When I start developing each collection of Posie handbags, I always start with the fabric. Usually I have a vague idea of the shape of the bag, and a "feeling" that I want to capture, but really, it's all about the fabric.
This February I've had an idea in mind about a room in spring -- an English nursery, actually, way up at the top of some old wedding-cake-y house, filled with lilacs (actually the lilacs are down in the yard), confectionery molding and slanted ceilings, tattered flowery wallpaper and flannel eiderdowns and big, paned windows. I have this idea when I go to the fabric store.
At first, nothing appeals. I take a deep breath. Keep looking. Sure enough, certain prints rise to the surface. They seem to indicate relationships with other prints I may have passed. I go back. The idea fleshes out. The cart becomes unwieldy. I always buy my fabrics locally, on sale days. This spring, it's patchwork, polka dots, prints like old pajamas, eyelet. When I get back in the car with my huge bag of fabric and a little bit of anxiety over how much money I've just spent, I see a small strip of paper face down on the passenger's seat. It's an old paint chip from when we painted some stuff in the shop. Pale pink, it's name "Pinafore." Perfect. Meet the beginnings of the Pinafore Collection by Posie.
It sounds like I made that up, but I swear I didn't -- it's uncanny how often things come together when I'm coming up with my little concept, so lovely and easy -- and actually, this part usually is. But it's the only part that ever really goes love-ily and easily, at least for me. If I could just sit around designing concepts and sketching them out and making the first one, I would. And the first one, or ones, can take all weekend, though it's nice work, exciting; I make coffee, watch BBC America, make a mess, hold my bag at arm's length and stare at it happily. There is a thrill in seeing something that you've pictured in your mind actually work out. You say, "How cool -- that's exactly what I wanted to happen!"
Of course, it took all day to get that one. The logistics of actually getting a whole bunch of 'em made can be more complicated. Because most of the things in the Posie product line are one-of-a-kind -- probably related to each other but not exactly like each other -- it makes the manufacturing part a laborious, slightly complicated process. Because I do so many different products, and such small collections of each, it's usually impractical or impossible to get help that I can afford, or is of high-enough quality. I do have an excellent seamstress that sometimes helps me with a lot of the repetitive, non-design stuff, but I still shop for and order all the supplies, find other solutions when the suppliers are out of stock (so often) or have discontinued something we've been working with for a long time (so often), drive around getting everything, pick out all the details for each item, and organize each stage of getting everything made and finished. In this case, I think I'm going to do it all: the cutting, the piecing, the stitching, the pressing, the gluing, the stitching (always more stitching). Then all of the handles and buttons will be hand-stitched on after the rest of the bag is finished. These bags are more complicated than my usual -- I'm definitely heading toward fewer different products in the line, but better, more complicated, more interesting designs. I feel happier with this. I want things to be just right. (Not that I wouldn't love to just design without all the making part, but for now. . . .) Each Posie bag is fawned over until it's released into the world, since I like to think that people care about how things are made, and that it matters to them that each bag is special. If it doesn't matter to them, at least it matters to me -- making handbags isn't going to change the world, but at least I feel like I'm putting something good and beautiful back into it. I try to remember this when I'm tired, or feeling discouraged. I really do believe that life is enhanced when its most prosaic things are filled with specialness and care. I guess this is what guides my work.