Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Goes Into a Handbag--Meet Creator JennJohn

How did you choose your patterns for your products?

I had my husband reverse engineer a handbag he bought for me when I discovered it felt like parts I could buy at the local craft shop. I made a handbag for my sister in law with that pattern for her birthday and quickly depleted all of my Interior Design fabric samples to make several more for friends and family. Then I found a necktie messenger bag pattern on a D.I.Y. website. I loved the different colors, patterns and textures incorporated into one bag. I started massing neckties by the hundreds and was creating necktie handbags as fast as I could to fill orders. Then something strange happened...the season changed. I was left with hundreds of dark colored neckties because my customers were now interested in lighter, brighter colored bags. I sat down at the drawing table and designed a pattern that still used the shape of the neckties but could take advantage of fabrics again instead of neckties. Viola! I created the pattern that I use now. As the fashion trends have changed over the years so have my patterns for my sizes and styles. Now my large hobos are my best sellers. By popular request I am returning to the necktie bags soon... Tiedcottage will house my one-of-a-kind necktie handbags...stay tuned!a>

Beyond your lovely fabric choices and quality craftsmanship~ what do you see as making your purses special?

I build each of my color schemes for my handbags as I would design a room, house or business for one of my Interior Design clients. I utilize the principles and elements of design, (such as texture, scale, color, form, light and space), to achieve the look and feel of each of my bags. I like to think of my handbags as professionally designed spaces or rooms for on the go.

Have you always sewn?

No, not always, I was too busy painting or drawing. I learned the sewing basics at an early age by watching my mother sew small projects. I never really found a need to sew and did not develop it until later in my life. The sewing process seemed to take too long, I used to be so impatient. Can you believe I actually stapled together Christmas stockings one year instead of sewing them? Oh the horror!

I'm someone who doesn't REAllY sew, I'm enchanted by the process and admire those that do~ but I don't know if I have it in me. Though I have made many elastic waist skirts from pieces of aged curtains and vintage fabrics...and have designed my own fabric too!
I have learned that many quilters and seamstresses are artists in other ways. Do you feel that's you?

Absolutely! I love the design process the most, not the sewing. The design is the part I crave, hunting for the fabrics. Sewing it all together and selling it in the form of handbags is really a cover to fund my fabric addiction. When friends and family found out about my sewing ambitions I was plagued with alterations, outfit and drapery making requests. I politely tell people I sew very well in straight lines, that's it. That is truly all I have in me for the sewing process, straight lines for handbags.

Are you able to sew each day?

For the last year I have. I have to, my business demands it. (congratulations!! woo hoo!)

When is your magic hour to create?

It has taken several years for me to admit this to such a large forum, but I am a recovering night owl. I really love the serenity the night time provides. Not too mention, it is almost impossible to completely recover from the schedule of several years or bartending...

Did you grow up around creative parents?

I have very creative parents. My mom made me "over the top" birthday cakes every year. Her cakes were better than the presents I would receive. She was always crafting Christmas ornaments, bedroom decorations and toys for me too. She was the one that taught me the value of a one of a kind handmade creation and making something out of nothing. I don't think she ever had the luxury of buying new pieces and parts, they were always found or donated. I remember my dad making pretzels, wine, seashell mirrors and leather flipflops and belts all within a years time. He was the one who taught me one creative outlet is NEVER enough.

Personally, I find it difficult to place a lot of my own artwork around me. I have a few pieces up but not many. And I have loads of stationery around ( I don't seem to list within my own shop) But, I rarely use it. When I do...I feel like I have stumbled upon a real treat! (yeah I'm a nerd) How many of your own purses do you have?

That's a great question...not as many as you would think. My personal handbags do not stay mine for long...my family has a way of confiscating them from me, which is fine because that gives me the chance to advertise another color scheme. I have also had people literally buy the bag off my back! On several occasions I was left with a brown paper bag full of my belongings. True story! Otherwise I am surrounded by several of my other creations, paintings, furniture, draperies, lamps, recovered chairs and sofa makeovers, seashell mirrors, and other colorful random repurposed and redesigned items.

Do you have a favorite color combination right now?

I can't say I have a favorite color combination at any moment, because I love ALL colors! I can't just pick one. It is more about the fabric combinations for me. For instance, I am gearing up for a "Worldwide Tour" with my handbags and I am collecting fabrics from all around the world. I am in love with fabric from India! I have always been enamored by crewel embroidery, the texture, patterns and colors are fantastic! I used to cross stitch and really appreciate the amount of devotion each piece takes. So I am really excited about the opportunity to use these foreign fabrics in concert with staples like linen and denim to create some gorgeous one-of-a-kind handbags.

Are you seeking the next fashion trends for inspiration?

I watch the trends for size more than anything. Size does matter, lol! I was right on track with the "colors of the season" for some time and they were never the big sellers. Ultimately people buy what they love regardless of what the magazines tell us to..my fabric shopping trips are no different, I buy what I love. I just cross my fingers everyone else loves them too.

I would like to take this time to share Jenn's links~ please take time to get to know her!

Jenn's Etsy shop, , Jenn's blog and Jenn's website . I am concentrating on my Etsy shop more than my other sites...they have a much bigger advertising budget than me :)

What are a few of your favorite online stops during the day or week?

I can not live without: Craftcult
It is a great tool for anyone who sells on Etsy.

And another Etsy related favorite: Craftopolis

It is all about the great Treasury Lists on Etsy. Making Treasury Lists is newest passion, it is a great way to showcase other artists on Etsy while exercising my graphic design muscles.

Jenn, let's talk about the names of unique names chosen for your handbags!

People always ask about the names of my handbags...I started bartending again part time after staying home with my newborn daughter for six months exclusively. I felt the need to communicate with adults and loved the opportunity to make money while doing so. It was about that time that my handbags really started to gain attention. I was getting requests for catalogs and websites and just MORE! So that is when I really put all my efforts into a "made to order" operation. I complied several color schemes and referred to them as "tans," "browns," "greens," etc. I got really confusing, really fast! I was lamenting over it one night while the bar was slow, I was watching a electrician put in our new fabulous drop pendant lights over the bar counter. I will never forget when the narrow spotlight from the pendants magically illuminated an Apple Martini I had just made a customer. That was my "A HA!" moment! How beautiful the green from the drink was against the dark granite surface, it was sparkling and glowong just like a green sequin fabric I used in a bag...APPLE MARTINI! That's it! I'll name my bags after drinks! My bar customers loved it of course, they were my biggest fans! It was so easy from there to give all my color schemes names, Cosmopolitan for the "pinks," White Russian for the "tans" and the rest just followed. I know hundreds of drink recipes and there will always be hundreds or thousands more to choose from.

Jenn, can you tell me: what would you be doing if you weren't sewing and selling handbags?

Besides returning to Interior Design, I really would love to make custom cakes. There has been an overwhelming popularity for cake making in the last couple of years and I hate to be so unoriginal, but I have always been surrounded by great cakes! Cake making is another passion of mine. I have brought tears to peoples eyes with some of my custom cake creations for their special day. I know my husband's engineering mind teamed up with my design skills and pastry know how could create a fantastic business using fondant and icing!

Above you'll find a few of my favorites, I did not realize that they are each Jenn's pleated bag design! But, I love them and here are the links to them shown from top to bottom.

MOCHABERRY LATTE / large pleated hobo

GREEN ICED TEA / small pleated hobo

GIRLIE MARTINI / small pleated hobo

Jenn~ thank you for taking time to share yourself with my readers!
Thank you Mindy for your interest in jennjohn!


Scentsy Montana said...

What a great looking bag.

TJ Lubrano said...

Hello! I just had to check out your blog ^_^! I love love your art! The use of colors and texture are really nice! Keep it up! I'll be sure to check it out every now and then!

Take care and stay creative!

thewillowsnest said...

gorgeous bags!!
Love the fabrics and design!

Interesting blog .. got me hooked!

Monica said...

How fun to get to know a bit more about this wonderful seller! I'm such a big fan of her work :)