“It’s the carrier bag that sparks that memory”: An interview with brilliant design resource, Carry A Bag Man
After finding the odd carrier bag while clearing out derelict homes, Aaron Thompson has created one of the most unlikely design resources.
- Lucy Bourton
- 28 January 2021
Over the past few years, Aaron Thompson has been discovering, collecting and (luckily for us) sharing design relics in one of the most unlikely forms: carrier bags. Based in Hull, Aaron’s job revolves around maintaining gardens and clearing out derelict homes, a perfect ground for hunting out nostalgia-inducing surprises. The power of something so simple as a crinkled old carrier bag hit Aaron time and time again on his searches, and when he found a bag relating to his own life in a 1990s Kwik Save bag, “I was hooked.”
Since expanding his collection, he decided to include bundles from local auctions: “After collecting them for five years, I started to realise that I should probably do something with them all,” Aaron tells It’s Nice That. In need of a way to revisit his finds “without having to haul out all the storage boxes under my bed,” he began to photograph each find, laid flat to showcase their iconic design and shape. Instagram resultantly appeared to be “the fasted way to go about archiving them all,” and is where Aaron has been selflessly pasting design inspiration over the past two years as Carry A Bag Man.
Over Aaron’s feed is an eclectic collection of bags, from a recent Jessop’s find, a classic Asda Price, through to more local business like Wales’ Maritime City, or Zurich Airport’s tax-free shops. Aaron explains the feed is never curated and more “just about the process of archiving and sharing, and spending those memories around with my followers.” This approach also leaves it up to the viewer to make up their own mind about what they see in the relic. For instance, “Followers from different generations who follow me get hyped about different bags, which I suppose will be the ones that they remember best from being kids, or a teenager,” says Aaron. This nostalgia sparks from a variety of sources, whether it’s a shop that doesn’t exist anymore, “but might have been places where people remember spending their pocket money,” or maybe “the shop they bought their first album,” through to “shops they remember being reluctantly dragged around on a Saturday afternoon by their parents,” the collector notes. “These are all valid memories that would have been lost otherwise. It’s the carrier bag that sparks that memory.”
As to why Aaron thinks he’s become hooked on collecting these bags, he says nostalgia has always been a key trait of his, “even from childhood”. Designs from the 1990s “are where my fondest memories come from," he explains, "so it seems natural to me to collect things from that era – like clothing, video games, packaging etc.” As for his favourite, it’s a Topman bag he found in a garden a few months back. “It struck me with some heavy Saved by the Bell TV show vibes!”
Since launching the account Aaron has been a little astonished by the positive response, explaining how “the messages I’ve had have been so supportive, which even now, is still a surprise for me.” Looking back at when he first launched Carry A Bag Man, Aaron recalls feeling like “it might be one of those Marmite ideas,” he says. “But the daily messages I get from designers and creatives all over the world telling me they’ve been inspired by something I’ve posted is what keeps pushing me to keep doing what I’m doing!” He continues to note that, personally, “what I’ve gained whilst developing this collection is motivation, and that’s something I’ve struggled with for years – in fear of judgement for what I’m doing,” he concludes. “It’s warming that I’ve managed to round up a fan base by just sharing photographs of old carrier bags!”
(Copyright © Carry A Bag Man, 2020)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.