Throughout two decades of creating and making my handbags, the commitment and passion for my work grows. The concept for making handbags in metal began in 1983 in New York City, where an inner artistic potential was triggered by the variety and use of industrial materials that surrounded me daily in the city. Working intuitively, in an environment of artistic friends, I began to create an original, unique style, resulting in a modern, durable and versatile accessory.
After several years of development and refinement, I began to market and sell my handbags to stores in the design and handmade realms. I also participated in exhibitions sponsored by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and The British Arts Council in London. I began to grow a diverse and consistent client base.
A critical turning point in my career was when a fire completely destroyed my studio in 2004. With the expertise I had acquired up to that point in the design and fabrication of my bags, it was clear to me that I had to pick myself up and begin again. Within a year, I rebuilt a more efficient, consolidated studio for my business with the primary focus being the production of refined, metal handbags.
Another important landmark in my career was the invitation from the curator of the prestigious Tassenmusuem in Amsterdam in 2010 for a solo, comprehensive exhibition of my handbags. The museum then acquired four of the bags for their permanent collection. This experience enriched me greatly as it placed my work in a relevant, historical context.
All of my bags are made of stainless steel with leather and metal components and are hand fabricated and assembled in the refurbished production facility outside of Philadelphia. The use of stainless steel as the primary material has been effective in the strength, form and longevity of the product. When paired with the leather elements, the handbags become user friendly and ultra functional. Maintaining quality and precision in the fabrication of each piece is crucial. As the handbag collection evolves, possibilities for creating new models with diverse shapes, sizes and textures seem limitless.
Watch Wendy Stevens discuss her handmade metal purses with Pimm Fox on "Taking Stock."
American Craft caught up with artist Wendy Stevens at the ACC Show in Baltimore to talk about her handbags, how she got started, and the materials.
Photos by Miana Jun and Stuart Tyson
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