Do you know how sometimes, someone wants to give you a gift and they don’t know what to give? So they wrap up money and say, “Buy something fun that you really want. Don’t you dare pay bills with this!”
Several Christmases ago, Betsy Pozzanghera’s mother-in-law did just that. And Betsy, quite rightly, did NOT pay bills with the money, but took a leather making class. After successfully sewing her first bag from a pattern and purchased leather hide, she began developing her own patterns and designs.
“Once that first bag was completed, I wondered if I could use my old leather fashion boots as part of another bag,” the Spokane, WA, artist says. “The next bag after that, I used material from an old leather jacket.
“Then I really got the re-purposing bug.”
And so her business, B. Pozzitive Bags was born. (Betsy, by the way, is the “B” in the company name.)
“The majority of my creations use 90-100% repurposed leather (jackets, boots, horse tack, belts, etc.),” Pozzanghera says. “There are so many of those items, and if I can rescue them from the landfill, I will.”
Because the materials that she uses for each bag is unique, so also is each finished leather creation. Blue, brown, purple beige; suede or smooth; embellished with pockets, applique, buckles, and snaps — each bag is one of a kind and utterly distinctive. Often, the re-purposed materials themselves dictate what the finished creation will be.
“Each jacket (or boot, or . . . ) is unique and tells me its story. I get my inspiration from them one at a time,” Pozzanghera explains.
“I’ve cut one part of a bag from a jacket only to decide it is not right for that bag.
“Sometimes I see two or three bags in one jacket, so I make them one after another. But there are some jackets that have been in my closet for years, awaiting inspiration.”
Leather Is Not a Forgiving Fabric
Sewing with leather, she adds, is challenging, because the material itself is not forgiving. Once you punch, poke, or sew a hole, that mark is there forever. On the positive, or, er, pozzitive side, the material is strong, whether it’s super soft and pliable or hard and stiff. (She prefers soft and pliable.)
Over the years, Pozzanghera’s studio space has grown as the number of sewing machines she uses increases. Working out of a room in the basement of her house, she started with one machine, a portable cutting table, and an ironing board. Now, 200-square feet later (and she’d like more room), she has four sewing machines. Two are “regular” machines for standard fabric. One is for sewing canvas and light leather. The fourth, her new baby, is “huge, heavy, and can sew through an inch (yes, one inch!) of leather.”
Custom Projects Are Especially Meaningful
Some of Pozzanghera’s favorite creations are those fashioned as custom projects. Many of these use items from a family member, Dad’s old cowboy boots, for example, and result in a functional art piece that increases in meaning and memento every time it is held and handled.
Pozzanghera has sold her leather bags throughout the Western U.S. and Canada, and one is in Australia with a college student at Wollongong University. She has shown her work at festivals and art shows all over Washington, as well as in Idaho and Nevada.
That Christmas gift from her mother-in-law, the money that didn’t go to pay bills, has gone a long way. So . . . the next time someone doesn’t know what to get you, and they give you money, and they say, “Don’t you DARE pay the bills with this,” don’t pay the bills with it. Instead, go do something fun, and pozzitive.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.