Friday, February 11, 2011

Meet Susan of Designing

Susan makes really amazing one-of-a-kind purses out of used book covers. Her book purses are all super cute and all have character because they're made from vintage books. She lines each book purse with lovely fabric and adds extra details to make the bags stand out.

Tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Susan Temple and I live in Connecticut with my husband Charlie and our two corgis, Peanut and Tulip. I am a Graphic Designer by profession for over 30 years. I design marketing materials for all sorts of client including banks, hospitals, even a WNBA team, and I love my job. And I also LOVE to make book purses!

When did you first start crafting?

I’ve been crafting for as long as I can remember. I always knew I would do something creative. When I was young I wanted to be the person who illustrated the sewing pattern catalogs. The ladies at the fabric shop would save the out dated catalogs for me and I would draw the pictures over and over. I learned to sew when I was 13 and I made all my clothes for years. I made coats, suits, even a bathing suit once. I love to hand make! The satisfaction of saying I made that, the choosing of the materials, the creative process, it’s all therapy for me.

Please describe your work in detail. What’s your favorite type of crafting/art?

Right now my favorite craft is my book purses. But I have gone through periods of different crafts. I do a lot of jewelry. For years I cross stitched. I love decorative painting. My husband bought me a jig saw one year! But my first love remains fabric and sewing. Although I don’t really sew the book purses, my understanding of construction has really helped.

I hunt for books in used book stores, salvation army depots, yard and tag sales. I never, ever use new books because I respect the original intent of a book. It’s meant to be read and cherished. But after that, why should it sit on a shelf collecting dust? However, rare and fist edition books are also a no-no in my book (pun intended). Those are special and should remain intact. There are some gorgeous old readers I found that would make incredible purses, but no way. They need to remain intact as a reminder of our heritage.

My creative process is Zen like... I get into a groove and before I know it hours have passed and I hardly knew it. I have a little transistor radio that I put on NPR and just zone out. I am incredibly lucky that I have a ‘craft room’. I am also extremely lucky that my husband is a very talented cabinet maker. I had a craft cabinet that was around 25 years old and it was literally falling apart. He recreated (and improved on) a new cabinet for me. And come to think of it, having that new cabinet gave me the space and comfort to really explore my craft. I am very blessed.

How has your work evolved from your earlier work?

In terms of my book purses I have become faster, my decisions are easier to make because I’ve paid attention to the process. I know what works and what doesn’t, and I know that I need to stay true to myself. I have only been doing these purses for a year and just recently I feel as if my “apprenticeship” is over and now I am reading to explore the next level. I’ve been experimenting with embellishments and options for handles. I am working on designing my own handles out of reclaimed wood. It doesn’t take a lot of fabric to make a book purse so I’ve been keeping my eye out for fabrics from thrift stores. If a shirt is made of a beautiful fabric, why not? The more recycling the better.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I was inspired to create my first book purse by my sister, who is an avid reader and aspiring writer. For her birthday her husband gave her a Kindle. My thought was-- what a perfect way of transporting a Kindle than in a purse made from a book cover. I gave her the purse as a gift and she loved it. Her reaction made me decide to make a few more, just for myself. But then an obsession was born! What keeps me inspired are the covers of the books and fabrics, some are plain but to me I see the possibility of adding this fabric and that ribbon, envisioning the final purse. Nature inspires me, I find the seasons in New England to be my inspiration lately.

Where are your products sold (online/stores)?

I sell my book purses online in my Etsy shop. They are also available at a gallery in New Haven, CT called Elm City Handmade. And I am very excited to announce that they will also be available this spring at The Flying Pig Gallery and Greenspace in WI. I also sell by word of mouth, and through connections on Facebook. It’s growing everyday.

What advice can you give other crafters when selling their items?

I’ve sold things that I’ve made on occasion, but nothing I made was ever accessible enough to market. My father was always encouraging me to sell my crafts, but it’s really hard to make any money from crafting. You have to work super fast with materials that don’t cost a fortune to be able to meet a price point people can afford. My book purses were the one thing that put me where I could make a modest profit and put out an affordable product. But the best thing about any craft is the enjoyment of doing it and I really enjoy making the purses. It marries all my skills as a graphic designer and crafter in one unique item. Plus my love for books! If there is one thing I am guilty of it is I WILL judge a book by its cover. As a graphic designer I just can’t help it.

One thing I know for sure is if you want to succeed, you must love what you do. You also must be the best at it and price it correctly. Never, ever sell work you are not proud of.

Describe yourself in three words:

I was going to say Very, Very Loud... but instead... Caring, Logical and Talented

Is there is anything else you’d like to share with us?

I think the best thing I learned about this particular journey is to overcome my fears. I worried that people wouldn’t like my purses, or they wouldn’t be good enough. I really had to move though that in order to set up my Etsy shop. My friends and family are incredibly supportive with their advice and compliments, which really helped. I cannot stress this enough-- do what you love. If you love it, and that’s all you get out of it, then you are far ahead in the game. That’s my advice... Oh and always keep a bowl of ice water on your craft table when using a glue gun! Happy crafting.

You can find Designing online at the following places: Designing on Etsy Designing on Facebook

This post was contributed by Heather of Texas Vintage Things.

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