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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — February 27, 2004


Wood River Valley
women tackle the
world of handbags

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 Filer.

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.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.