Let’s face it. School lunches are never a real culinary highlight. Back in the day, for most kids, they consisted of soggy sandwiches wrapped up in a plain brown bag. However, this is certainly not the case for Dave Blumenthal’s three young daughters. Every day, they get to enjoy their lunch with some pretty special hand-drawn works of art courtesy of their father. For the past 8 years, Dave Blumenthal, aka the Sandwichbagdad, has been combining his love for his kids with his impressive art skills and a seemingly never-ending supply of dad jokes. The result is a hilarious collection of cartoons that are a major hit in both the classroom and Dave’s growing online fanbase of lunch bag aficionados on Instagram and Facebook.
It all started when Dave’s eldest daughter started school. With a newborn in the house at the time, his wife tried to make their firstborn feel special by cutting love hearts and other shapes in her school sandwiches. After a few days, Dave took over carving duties and the designs blossomed from there. Eventually, Dave decided to shortcut things and begin drawing on the sandwich bags themselves.
The bags were an instant hit in the classroom and Dave would regularly field requests from his daughter’s friends and teachers. The bags also turned out to be a great way to get his daughter to interact more with her teachers too. She has always been a little shy so this gave her a great avenue to start daily conversations with her teachers at lunchtime.
About 4 years ago, Dave was finally convinced by one of his daughter’s teachers to start a social media featuring the bags. And so, the SandwichBagDad was born. Today, much to his surprise, Dave continues to attract a growing band of followers. “I honestly never expected to attract any followers when I first started posting my humble little bag drawings and my kids still shake their heads that there are so many people who voluntarily choose, what they call the 'sandwichbagdad experience.'”
As each of Dave’s 3 daughters began school, the bag routine has expanded. Dave currently draws each of them a custom bag every school day. The bags are tailored to their ages, with his youngest (6 years) getting more simple puns, and his eldest (14) getting more sophisticated and intricate ones.
It may seem incredible that this dad is able to come up with not one, but 3 different ideas every day for his daughters' sandwich bags. So, how does he do it? Well in his own words, “Coming up with new ideas for the bags is actually the biggest challenge,” says Dave, “I’m constantly on the lookout for new inspiration. The best ideas usually hit in the strangest of places like while out jogging or in the shower – usually somewhere where I don’t have a handy way of recording them!”
While it might be hard to believe, Dave isn’t a professional artist (he works full-time as a CFO) and has never had any formal art training. “I used to draw and paint regularly as a kid, but gave it all away when I started university and entered the workforce. My old school art teacher always said art is something that one eventually returns to…and she was right. Drawing is now a major hobby again!"
Some people are flabbergasted at the idea that this guy is creating amazing hand-drawn characters on lunch bags and not on canvas. But, despite the questioning, Dave maintains that they are 100% real lunch bag drawings, “Contrary to what some people think, the bags are absolutely and positively genuine lunch bags which my kids take to school! All my posts are just the “before” pics. While some end up being hung up on their classroom walls, the vast majority end up coming home crumbled and very much worse for wear after holding a sandwich in them for a few hours. Most end up being tossed into the recycling!“
Each bag typically takes around 20 minutes to draw, although Dave does say that some of the more intricate (especially caricatures) take a bit longer. “I draw the bags at night after work, just as a hobby and I find it really relaxing to just doodle away and bring the day to a close.” Dave also uses the time when his kids are off school (e.g. vacations and weekends) to build up a buffer of spare bags. His daughters will typically raid the stash in the morning and choose the ones they like best for the day.
For Dave, drawing the bags and seeing everyone's reactions has been far more meaningful than he imagined. “I am constantly blown away by all the incredibly positive responses that the bags generate. I regularly get a lot of really heart-warming messages from people all over the world who reach out to thank me for making them smile after a particularly tough day or week. To know that I might have made a small difference is awesome! But most importantly, I love knowing that I’m creating a pretty special memory for my kids. While my daughters groan and moan about how “cringy” the bags are, I know they secretly love getting them and the collection will be something they will be able to treasure in the future”
Most of us have a lot of trouble balancing work and a hobby. But for Dave, that is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to being the CFO at a building company, a father of 3 lovely girls, and a sandwich bag artist, he also used to compete in the Ironman Triathlon. For those who don't know, an Ironman Triathlons is considered to be one of the hardest one-day races ever. You begin with a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and then, to top it all off, you finish with a full 26.22-mile marathon! All that intense training eventually resulted in an unfortunate back injury, but for Dave, it was almost a welcome retirement. "It was a major juggle doing the bags and training about 15-20 hours a week (plus working)." Now that he's no longer involved in "that crazy endeavor" (his words) he can focus on what matters most to him - taking care of his family, and making sure his girls leave every morning with both big smiles on their faces and a new hand-drawn lunch bag.