I grew up in Maryland where picking crabs is an art. Getting the meat out of a Chesapeake blue crab requires patience and determination. There is only about 1 ounce of meat in each crab, and you have to meticulously separate the meat from thin shelves of cartilage. It is slow going! Although other types of crabs are easier to pick, the meat of the Maryland crab is especially sweet and tasty - worth the effort to those of us who grew up there.
When hosting a crab feast, some of my Maryland friends often ask that each guest pick a crab for the house for every crab that they eat. The extra crab meat is then frozen for later use. That way the host gets help picking the crabs, and the guests get to enjoy half of the crabs they pick (usually along with a fair amount of beer). And then you can enjoy a fantastic crab dip at Thanksgiving long after crab season is over (at least if you have a sister-in-law like mine)!
Four purses under construction simultaneously
How does this relate to purses??? Well, when I am making necktie purses or cases, I usually make 3 or 4 at a time - it is much more efficient to do it this way. I also find that I am more efficient when I am working on a custom order; I am anxious to get it done because I know it has a home. Aware of this phenomenon, I have come up with a method of building up my stash of necktie products. In the spirit of "picking a crab for the house," I sew several purses for my stash for each custom purse that I make. And with 14 custom orders currently awaiting construction, I know I will have plenty of new purses for the upcoming holiday craft fairs. And, if I am lucky, I will also get some of Sarah's crab dip...
In the beginning, I named purses simply so I could identify them in conversations with customers. The names were boring and practical: Pink and Blue and Paisley or Maroon and Green. But over time I came to see each purse as an individual work of art. The process of combining ties was trickier than I originally thought. Sometimes the colors matched perfectly, but the patterns on the ties contrasted too much. Sometimes the colors were not quite right, but blended surprisingly well nevertheless. Sometimes the colors and designs were perfect, but the dimensions were slightly off.
Good colors, but the geometric pattern fights with the soft floral design
Colors slightly different, but they blend together well
Good colors and designs , dimensions slightly off
I believe I have learned from experience and I strive to make each purse a visual treat - a practical work of art that you can carry with you.
I am fortunate to have a friend who is a writer. She helps me name the purses and eReader cases (in fact, she came up with the idea of naming the cases in the spirit of Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books: The Case of the.....). Finding the right name has become an eagerly anticipated ritual for both of us. Sometimes the names are obvious, other times we take twists and turns and end up with a name that even we have a hard time explaining. Sometimes the process is organic, other times it is fanciful. Always, it is fun and creative. Here are a few of my favorites:
Started as It's Black and White. Then Red All Over. Then Ebony and Ivory. Ended up as Perfect Harmony. Perfect!!
Stream of consciousness: Winter Scene, On the Slopes, Skiing, Downhill Skiing........... finally: It's All Downhill
For my brother, Mark, the Baltimore Ravens fanatic, there was only one option: The Case of the Raven Lunatic
I have found that people are drawn to objects which have names. The names help create human connections to inanimate objects. The names also emphasize the one-of-a-kind nature of the products. Naming my necktie products helped me to understand and acknowledge that each piece is a work of art. I hope my customers see this as well.
As I was taking apart and ironing ties to make a purse yesterday, I thought about where the ties had come from, who might have worn them, what path they (the ties) had traveled to end up in my hands. These two particular ties were, I believe, from Goodwill. I have gotten pickier about the ties that I buy. I avoid ties which smell of cigarettes (almost impossible to wash out completely) and those with obvious stains which would be difficult to work around.
So I was surprised to encounter a stain on one of these ties. It was subtle and in an unusual location – far up from the flap and almost camouflaged by the tie’s intricate pattern. Fortunately, the stain washed out fairly easily and I was able to use the tie. But I wondered about the source of the stain. Thanksgiving dinner? Office party? I realize as I handle ties that they each have stories and memories - and sometimes stains.
My favorite batch of ties came from a gentleman who was cleaning out his father’s house after his father had passed away. The ties were gorgeous and unusual, colors and designs from a different era. As I made purses from these ties, I sent pictures to the man who sold me the ties. I ended up making purses for his nieces for mother’s day – gifts made with their grandfather’s memories.
So as I deal with stains and imperfections, I know that I am also dealing with memories and events. And isn’t it nice to create something useful with that history? Something that will, itself, create memories.