the Handbag Muse
Sometimes you go looking for inspiration,
and sometime its dropped right in your lap. Fitting to her
shop name, the Muse, Shannon Hird stepped across the Craftygal porch
and came knocking on our door. After checking out her site, I knew
there was a good story or two behind the bags that were so perfect,
so lovely. From the Sara
denim bag with cheery contrast stitching, to the ultra-feminine
bag, the Muse has something for every gal in every mood. Join me
as Shannon reveals where the Muse goes for inspiration and how her
career has progressed.
Shannon was brought up in a creative,
freethinking household. Her father was an artist, as was his father
before him, though neither of them practiced art professionally.
She drew constantly as a kid, and recalled a specific time in 4th
grade when she got the chicken pox. "I remember waking up one
morning and thinking I have the greatest idea for a pair of
pants I would love to wear! so I began drawing clothes and
putting them on my little paper dolls. So I guess you could say
Ive always known what I wanted to do."
Craftygal: What sort or training
have you had, formal or informal?
Shannon Hird: I havent
had formal training as far as fashion goes. I studied art for five
years and I do have a BFA from the University
of New Mexico, but UNM doesnt even offer fashion courses.
I originally started out at Massachusetts
College of Art in Boston, but I never took one fashion-related
class because I got so caught up in the other courses they offered.
I took everything from silver smithing, to photography, to printmaking.
Towards the end of my college education (I finished my last three
years at UNM) I started taking the classes that I knew I could bend
the rules in. I was interested in pursuing fashion again, so I took
photography and printmaking, and instead of printing on paper I
started printing on fabric and making dresses out of the material.
I dont think that my professors liked the idea all that much,
but it provided the outlet I needed to start creating fashion before
I was finished with school.
As you can see, I had been jumping
from one art form to another and finding that after a year or two
I would get disenchanted with whatever it was I was doing at the
time. I was searching for something I loved that I could stick with
and develop and that would continue to make me happy and fulfilled.
Then a friend came to stay with me temporarily and she brought her
sewing machine. It was summer time and being a poor college student
I wanted to get some new summer clothes but really couldnt
afford them. So I decided to teach myself how to sew and I made
the clothes myself instead. That was over five years ago and designing
and sewing has continued to serve as a great outlet for my creativity
knew I not only had the ideas to begin creating on my own, but I
had the skills to produce my own creations."
CG: I understand you worked
as a costume designer/maker at a theater and some shops, tell us
about that experience... and how did that job lead into your current
occupation? What was the evolution there?
SH: I got the theater job out
of necessity, and I was trying to stay somewhat within the field,
but it proved to be rather boring. The woman I worked for was not
all that interested in teaching me how to sew better and she definitely
wasnt looking for any design advice or opinions. Through that
job, I got a job at a Costume
Salon (a very upscale costume rental store) in Santa Fe, NM.
I decided to take it because it seemed to offer a lot more creative
freedom. The job did exactly that, but I discovered two things while
working at the Costume Salon: one was that while I loved creating
these really amazing whimsical costumes my real love was for straight
up fashion, the second thing was that if I wanted to pursue fashion
I needed to perfect my sewing skills, which was not happening at
the Costume Salon.
I found another job working for an
independent designer in Santa Fe that specializes in Tango clothing
It was here that I found the perfect job and mentor to help me perfect
my sewing and the personal creative expression I sought. However,
the main thing I discovered at Tangoleva was that while I appreciated
all that my boss had to teach me I was longing to set out on my
own to design the way that I wanted to for my own company. I needed
to be self-employed working towards my dreams in the way I wanted
to go about it. At this point I knew I not only had the ideas to
begin creating on my own, but I had the skills to produce my own
CG: Why hand bags and not something
else? What is it about bags that captivate you?
SH: There is no easy answer
to this! The direct inspiration for making the first bag came from
some material I got while in New York City. I brought it back home
and let it sit on the shelf for quite some time. When I finally
went back to it, I realized that there was nothing I could make
with it that made any sense to me but a handbag. So I made a faux
fur leopard print messenger bag with this beautiful, lush burgundy
velvet lining. And when I wore it around everyone just freaked over
it. They loved it and I started getting orders here and there for
similar bags. As I continued to make more and more handbags they
just started to feel right. All the ideas and inspirations I was
receiving translated well into handbags. So that is the basic story
of the birth of Muse handbags. I enjoy creating other items; I also
have a real affinity for designing skirts. I would love to create
a line of skirts every season along with the handbags, but what
really keeps me from doing so is that, at this point, I am a one-woman-show.
I design, shop for materials, cut, sew, and produce almost every
single item I sell, not to mention the fact that I also designed
and maintain the web site as well. In other words I am a busy woman!
I dont know if Im ready to take on a line of skirts
until I can find someone who can help me out in the sewing department.
Id like to be able to focus more on the designing at some
point. I have found over the years that the part I love the best--the
part that gives me the most fulfillment--is the designing and seeing
that first sample finished.
CG: We are always interested
in where other cratygals find their inspiration for the specific
craft they are into... so what's your muse oh Muse?
SH: My inspiration comes from
all over the place. Sometimes I get a great idea walking down the
street and seeing a combination of colors in the scenery. Im
a dedicated people watcher, and sometimes as I sit and observe Ill
be inspired by something they might have on or a combination of
materials or colors they choose. I also have this strange obsession
with magazines about the home or interior design. I get a lot of
ideas from looking through these magazines. I think someday soon
I want to start a line of really cool pillows--in fact pillows and
handbags are very similar. People need to get more into pillows
as a design element in their home. Throw pillows are great interior
accessories. You can really change the entire room by changing the
throw pillows on your couch just like a handbag can change an entire
One of the main ways I get my inspiration
is through my dreams. I have always had very vivid dreams and it
is not at all uncommon for me to wake up and run to my studio in
the next room and draw the vision in my mind of the next handbag
I want to create. I just get a vision in my head and then I go about
trying to find the materials to make it a reality. Sometimes its
hard to keep up with all the ideas I have. Thats why Id
love to be able to find and work with someone who could translate
my ideas into handbags as quickly as I get them.
that some of my bags are less practical than others and they are
anything but a necessity, but honestly those are the ones I like
to design and create the most!"
CG: What does the handbag say
about a gal? Small vs. large... hand clutch vs. over the shoulder...
SH: As a handbag designer, I
have noticed that there are some women that just dont like
handbags. They dont feel comfortable carrying something with
them all the time. Its kind of rare but the situation exists.
Then there are those women who need to carry a handbag but it has
to be HUGE. Its practically an overnight bag. They carry everything
they can fit into it and nothing smaller will do. For this type
of woman, its hard for them to convert to the cute little
clutch but I believe they wish they could. Then of course theres
the woman who just adores the little clutches and evening bags.
She loves to shop for purses and probably has about a hundred of
them. This, of course, is my kind of gal. I realize that some of
my bags are less practical than others and they are anything but
a necessity, but honestly those are the ones I like to design and
create the most! I consciously try to design an equal number of
bags ranging from somewhat impractical but really cute, to the more
practical tote thats still stylish but fits into your everyday
life a little easier. Overall, no matter what size bag a woman carries,
the mere fact that she carries a great handbag at all says she is
thoughtful of fashion.
CG: What's an average day in
the life like? Or maybe an easier question is, what's the lifeline
of one of your creations like?
SH: An average day in the life
of a muse handbag would look something like this. It would start
with the vision of what I want to create. Then I sit and think about
the materials that would work best. I search around my studio to
see if I have what I need and if not I run to the local fabric store
or flea market to see if I can find it there. When I return home
Ill start on the pattern or check to see if I have one that
can be adjusted. (I make all my own patterns as well.) Then I start
the cutting, I get all my pieces together, and then begin sewing
them together. It takes somewhere between one to two hours from
cut to finished product in most cases. Fortunately when I have made
the same bag over and over it takes a lot less time. When the sample
bag is complete I look it over and see if I like it, see if there
any changes I think should be made. If there are, then Ill
start in on the new one, and if not then I usually test-drive the
new bag. I like to wear the sample bags around for a while to see
what kind of reaction they receive and also to make sure that they
are sturdy, practical, and comfortable. If they pass my test, I
make a new one to be photographed to post to the web site.
amazes me sometimes when I get an order from a boutique in Japan
and I think about the days when Muse handbags was barely a thought
in my mind."
CG: I see from your site that
your bags are sold all over the world in a handful of shops, how
did you get your product out there? Was it a friend of a friend
who knew someone who owned a shop in Tokyo, or was it more structured
and focused than that?
SH: All the stores that are
listed as retailers on my site found Muse through the Internet.
Thats the amazing thing about the Internet, you can sell to
boutiques all over the world right from your home. Right now I am
working on the biggest wholesale order Ive received and its
going to a boutique in Ireland. I also sell to individuals who find
me while searching the web from places like Scotland, England, Japan,
Ireland, and all over the United States. My biggest piece of advice
to someone who wants to get their product out there is to get a
web site going, register it on all the major search engines and
be prepared for business to come. It still amazes me sometimes when
I get an order from a boutique in Japan and I think about the days
when Muse handbags was barely a thought in my mind.
CG: What kind of crafts do you
do when you arent hand crafting your beautiful bags? What's
your current crafty project?
SH: I am one of those people
who love to get their hands on anything creative. Sometimes I get
really into painting--Ill run down to Hobby
Lobby and grab some paints and just go for the afternoon. One
thing I havent explored yet but really want to is furniture
restoration. This is probably spawned from the fact that Im
moving soon and we are getting rid of all the furniture we own and
starting fresh in San Francisco. At first I was thinking about heading
for Ikea and furnishing our whole house, but then I started watching
shows like "Shabby Chic" and "Trading Places."
Now Im into the idea of going to the flea market instead of
Ikea. So Id say thats my next crafty project.
CG: And now for some of our
Craftygal questions du jour: Prada or Gucci bags?
CG: Heels or flats?
SH: Flats--but I want to be
a heels girl! In fact I think when I get back to the city Ill
work on that.
CG: Is Madonna a small clutch
type of girl or a large satchel gal?
SH: Large satchel--she has kids!
CG: What about Bjork?
SH: Definitely a small clutch