I visited the Quilt Museum in York recently to look at the wonderful Cefyn Burgess exhibition, "Migration" and to see the beautiful traditional quilts in "Warp, Weft and the Printer's Block". Both these exhibitions are well worth visiting, there is lots of fantastic work to see, and a trip to the Museum is never disappointing. If you haven't had an excursion to York yet, I urge you to go soon, the Museum and Gallery are a great resource, and the exhibitions are housed in a beautiful space. York is a great historic city, full of interesting attractions for all the family, it's very easy to get to, and I've now found you another reason to go! Whats more, it involves shopping, what better excuse could you need?
On my way to the Museum from the station, I walked up Micklegate and found a gorgeous shop! Bolsita, is a little independent shop full of amazing handmade bags. I love bags, and evidently Yorkshire folk do too! The shop is full of bags in all shapes, sizes and fabrics. From beribboned satchels, through felted handbags and ethnic shoulder bags, to embellished purses, you can find it here! The prices were very reasonable, and the designs were divine! There must have easily been a dozen I would have loved to take home.
The lady behind this lovely Bagpuss-like emporium is Sharon. She is the head designer for Bolsita, and produces many of the bags herself. She has a sewing area inside the shop, and the enviable situation where she sits and sews between customers. How cool is that? It looks like a lovely set-up, I wonder if she would allow me to volunteer for an hour or so, for fun! The range of products is diverse and doesn't stick to one particular style, Sharon and her second designer work in partnership with other Yorkshire craftspeople that specialise in different textile crafts, such as felting.
Sharon opened Bolsita in November 2008, bags and accessories are ideal for gifts so Christmas was very busy. The name of the shop was influenced by Sharon's past, she says "I lived in Spain many years ago and have tried to keep up and improve my Spanish ever since. I have a real love for anything Spanish so when I was searching for a name Bolsita seemed appropriate (it means 'little bag')."
"There are two of us who design and sew specifically for Bolsita and then I incorporate other people's work in different styles that I don't do. A number of designers working in partnership with Bolsita do hand felted bags and accessories."
I asked what Sharon looks for in a bag design, and she told me she is very responsive to comments in the shop. "I listen to what customers say about bags in general and new designs spring up from those comments. For example, I was working on shoppers and totes and people were commenting on wanting long handled bags to wear across the body....so the fabric satchel was born, which I love making!"
Sharon worked for the Council for a number of years, but realised that despite the steady income it wasn't really for her. Bag making began as a hobby but grew into a viable business when she realised that she wanted to work for herself. It takes a lot of guts to make those kinds of decisions, but I'm sure Bolsita was worth it. I asked Sharon how lucky she feels to sew in her own shop and her reply was telling! "I don't want to make people too jealous, but I can't think of a better way of spending the day. It is terribly self indulgent, but starting the day cutting out and designing and then sewing between customers is heaven. It's great not having to pack all my stock up every day and load up the van! And it's particularly wonderful when someone buys a bag hot off the sewing machine!! I look back on my days in the office and think 'why didn't I do this sooner?'"
Having your own shop is definitely hard work, and you have to be so dedicated and diligent to make money from craft these days. Even so, despite today's difficult economic conditions, Sharon and her lovely shop all seemed to be so much fun! I wonder if she could develop a franchise in the future, we could all have a mini Bolsita of our own! In the meantime, we'll have to make do with visiting, go on, take a walk down Micklegate soon! Make sure you take a worn out handbag with you, so you just "have" to buy a replacement while you're there!
For those of you not planning to visit York in the near future, Sharon tells me that we will shortly be treated to the new Bolsita web shop at www.bolsitabags.co.uk.