Etchr Slate Satchel
Etchr Slate Satchel.
I was incredibly fortunate enough to have been sent one of Etchr's amazing products to review, the Slate Satchel. Etchr are a relatively new company, Australian based; who currently have on offer four products specifically catered for artists, artists who love to get out of the studio, into the wild and capture those moments with pigment, graphite or charcoal.
Since serving in the British Army as an Infantry Soldier, I have always loved bergen's, back packs, that type of thing, I love the idea of having everything you need to survive on your back. Of course we are not talking about survival in this review, but we are going to be demonstrating why you should definitely be taking a look at Etchr's outstanding range of products.
As artists, getting out from the studio, is not only good for the soul, but is equally good for stirring up the artistic inspirational juices. However, getting out from the studio means forfeiting certain studio luxuries and making do with a few supplies and sketch pad. Etchr however have practically solved this issue and now you can leave the studio bringing with you, your essential tools in the guise of a simple looking messenger bag. However, simple it is not; appearances on this occasion are indeed deceptive.
As I previously mentioned, Etchr currently produce four different travel storage solutions for artists, I say currently as I really hope that Etchr continue growing as a company and producing these amazing products. The first bag they produced and probably the most commonly known, is the Etchr Art Satchel, many fantastic artists have demonstrated and reviewed this product already on YouTube and elsewhere online.
The other product they sell is the smallest of all their products and is called the Field Case. I personally really love the look of this product, small and compact but carries a substantial selection of art supplies, perfect for taking with you to the café and partaking in a bit of people sketching.
The next product is the Etchr Slate Satchel, this product actually comes in two sizes, the Slate Mini Satchel and the Slate Satchel. Both of these bags have both digital artists and traditional artists in mind and as the review continues I will provide the dimensions of both bags.
Etchr Slate Satchel Characteristics
The materials used for all of Etchr's products are Vegan friendly, I know for some people this is neither here nor there, however there are people who this information matters to and so incredibly worthy of mentioning, not only mentioning but congratulating Etchr or such an accomplishment.
The entirety of the Slate Satchel shell is made from a polyester with a PU coating, areas of the bag that are handled most or come into contact with the ground are protected by a material referred to as Toughtek. This is a abrasion resistant material with a feel of sanded rubber, incredibly durable, practical whilst maintaining a stylish aesthetic. Zips on the bag are strong and covered in a thin rubber like membrane which helps with weather proofing the contents. Any stitching on the bag is also unbelievably strong, ensuring that the bag will withstand a reasonable weight.
Etchr make clear that their products are water resistant and not waterproof, on their website they explain the difference between the two and the reasons why they chose one over the other. Water resistant means protected against rain or splashes of water, whereas waterproof refers to the ability of fully submerging in water and still protected. I however, decided to see for myself how protected my art supplies and work would be in wet conditions, fully taking on my own risks knowing the facts. Whilst on holiday at the Lake District, there was obviously no shortage of water, so I took the Slate Satchel to a fast running river, complete with supplies and work. I did however only place supplies and work in the fully zipped areas of the bag. I placed the bag in the shallow part of the river, allowing water to pass over the bag completely for a few seconds. I was trying to replicate the accidental dropping of the bag into a river. Everything inside the bag was completely dry and unaffected from the water, I was incredibly impressed.
On the outer flap of the Slate Satchel, there is a zip pocket, this is for items you may want quick and easy access to, items such as your wallet/purse, keys, mobile phone or passport. The pocket zip is as previously stated, incredibly durable and protected with a thin rubber like membrane, enforcing the water resistant nature of the bag. The inside of the pocket is lined with a soft grey felt like material, helping to protect against scratches on mobile phones or other small digital devices.
On opening the front flap, which is simply held in place with velcro, a larger storage area is presented to you. The pocket does expand slightly for items to be placed but does fold flat when emptied. Again the inside of the pocket is layered with the same soft grey felt. In this pocket items such as sketch pads, magazines etc could be placed.
On the rear of the bag, on the top, there is a grab and go handle, again as with everything else on the bag, incredibly durable material and stitched to withstand a reasonable weight. On all four corners of the Slate Satchel there are also D-Rings, which I will explain in more detail, further into the review.
As well as the grab and go handle stitched to the top of the Slate Satchel, you are also given a removable shoulder strap. The actual strap is fully adjustable and is made from similar material to a vehicle seat belt, incredibly strong. On either end of the strap are two metal clips for attaching to the D-Rings, these are made from what appears to be heavy duty metal, adding strength and finally a shoulder pad is also present for comfort. The pad can move freely up and down the strap or it can be completely removed, depending on your own individual preference.
The actual guts of the bag, the business end of the Slate, is sealed with two zips of either side of the Satchel. Again the zips are exactly the same as the aforementioned zip on the front flap pocket. When opened, the Slate Satchel opens like a book and lays completely flat on a surface, this gives you easy and comfortable access to every feature inside the Slate.
The first side of the bag we will look at is the drawing surface. The area is made from a soft cloth like material enabling velcro based components to be attached. On this surface you are provided with four corner tabs and an elastic tab.
The underside of the square corner tabs are covered in velcro, allowing the artist the ability to remove and place them anywhere on the Slate surface, allowing for any size digital device or paper size to be secured. On the corner tabs, there is a double layer of elastic, allowing the artist to lift and place an item into, however, running through the elastic band is what looks like grey stitching, but is actually small flecks of rubber. This adds extra security and piece of mind to the artist when placing their digital device within the tabs, the rubber flecks, along with the elasticity of the band, help to grip and protect the device.
The elastic tabs are two square patches, similar to the square corner tabs, without the elastic straps. Both tabs are attach by an elastic draw string. At first glance I had no idea what this device was for, however, after reading the literature that came with the Slate, I couldn't believe how simple yet fantastic an idea the device is. As you can see from the images, if you are using a sketchpad with a ring binder or spine, the sketch pad opens flat on the satchel surface, where you are wanting to draw. Place the tabs on either side of the ring or spine of the book and tighten the elastic drawstring. This simple yet ingenious tool helps to secure an otherwise cumbersome sketchbook to a flat surface, leaving the artists hands free to paint or draw.
The opposite side of the Slate Satchel is made from a similar material, allowing other velcro tools to be safely secured and thus creating a storage area for the artists supplies. On this side of the satchel two velcro tool strips are supplied, allowing the artist to secure paintbrushes, markers, pens, pencils etc. This section of the bag is also completely secured with a net, which can be fully removed by unzipping it or partially removed. The net is added protection for the artists materials, any item that may become loose, or is simply place into the bag at speed to get out of rain, will be held safely in place.
As I explained, the rear of the bag has a removable back plate, this plate has a small hole bore into it, allowing you to place a tripod quick release bracket, the same bracket used to attach a camera to a tripod. This instantly transforms your Etchr Slate Satchel into a static easel, providing the artist all the comforts and trappings of the studio, a steady platform to draw or paint at your leisure. The opposite side of the Slate Satchel can either droop down resting on the tripod legs, in between the artist and tripod, this allows for a comfortable and easy access pathway to the art supplies held in place by the velcro tool strips. Alternatively, this side of the Slate Satchel can be place to either the left or right side of the tripod, which ever is more comfortable for the artist.
However, if you think that this is too restrictive and only allows the artist a limited range of portability, well, Etchr have solved that problem as well. I mentioned earlier in the review about the D-Rings being placed on either corner of the bag, the top two D-Rings are obviously for the shoulder strap to be clipped onto, allowing the user to wear the Slate Satchel in the messenger bag fashion. However, with simple replacement of the shoulder strap clips, depending of whether the artist is left or right handed, the Slate can turn into an easel with only the shoulder strap and the artists body.
This process does take a little bit of playing about with to master, it is a simple case of unclipping one of the top D-Rings and clipping it to the opposite side bottom D-Ring, creating a diagonal connection. Keeping the shoulder strap over the shoulder, you fold the Slate Satchel completely back on itself, so that the drawing surface of the Slate is facing up and the supplies section of the bag is now facing the ground. Etchr have attached and male and female clip on both top sides of the Slate allowing you to safely secure both sections of the bag to one an other. This then permits the artists to walk about comfortably with the Slate attached to the shoulder and resting against the artists body for stability, freeing both hands to paint or draw and gain access to any supplies now situated on the underside of the satchel. You can see from the images how this looks and of course you can check out my YouTube video for a slightly better view.
Etchr Slate Mini and Slate Satchel Dimensions.
As I eluded to earlier in the review, Etchr very much had a cross section of digital artists and traditional artists in mind when designing the Slate Mini and Slate Satchel. The Slate Satchel is designed to comfortably hold the new sized iPad Pro which is 12.9inches. The Mini Slate has been designed to comfortably hold the slightly smaller iPad Pro 10.5inch.
Of course these are just guide lines, a simple method of visualising the sizes, both bags will hold any digital device of similar sizes. Traditional artists have also been factored into the design process and so it was important to ensure watercolor pads and various sized sketch pads could also fit.
With the Slate Mini Satchel, the over all dimensions externally speaking are; 13.5 inches length or 35cm, the width is 10.2 inches or 26cm, with a depth of 2.4 inches or 6cm. For the inside of the Slate Mini, the dimensions are Length 12.6 inches or 32cm, a width of 9 inches or 23cm and finally a depth of 2 inches or 5cm. So any watercolor pad, drawing pad, sketch pad that fall within these internal dimensions, will be suitable for the the Slate Mini Satchel. Finally the over all weight of the Slate Mini Satchel empty is 1.3 kgs or 2.9lbs
Dimensions for the slightly larger Slate Satchel, the actual bag I am reviewing are as follows. The external dimensions are; Length 14.9 inches and 38cm, the width is 12.2 inches or 32cm, with a depth of 2.7 inches or 7cm. The internal dimensions, perhaps the more important dimensions are; Length of 13.8 inches or 35cm, the width is 11 inches or 28cm and finally a depth of 2 inches or 5cm. Also over all the Slate Satchel empty weighs in at 1.7 kgs or 3.7 lbs
As things stand currently, all of Etchrs products only come in the one color, as of yet they have not produced a range of colors for the bags, however this may perhaps be on the agenda for the companies future. I personally love how the bags look as they are and think they are very professional looking.
Etchr do sell their products through external partners, for example, here in the UK, you can purchase from Jacksons, in American you can purchase from Flax Art & Design among a few others, you can go to Etchr's website were they have the stores listed globally that they partner with. It would appear that non of the bigger companies such as Amazon, Jerrys, Hobby Lobby, Hobby Craft etc sell the products. However, you can also purchase products directly from Etchr's own website, which I think is perfect.
Here in the UK, the Art Satchel will cost you £147, the Slate Mini Satchel will cost £79, the Slate Satchel will cost £87 and the Filed Case will cost £43. They also do a deal were you can purchase the Art Satchel and Field Case together which will cost £169, a saving of £21. You can also purchase extra corner tabs, elastic tabs, tool strips and Tripod straps, for more information on these extra components check out Etchrs Component Page.
In America the Art Satchel will cost you $191, the Slate Mini Satchel will cost $102, the Slate Satchel will cost $112 and the Filed Case will cost $55. They also do a deal were you can purchase the Art Satchel and Field Case together which will cost $219, a saving of $27.
In Europe the Art Satchel will cost you €165, the Slate Mini Satchel will cost €88, the Slate Satchel will cost €97 and the Filed Case will cost €48. They also do a deal were you can purchase the Art Satchel and Field Case together which will cost €189, a saving of €24.
In Australia the Art Satchel will cost you $268, the Slate Mini Satchel will cost $144, the Slate Satchel will cost $158 and the Filed Case will cost $78. They also do a deal were you can purchase the Art Satchel and Field Case together which will cost $308, a saving of $38.
Etchr Slate Satchel Conclusion
I am sure some of you may be looking at the prices and may think that the products are expensive, however let me give you my take on this which may or may not convince you. I am a disabled veteran, now an artist, I personally am unable to get out and about nearly half as much as I would like, but I still go on holidays or back across to N Ireland to visit my parents. On these rare trips, I take my art supplies with me all the time, no matter where I go, I take a small sketch pad and pencil, even to doctors appointments. before, I would try to pack a rucksack or messenger bag as best I could, but by the time I reached my destination, my supplies would be all over the place. So a bag like the Slate from Etchr is perfect, for me personally I feel these products are more than worth the money or build quality alone, I know this bag will last for many years to come and I am aware I didn't pay for this one I am reviewing, but I will absolutely be buying the Filed Case.
But if you are an artist with the ability and passion to get up and head to the forrest, or mountains, local park or simply into the city to sketch the beautiful architecture Churches and Cathedrals offer, then the price point of Etchr products becomes even more desirable and a moot point.
the vast range of features on offer from the Slate Satchel alone is not only incredibly desirable to artists on the go, but the build quality and prospect of longevity is equally enticing. I have really enjoyed using my Etchr Slate Satchel and once I can afford to purchase the Field Case I will be doing so.
As always I have a YouTube video demonstrating the Etchr Slate Satchel to the best of my ability, hopefully the video combined with this written review will give you a clear understanding of the products and help in your decision making process. Thank you so much for all your support and also to all those who have made donations to the site recently. I am completely overwhelmed and honoured that you have helped contribute to what I am trying to accomplish at The Art Gear Guide, which is to provide a thoroughly detailed and comprehensive catalog of art supplies you may be looking to purchase and help you determine whether or not that particular product is right for your needs.