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Today we are chatting with Sallyann who creates handmade bags, just like this one.
It's great to meet you Sallyann. Give us a little insight into your world.
I grew up in Lincolnshire. I trained as an industrial technologist and was sponsored by the clothing industry during my degree. Working in the clothing industry was short-lived upon graduation however, and subsequent jobs in the House of Commons working for an MP and international marketing followed. The combined genetic pull of a great grandmother, grandma and great aunt, all of whom were tailoresses and seamstresses, meant that a return to making a living by way of the sewing machine was inevitable, and Sallyann’s Handmade Bags were born in 2014. I live on the West coast of Ireland in County Clare, and my bag designs are inspired by the wild and changeable weather and landscapes experienced here.
Wow, what a change in career! Tell us more about the bag you are featuring today.
This is a small messenger bag, known in my studio as the Fiona bag, because it was named after the first person to ask me to make a bag like this.
It is made from a beautiful acrylic coated cotton in a wild and funky pattern, and fully lined with recycled denim jeans. I choose the outer fabrics to be showerproof, colourful, exciting and unusual, as well as hard wearing. The fabrics have to be beautiful, useful and practical, and produced in the most environmentally friendly manner possible.
The denim lining comes from jeans I find in charity shops and jumble sales, which means there is a little bit of good in every bag as the charities benefit from my purchases of their jeans. I fillet the jeans for their pockets, zips and fabric. The denim is cut to size for bags, and the zips used to make purses. Pockets are stitched back onto the front of some bag designs. I try to recycle as much as possible within my business - it is one of the driving forces of my designs.
The bags are carefully stitched together by me, and have a strong, adjustable strap attached which is long enough to comfortably wear across the body or on the shoulder. Inside the bag is a large, patch pocket (the same shape as a jeans pocket), and a small denim strap with a key clip. The bag’s front flap is closed using a very strong magnetic snap.
You have been sewing for a long time then?
For as long as I can remember. I started doing basic appliqué and tapestry about age 6, and first used a sewing machine aged 8. My great aunt was a huge influence on my sewing skills, always encouraging me and showing me how to do things. I also did a year’s sewing at school when I was 11. But mainly I learnt to sew through necessity - I made my school uniform skirts and dresses, and other clothes. Finally I turned to making bags because I found that I really enjoyed making them, and I liked the fact that I could make so many different types and combine this with my love of recycling fabrics.
Why did you decide to turn your creative skills into a business?
I had made some bags and attended a few local craft fairs over the Summer in 2014 and found that the bags sold well, and not just to friends and family. I was beginning to get orders from people, and I realised that there was a market for well made, well designed bags containing recycled jeans and beautiful showerproof fabrics!
What inspires and motivates you?
I love making the bags! I think it is great meeting customers, chatting to them, finding out what they do and don’t like about their handbags, seeing if I can make bags to fulfil people’s requirements. I want to make bags that can be used every day, that are affordable. I don’t want my bags to be “special occasion” bags, I want them to be everyone's “go to” bag as they bolt out the door to the shops, office or evening out. I’m also hugely inspired by the environment in which I live - West Clare on the West coast of Ireland. We often get 4 seasons in one hour, let alone one day, so bags that work in the wind, rain and sunshine are what result.
Yes, I feel that I could do with one of these in the Welsh Valleys. Where can we all find you online Sallyann?
I am on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter
Great. the Crafty Bs will come and find you I am sure! So is this year your first at the Handmade Fair?
It is my first year. I am SO excited. A friend encouraged me to submit my details to the organisers, and I was thrilled when they accepted my bags. I’m also nervous, like before any market or craft event. But they are good, excited nerves! Meeting my fellow stallholders is always exciting too - you meet so many like-minded people. I’ve made a lot of friends doing fairs around Ireland. I’m also looking forward to seeing Hampton Court Palace for the first time!
What are you most looking forward to about The HandMade Fair?
Being in such a creative environment with so many like-minded people! It sounds like the whole three days will be amazing.
Where will we find you and what will we find at your stand?
I’m in the East Marquee, stand E127. I’m in the middle of a row. I’ll be the one with the tall stand chock full of colourful bags and a big smile of my face!!
I’ll have my whole range of bags: large & small messenger bags, large & small cross body bags and zip top tote shoulder bags in the full array of fabrics that I use. I will also have my cute wash bags and wristlet bags, and as many of my purses made from recycled jeans zips as I can produce before September and fit in my car! I’ll be explaining how I make the bags, and how I fillet the myriad pairs of jeans to make each bag unique.
What will you be up to between now and The Handmade Fair?
I have a very busy Summer ahead. I attend a weekly craft market in the nearest main town to my home, in Ennis, and will be attending some other craft fairs in tourist towns like Cong (where the film “The Quiet Man” was filmed) and Killaloe.
From 3-8 August I am taking the bags on a big trip to the North of Sweden to a folk festival called the urkult Festival (http://www.urkult.se/in-english/). I am part of an EU-sponsored Creative Momentum project designed to encourage collaborative working between craft businesses on the periphery of Northern Europe, and I will be working closely with the most amazing weaver from Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. We are hoping to run a workshop together to encourage people to recycle fabrics. It’s an amazing opportunity, but it means I have to work super hard between now and then to prepare.
In the third week of August there is a national festival in Ennis, the All-Ireland Fleadh, which is a huge traditional music festival and competition. It will bring upwards of 400,000 people into the town of normally 40,000 people, so the market I am part of will be open throughout that week. I have a sideline in making the specialised bags for Irish traditional drums, bodhráns, out of jeans, so I will be making some of those specifically for the Fleadh. They are complicated to make because they have to be fleece lined and are cylindrical, so they are not exactly something I can rush to make!
Oh my goodness it sounds like you have an amazing jam-packed summer ahead. Well before you head of to get started, how about a quick fire round?
Your crafting hero?
My great aunt, Auntie Peggy. She could sew anything, from a new cover for an armchair to my wedding dress. She never threw any fabric away, and reused it in the most imaginative ways. I remember her making me a cape as a child, and it was lined with black out fabric left over from World War 2. She was never daunted by any sewing challenge, she just worked through it.
Name three stands you will be visiting at The Handmade Fair?
Sham City Roasters - I love my coffee!
Stupidcats - if you’ve been to my Facebook page you’ll know that my sewing studio is ruled by two cats, so this stand is a must for me.
Jenpatola - I’ve been fortunate to travel in India and South East Asia, and this stall promises to have beautiful textiles from this region. I’m particularly keen to see their collection of indigo dyed fabrics.
Your favourite handmade item?
So tough! Can I have two? Firstly, my spud bag, made by my Auntie Peggy. It’s simple, made from recycled furnishing fabric, and makes me smile every single time I use it because it was made by Auntie Peggy and because it works so well. Secondly, I have a friend who works with fused glass, Clare Beck (facebook.com/OrinocoCreativeGlass). She made me a fused glass brooch with a turquoise background and a copper foil cat as the design. It’s perfect and I wear it all the time.
Ooo we will let you off with two ;-). Your favourite place?
Where I live - West Clare in Ireland. It’s on the Wild Atlantic Way, and certainly lives up to that name when a storm hits from the Atlantic.
Favourite chocolate bar?
Anything with almonds in it
Three things that make you happy?
My family, my friends and sewing
Your biggest achievement?
Apart from my son? Getting Sallyann’s Handmade Bags as a business off the ground and running successfully.
Describe The Handmade Fair in 5 words or less
Exciting. Amazing. Creative. Encouraging. Inclusive.
Thanks of chatting with us Sallyann. We will come and find you at the fair (hopefully you won't be off at the other stalls when we stop by ;-) ).
Well, Crafty Bs, is anyone else thinking that with the current British weather, we could do with one of these?!
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