|Photo by Lisa Walker|
Some of you must wonder where I've been for the past month. I've been up to my ears in handbags! After years of considering it, I've decided to design a line of bags to sell. A pipe dream? Perhaps in the long run it will be. But in the short term, it's a success. Let me explain.
This flurry of bag sewing was determined by a potential meeting with a boutique owner in Bloomington, Indiana. My husband and I drove there in late September for a family gathering of sorts. Two of my sisters live there, and my brother drove my parents there from New York, for a week long stay. It's not often my entire family can spend time together, so it was a really special week. It turned out to be an artistic vacation of sorts, which I'll write about in another post.
Back to the boutique. It's called Relish, and the vibe is urban chic. They sell home goods, including furniture, art objects, women's clothing and shoes, jewelry, etc. One of my sisters is a good customer there, and knows the owner, Sharon, well. She contacted her ahead of our visit to see if she would meet with me about my new handbag venture. Sharon agreed, and we met at the store one rainy afternoon. She was a wealth of information as far as retailing my bags is concerned, and we quickly agreed that trunk shows would be a good way to start. I wasn't totally familiar with the nuts and bolts of trunk shows, but basically, the artist shows up with the goods, while the store owner invites her best customers and creates a party atmosphere. It's a low risk situation, where the shop owner can see how well a craft person's work will sell, without making an investment in the merchandise. The shop owner takes a small percentage of the sales, so the profit for the artist is typically far more than selling at wholesale prices.
Sharon liked my bags, suggested ideas for other designs, and offered to hold a trunk show in her store! I wasn't expecting that, so I was thrilled. It was such a positive affirmation of the work I've been doing for the past three months.
My goal for the winter is to design and make at least 50 bags to show in the spring. Sharon gave me some leads for boutiques in the greater Boston area, so I'll be pursuing that as well. Normally I wouldn't travel as far as Indiana, at least, not at the start. But this is a great opening opportunity, given that many of my sister's friends shop at Relish. It could be a fantastic party! Sharon recommended a boutique in Indianapolis, so I'll pursue that in hopes that I can do two shows in one trip.
Relish's vibe is very gray and muted, so I entered our meeting with a bit of a concern because of my love of using bright colors in my bags. Sharon was able to set color aside, and see the potential my bags have. I showed her the two I made in July and August, as well as these three:
This double bag is from Vogue 8590, by Marcy Tilton. I love the versatility this bag offers. It is two bags in one, and others could be switched in and out, creating infinite possibilities. I love the shape, and the hidden pocket beneath the front flap.
I also love the combination of fabrics I found from my stash and at Sawyer Brook.
The unique feature of the bags I'll design is painting. Sometimes the elements will be large, and sometimes small, such as the flourish on this flap. I often add paint to a solid lining, and to inner pockets. I added inner pockets to each of these bags, but they're difficult to see because the top opening of the bag is small.
I love this double bag idea, and plan to stretch it out into a clutch shape, so that I can use one for my wallet items. By adding slots for credit cards and cash, and a zippered pocket for change, it can be a small bag that I carry inside a tote bag. And I can make coordinating second clutches to carry with it when going out. Fun!
|Photo by Lisa Walker|
The next bag is a slight variation on the same design. I refined the side panels a bit, and gave it double handles.
|Photo by Lisa Walker|
While I was making this bag, I kept thinking of my sister's friend, Angela. She loves orange, and has an extensive handbag collection. I showed her the bag and a gathering, and the moment she set eyes on it, she claimed it as hers. I sold it to her on the spot, for a really good price. Another success!
So, why did this take a month? Because I'm not showing you the design that is still in the works, and two others that are near completion. And because of structure. I like a bag that has stiffness to it, so it doesn't stretch and bulge and whatnot when loaded. Craftex is the perfect product for stiffening the bag, but it can't be turned inside out easily. Consequently, sewing the linings into the bags has to be done by hand. Then, there's the edge stitching, which can be difficult to do through stiff fabric and interfacing layers. Much of my time has been spent just figuring out how to put the bags together. I expect that to continue with each design I make, but I hope it will all come more easily the deeper into it I get.
There's no telling where this venture will take me, but as long as I'm having fun doing it, that's ok with me. I'll be posting bags here as I make them, as well as garments I have in mind for myself. It's going to be a busy autumn and winter in the studio!
P.S. Who is Lisa Walker, and why did she take photos of my bags? She's my talented photographer sister. I wanted photos of Angela's bag before leaving it behind, so we did a photo shoot of bags. Her work can be found at Lisa Walker Photography and on SmugMug.