Saturday, September 26, 2009

INCrowdteam Interview 9/26/09 - Anita Hopper, a.k.a. refindoriginals

Do you like to switch purses when the season changes? Do you need a new back-to-school bag, or are you anticipating getting (or giving) a new handbag for the holidays? Well, then, meet Anita of refindoriginals!

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana and grew up on a farm located between Crawfordsville and Lafayette, Indiana.

Where are you now, and what led you there? I live on the East side of Indianapolis, in the Irvington area, in a lovely historic neighborhood. Actually, I guess some of life’s difficulties led us here, but we love the area and are happy to be here! My husband and I along with our three sons who are all adults and have their own families now, have lived in the Indianapolis area for a lot of years, but have moved around some within the Indianapolis area.

What's the origin of your shop's name? Hmm, well, as I remember it, one of our three adult sons and I were tossing around names. I liked something with “re” at the beginning because I use recycled materials to make my handbags. Since I have to “find” the materials we put those two together and came up with ReFind. I liked the play on words. We had other ideas but since the bags I make are all unique in some way I thought “ReFind Originals” expressed what I was doing pretty well.

What types of creations do you sell in for your Etsy shop? I sell handmade leather handbags and other accessories, such as leather cuffs made from all recycled materials. All of the handbags are lined with fabrics from cotton or silk garments that I find at thrift shops as well. It’s always fun to look inside a bag to see what’s in there. It seems I am always coming up with new ideas of other things to make and sell, but I have difficulty finding the time to implement all of my ideas. Right now I am thinking of doing some cool leather pillows, for instance.

What's your educational background, as it relates to your work? I am self taught, for the most part. I have been sewing for most of my life. I learned to make window treatments and had a business out of my home, designing, constructing and installing window treatments for 25 years. The way I usually approach learning how to do something is to learn by reading and by looking at things to see how they’re put together, then by trying it. I just research until I find the answers I’m looking for.

What’s your real-world job (shudder)? This is my real world job! I work 60 to 80 hours a week doing every part of this business. I decided about three years ago that I wanted to give this my best shot so I closed down my home interior business and began to focus entirely on making and selling handbags from repurposed leather. It’s amazing to me how much time this takes, and how much I still have to learn!

Does creating stuff run in the family? Were you taught things on purpose or by osmosis from prior generations? My mother is an excellent seamstress, even though she didn’t teach me to sew. My grandmother was very creative, and was always working on a quilt or working in her flower garden. Some fond memories I have of my grandmother are walking through her flower garden beside her as she told me about each flower, pointing out individual blooms and talking about the colors and wonderful scents. She also did beautiful floral arrangements, which we would talk about together. Inside, she was usually working on a quilt while we talked about all sorts of subjects. I don’t remember her ever formally trying to teach me anything, but I certainly learned from her. She had a tremendous impact on me.

How'd you get started creating? Like many, I started “sewing” clothes for my Barbie doll. I used to take scraps of my mother’s fabrics and wrap them around the doll and actually sew them onto her! My favorite subject in school was art. Growing up in a rural area, I joined 4-H and did craft and sewing projects. I learned to knit and do all sorts of needlework as a teenager. I took sewing classes when I was a young mom, as well as pottery and oil painting classes. I also refinished furniture. I have always been happiest when creating, and I was always trying to come up with some grand scheme to make money with my creations.

What's your muse, or what turns that little creative light inside you on? I have always loved handbags. I get ideas just by looking at them. Walking down the street in Manhattan really gets me going. I also have always loved antiques and vintage items. I feel especially creative when I am in the environment of a great antique or vintage store. I love thinking about how I could repurpose some old beaten-up item.

Do you use a regular sewing machine, or the kind of sewing machines that they use for car upholstery? I use more than one machine. I started making the bags with my regular home sewing machine. I quickly saw that if I was serious about purse making as a business that I would need to go out and buy an industrial machine. When sewing on leather it’s important to have a machine that has a “walking foot” so your stitches are even.

What if someone has a Naugahyde or “pleather” coat? Do you work with leather alternatives? I don’t find as much pleasure in working with leather alternatives. I have done a couple of bags with a little bit of “pleather" mixed with leather. It can look very nice and is very functional but I prefer the softness and feel of real leather.

Do you belong to any Street Teams other than the INCrowdteam? I do not belong to any other Street Teams. I haven’t been selling on Etsy very long and haven’t had time to really look into other teams. That said, I am the type of person that would rather not spread myself too thin, so I probably will not be looking that hard for other teams to join.

What's your favorite thing about selling on Etsy? I like being a part of something that is much bigger than I am. I like the opportunity for exposure that I might not have otherwise. I also think that setting up shop and keeping things going is pretty easy on Etsy because they have already thought so many things through, and they continue to work at making it easier and better. It all seemed very daunting to me before I actually got around to setting up shop and then I found that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I also like the learning opportunities through Etsy. So I guess I have more than one favorite thing.

Please recommend your five favorite shops from all of Etsy. This is extremely hard for me! I have so many favorites so far, and I haven’t really had time to explore the way I would like to, but here are some I really like.
1) fliptstudio
2) WhatOnceWas
3) Madrin Designs
4) tinahdee
5) Crispinaffrench

Show us three of your own favorite pieces, from your shop and work.

Wine Arabella Shoulder Bag

Purple Ruffle Clutch

Caramel and Chocolate Barrel Bag

Do you sell on consignment? Yes. The two brick and mortar shops I’m selling in are Blooming Dragon Emporium in Irvington and Gallery 116 in Fishers. I also sell on consignment online.

Where else can we find and follow you online? On my website and on Facebook.

How many purses, clutches, etc. do you have for your own personal use, and how do you store them? Is every closet in your home packed with pocketbooks? You would be surprised at my lack of personal handbags. I pick one and carry it forever. I’m always thinking that I need to be sure and carry one of my standout bags so people can see what I make, but I always want to sell those! I don’t have time to make bags for myself. However, I have made some killer laptop/messenger bags for each of my three sons. My husband is still waiting for his.

Anything else to brag on? I have had some wonderful opportunities in this category. An article in the Indianapolis Star about ReFind Originals, being interviewed on Fox 59 news, an interview by Tim "Treeboy" Bush on WRTV, and being featured in Body+Soul magazine this past June are some of the highlights. Some of my bags have also been chosen for some great treasuries on Etsy. Cool Moms Picks also featured one of my ruffled clutches in their Mothers’ Day gift guide. My "Woof Pack” was chosen by Modern Dog magazine for their staff favorites page. I’ve had some nice trunk shows at Marigold in Broad Ripple and Gallery 116 in Fishers. My ruffled clutch is going to be in the Fall Giveaway in Women’s Health magazine this Fall.

Last question... if you could have one Etsy-related question answered by some of the wise and wonderful pros in the INCrowdteam, what would it be? How do you keep the balancing act going with Etsy, art shows, custom orders and wholesale? Where do you find help when you need it? I have lots of questions for those more experienced than I am!

Thanks for answering all my questions, Anita! I look forward to meeting you (and your bags!) at our Hoosier Artisan Holiday Boutique on October 17! --- Stockannette


  1. I consider it an honor to be included in your "Top Five Etsy Shops"! Your handbags and pillows are beautiful! It is fun to create with "found" objects, isn't it!renessi

  2. Wow, this is about the coolest thing ever - I love your handbags. I'm a handmade bag lover for sure! And yours are beautiful. It is such an honor to be mentioned. Thank you so much. -tinahdee