A few months ago, I was invited to return as a designer for the 2013 Power of the Purse charity auction organized by Girls Inc. of NW Oregon. I had a great time last year when my "hop" bag sold for over $3000, so I readily accepted the invitation for this year's event. For my "purse-o-nality" I was paired with Chief Jannsens, the first woman Chief of Fire Dept. in Portland. We had a quick meeting at the fire dept. and discussed the details of the bag I would design. Based on that discussion and some subsequent e-mails, we agreed that the bag would be a duffle-style hand-bag with removable shoulder strap, pocket for an iPad, space for a business folio, room for wallet, phone, etc. and a main compartment with room for a change of gym clothes or the like. It was to be an all-purpose bag for the woman or man on the go. Chief Jannsens expressed her style as very minimal and functional, and since I was going to be pressed for time due to an upcoming vacation, it seemed perfect. When I began working on the design of the bag, however, I felt the need to jazz it up a little bit. The idea of flames immediately came to mind. I ran it past the Chief and she reluctantly agreed to include them, provided they were understated or even hidden during normal use. I immediately had the idea to have flames on the strap, influenced by a beautiful guitar strap I had seen with black leather inlaid with red crocodile leather flames. If the strap were reversible, then I needn't worry about the flames being too overstated. I had the idea to make the flap on the bag reversible so that it, too, could be decorated with flames. I wanted the main style of the bag to evoke motorcycle saddle bags and I chose a gorgeously textured pebble-grained black chap leather to use for the exterior. I found a great red faux-ostrich embossed cowhide at the Oregon Leather Company which would be perfect for the inlaid flames.
I conducted a test of the inlaying process using the two leathers. I laser-cut a custom-designed flame shape into a bit of the black chap leather and did the same with the faux-ostrich leather. Fitting them together and cementing them both to another layer of chap leather worked perfectly - I was beginning to get excited about the bag. I began to lay out the main pieces of the bag and figure out what hardware to use. I decided to use nickel-plated fittings throughout the design to give it that classic motorcycle feel. I used hefty hardware and placed the fittings so as to accentuate them. I decided to line the bag with a red micro-fiber upholstery fabric to accent the flames. I didn't have time to make a prototype, so I was especially careful with every decision I made, allowing for extra material in places that I couldn't accurately determine the exact size and shape until other pieces started coming together. The most difficult part was determining the flap length and the placement of the handle on the flap to make it match the handle attached to the rear of the bag. I couldn't figure out a feasible way to make the flap reversible, so I decided to just sew it in to the rest of the bag. I hope Chief Jannsens is OK with the small flames being so conspicuous on the flap. I left that joint until the very end to allow for adjustment if necessary. Unfortunately, this made machine-sewing the joint imposible and it took me four hours to hand stitch the final 16 inches. Overall, I am very pleased with the way the bag came out. I learned many useful tricks and techniques that I will surely apply to my product line in the future. I can't wait to see what this bag sells for at auction. The Power of the Purse event is on March 8th at the Portland Art Museum.
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