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” Trying to make the most out of the day while we are on this side of the dirt.”

Waltzing Matilda: Waltzing Matilda” revolves around a Tom Waits song called “Tom Traubert’s Blues”.  When I was young my dad used to play the song on his record player into the wee hours and I would try my best to stay up with him and listen.  Most people would say that this song would probably not hit high on the lullabies charts for every reason but I grew to love it –My dad’s whiskey wisdom came flowing from his wing chair, and I tried to grow up on his late night thoughts.   It was my pop who first explained that a “matilda” is slang for a Hobo’s bag or bed roll that bundled all his belongings. 

Wanna know why Waltzing Matilda is beautiful? Just take a look at the pictures. But what”s even more beautiful is the person behind the brand, the uniqueness of each piece, even the meaning behind the name tells a story.

When reading about the background behind the brands name. You talked a lot about your father. Was he a man that carried a beautiful leather wallet? I feel like a wallet can define a man.

Mike Balitsaris: Ha, he did.  He had a well worn folding leather wallet that was about 2 inches thick. It”s no wonder he has a bad back sitting on that thing for so long. Never understood rubber band guys.

When I think about a theme in your work, I think of the country side. I think of simple living. I think of worn hands (weird I know, but these are handmade right?) I think art. Rustic. What would you say is an overall theme?

You are right on, if I had to latch onto a theme it would probably be authentic American.  I had a fortunate upbringing. I divided time between Washington, D.C. Rural Tennessee and North Carolina coast.  I think this comes out in the pieces.  Yes, handmade no machine. Hand stitched cut everything. Nobody would want my hands.

What does your studio look like?

I will send u a pic of the main camp…. It”s not much. It has all my tools and leather in an unorganized mess. I also have my inspirational treasures   I have my prized Stetson cowboy hat,  an awesome vintage pair of Levi”s hanging casino pa natet on the wall, a national steel guitar, my boots, 3 bottles of decent wine, an iPod, records,… A dog. A few paintings my kids did for me a basketball hoop and 4 bicycles.  All the aforementioned are meant to be used and are.

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I think my favorite bag has to be the Riley Backpack. It’s very summery festival worthy. My favorite part about it is the little turquoise accent. Tell me about the production of this bag.

I am so happy that you like that one.  That is a bag my daughter Riley (14) designed and built with little help from me.  Riley is a great surfer and she wanted something she could carry a towel, book and bar of wax to the beach.  I got the turquoise from a pawn shop in San Antonio. Riley came up with the stitching flower idea. Quite often my kids will sit with me and work on a project when I am working. It”s a great forum for us to catch up and it”s such a pleasure to have them work on art and talk vs. sit on their electronics.

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On your St. Christopher bag there is quotes. Do you like to incorporate personal things within the product? I.E your child’s writing?

Leather is a medium that appeals to many of the senses and helps to remind me of my happy place. The touch the look the smell. They are comforting to me. I actually hate to travel but have to often. I started putting quotes inside a lot of the bags to keep my spirits up and seeing something one of my kids wrote inside gets me through a long leg of a trip.  These bags really become a part of the journey. I also put the names of the cities I traveled to in many of the bags.

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… The quote “Cowards die many time before their deaths.” is also on the bag. Can you tell me how you chose this quote. It’s very dark but gives the bag a lot of meaning.

Funny. That”s a quote from Shakespeare ” cowards die many times … But a brave man tastes death but once.” Always loved that quote and I actually had it written on my shoulder pads when I played sports growing up.  Turns out it is my dads favorite quote also. We never new that until he saw the picture of this bag.   The quote means different things at different times to me. In this instance it was me psyching myself up to take my fears head on…

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Whats next for Waltzing Matilda?

I have a new collection of songs coming out this summer. You can get a taste from the website music section. Doing a few gigs opening for Steve Forbert in July, working on a short film about our adventures in Wisconsin over the last few years.  Trying to make the most out of the day while we are on this side of the dirt.

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