Wood River Valley
women tackle the
world of handbags
By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer
Watch out Coach and Kate Spade.
Wood River Valley women are tackling the world of handbags. The locally
made creations embrace the lost art of sewing by incorporating vintage
fabrics, costume jewelry and custom cut designs.
Nordic ski coach by day,
seamstress by night, Ali Deines works on her latest handbag. Express
Photo by Willy Cook
As an Alaskan teen, Ali Deines
began sewing with her mother and grandmother. Her childhood creations
included prom dresses, Halloween costumes, and bags. She continued to
sew throughout college, integrating the knowledge she gained as a
University of Colorado Fine Arts major into her work. Recently, the Sun
Valley Gallery began displaying Deines’ handbag creations, which are
sold under the Tigerworks label.
Hailey’s Vintage Gypsy also
carries two lines of bags made by Idaho women. The delicate Out of Hand
creations by Kristin Syms of Ketchum grace the walls of the small
vintage store along with Carrie Berndt’s label The Cat’s pajamas made in
All of the purses resonate with
individual style and personality. Each piece expresses a passion for and
understanding of art evident in the carefully selected fabrics, custom
cut patterns, chosen accents and range of design. Deines explained her
creations encourage wearers to "touch the art and see what it does."
The bags are a form of interactive
textile art embracing a common pastime lost with 21st century
conveniences. Deines explained that sewing "is lost art with our
generation. With the disappearance of tailors and the abundance of cheap
clothes, sewing as a way of life has disappeared." Both Deines and Syms
embrace the practicality of tradition and exemplify artistic expression
through their sewing. The tags on all of Syms’ bags read: "With a strong
attention to detail, it was made for you to enjoy as whimsical art or to
carry small essentials." Each of the artists hopes her bags enable women
to enjoy an artistic experience through practical means.
To encourage interaction with the
artistic expression innate in her handbag, Deines selects a range of
fabrics from playful oilcloth to luxurious golden tapestry, which entice
people to fondle art. Deines gathers everything from beige patterned
velvet to magenta boiled wool along her travels. She elaborated, "I am
making a bag from a pair of wool pants from the 1970s, which I would
never wear, but the pattern is perfect for a bag."
The size and shape of Tigerworks
pieces vary as much as the fabrics. Currently, the Sun Valley Gallery
displays a whimsical octagon design, a dressy handbag and slouched
U-shaped shoulder bag. Deines herself sports a messenger bag as her
briefcase. Forget Butterick, Simplicity or McCalls, Deines draws and
cuts her own pattern for each bag.
Syms’ Out of Hand creations also
invite admirers to touch the fabrics of her delicate bags. Syms combines
vintage fabrics with costume jewelry for her smaller-sized handbags. She
found her inspiration early in life sifting through her grandmother’s
drawers of costume jewelry. Now she says all the bags narrate their own
story and conjure memories of life before as a lady’s dress or scarf.
The vintage fabrics and eclectic costume jewelry are accented with
individual handles ranging from feminine pink ribbon to rounded bead
handles. The handles give a one-of-a-kind shape to each piece. As Syms
explained, "Each little purse is a different little friend."
Common to all of the bags is the
passion of their artists. There is a tangible magic in the custom pieces
reflecting the connection of the artists to their work. The connection
emanates from the all of the bags, making the custom purses essentials
for the fashion savvy.