this thing:
It’s staring into your soul. The dice are an afterthought. It hungers. For you, for me, for the world. Unblinking, ever watchful. It will have its revenge…. also – it’s holding THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF DICE.
I cannot stress that enough: it takes up 1/3 the amount of space, but holds the exact same amount of dice. The leather is just as soft as the fleece/felt/whatever of traditional bags, but because it’s far thinner but much stronger – everything about the bag can be more compact. The seams don’t need to be as big, the extra layers can be ignored. Leather is a great shock absorber (It’s why Wyrmwood Gaming and Nerdist Woodworking use it to line their trays – not just because it’s awesome). The closing cord doesn’t have to be stitched to the moon and back – because it’d have to rip through 3 inches of leather to be a problem.
Now, is the bag perfect? No. I think the extra space at the top (the leather flaps) are interesting because they give it a very ‘winged’ look, but I’d much much much much rather have that space used. If this bag were 2 inches taller (leaving 1 inch of leather across the top) it could hold 1/4 more dice.
We’ve experienced high quality premium dice boxes, dice trays, dice, pens, pencils, spoons, chopsticks, snapchat filters – but having a premium dice bag is pretty fucking radical. This thing feels like it was made with me in mind: it utilizes all the positives for premium leather (not “stripped” upholstery leather or jacket leather) that you can’t find on-the-cheap. The cost is a little beefy at $30-$100 depending, but for a hand-made product that I am 100% sure most of you cannot even dream about making at home, the cost isn’t so bad! We’ve dropped more than that on wooden dice vaults from Wyrmwood that only hold one set of dice. This bag, on the other hand, can hold SIXTY.
The Etsy Store has some that hold 80 – Mandy can even make you one, if you request it and pay for it, that can hold over 100 sets of dice. You can get one of these sized for a GIANT if you give her enough foreword and cover the costs – and that’s just so cool!
She’s dabbling in leather covered chests and charms, she’s got a great eye for detail and respects quality leather. She obviously is a talented artist – Mandy Brace is doing some great things here and I cannot believe she’s not sold ten thousand of these bags yet.
Go check these things out – chat with Mandy if you aren’t sure, or message me on Facebook or Twitter (links at the top of the page and bottom of this post) – this has my DTD Seal of Approval and is in my top 5 things I’ve seen in 2018.
I don’t always advocate rolling, but when I do… be sure you have to Drop the Die.
Review by JB Little, Follow me on twitter for more “useful” information.