In 1979, Judith Clark Lombard created her first canvas tote bag to carry her art supplies. Before long, friends, family and complete strangers were requesting their own bags! So, with only $200 and a dream, Judi quit her job, bought her first rolls of canvas and started a canvas bag business in Topsfield, MA.
In 1980 Judi bought a storefront on Martha's Vineyard (that's it on the logo!), filled it with her fun, colorful bags and ISLAND CANVAS began catering to a wide and appreciative international clientele.
In 1981, with business booming, Judi opened a second Island Canvas store in Newport, RI. Unable to manufacture all of the products for two stores by herself, she hired Erin, fresh out of high school, to sew bags in the workshop in Newport. And so began a friendship that would last a lifetime!
Through the 1980's, they would design even more bags - over 50 styles! - and Judi opened two more stores in Boston, MA and Providence, RI.
In the late 1980's, with four stores becoming more work than just a few people could stock and manage, Judi decided to scale back the storefront operations and publish a catalog. The catalog was a huge success and Island Canvas closed the storefronts in Boston, Providence and Newport to concentrate on catalog sales. However, the original store on Martha's Vineyard remained open annually for the summer tourist season until 2002 - after all that was the original building the name and our logo were derived from!
As the catalog business was far easier to manage, this freed up time for Judi to return to teaching (her first love - middle school art!) and for Erin to get a degree in textile design.
Erin and her husband traveled down south for 8 years, where she held several jobs designing upholstery fabric for the residential and contract upholstery markets. But she would always return to Newport for summer and winter vacations to help Judi make bags for the busy summer and winter holiday selling seasons.
In August 2000, Judi was diagnosed with breast cancer. After the initial shock of the diagnosis sunk in, unable to continue teaching, Judi decided to continue operating Island Canvas because she just loved her customers and enjoyed providing them with the quality product they had come to appreciate. And so they kept right on making bags!
After four years of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation Judith Clark Lombard lost her courageous battle with breast cancer on February 27, 2004. She left Erin the business of Island Canvas - a labor of love and joy they had shared for 23 years.
The Next Chapter in the Island Canvas story... I aquired the business after meeting Erin through a mutual friend. In May 2009, Island Canvas moved to Roswell, GA. Then in 2011, we moved north to Minnesota.
It is with great pride and pleasure that I pick up where Judi and Erin left off and welcome you to IslandCanvas.com, where we continue to hand craft each bag individually without assembly line shortcuts.
So to all of their loyal friends and customers served over the past 41 years, enjoy browsing the line in it's digital format. And to our new customers, not yet familiar with our product, please feel free to call with any questions or ideas to make your shopping experience more enjoyable.
Thank you for your continued support and confidence. I look forward to providing you with your favorite bags for many years to come!
Tonya Harris - Owner
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