As the first of my Bohemian Bag Workshops comes to a close, I have been reflecting upon my fascination with this humble little accessory. Where does my interest stem from and why is it that a beautifully beaded or embroidered bag can put a smile on my face and get my heart racing?
For as long as I can remember, I have been attracted to beaded and embroidered bags and as a young girl growing up in Botswana, I remember being enthralled by the beaded leather pouches of the San, and recall with great clarity, seeing an exquisite example of one, framed upon a friend’s wall.
These artifacts left an indelible mark on my psyche and much of my textile work has been inspired by these beautifully crafted, functional little artworks. When I page through any of the lavishly illustrated African art coffee table books that stand upon my bookshelf, it is invariably the images of bags that attract me, be they the sumptuous leather camel bags of the Tuareg or the richly coloured, beaded medicine pouches of the Yoruba diviner.
Over the years I have gathered a small collection of my own, and amongst my most prized possessions is a small leather wallet with metal- studded tassels, typical of those worn by the men of the Fingo tribe of South Africa.
On a trip through the USA during the 1990’s, I was totally enthralled by Native American beadwork, and loaded my suitcase with books on the subject that I have looked at and been inspired by over and over again. The little pouches, with tassels and elaborate beaded patterns, never failing to excite me. At a pueblo I visited in New Mexico, I was able to acquire a small little pouch that now hangs upon my wall.
Then a trip to Sweden, took me through the museums of Stockholm and I discovered embroidered purses like I had never seen before.
That set me off, and for the week that followed, my friend Janet and I sat at her dining room table, piled high with fabrics, felt and embroidery silks, creating our own little gems.
And then I came upon gypsy bags, those colourful, quirky, assemblages of beads, buttons, tassels and trims, and knew that I just had to have one for myself, but as Grahamstown is not exactly a hippie hangout, I realized I would have to make my own…
That’s how the workshop was born and judging by the enthusiasm of my first group of bag making students, I can see there will be plenty more workshops to come.
So, what is it that makes a woman love a beautiful bag? Like shoes, many women are attracted to them like magnets. Is it because they carry our most precious possessions, our documents and money that prove who we are and give us the freedom to move through our daily lives? Possibly, but there is definitely something more, and it’s in the process of making one, that I discover a whole new layer of meaning. The process is both absorbing and healing, a kind of meditation that takes one away from the troubles of this world. But beware, it can also become addictive and often, whilst I’m working on one, there is another forming in my mind!
Over the years I have created numerous bags, pouches and purses, for a variety of different reasons and so for the purpose of this post, went digging in my archives to find a few to share. My bags are not always practical, but usually soulful, symbolic and tend to reflect the place, both emotional and geographical that I was in at the time I made them. If you click on the images below, you can enlarge and enjoy:
In my next post, I will bring you some of the action and outcomes from the first of the Bohemian Bag Workshops. I have another one planned for November, so if you feel like escaping the madness out there and joining us for two days of soothing, healing therapy, please let me know.