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Love Is In the Bag
Written by Kelly Kalb, Correspondent
2017-06-14

            A "labor of love" is how one area resident describes her passion for designing and creating handbags from stainless steel.

            Wendy Stevens of Pikeville, near Boyertown, has designed and hand 

crafted handbags and purses in a very unique fashion for the last 32 years.

            Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Stevens spent a portion of her 62 years in New York City, where she came up with the idea of using stainless steel and leather as the material for her creations. Her designs were inspired from living in a city thriving in industry.

            "In the early 1980s in New York City and Manhattan it was a creative time, lots of energy, and a bohemian feel," Stevens explained.

            All of Stevens' bags are made of stainless steel and pieces of metal with leather components. They are hand-fabricated by Stevens in the studio next to her home.

            The bags are created through a computer-aided design software program using Stevens' ideas. She then sends the design format to a company that mails her a carbon paper style copy of the punched out design. She dips the stainless steel sheet into a chemical wash that allows the material to be more pliable and, using her paper copy design, she is able to use several pieces of equipment in her studio to punch the needed design into the steel.

            Leather is cut to be used on the sides, inside, and straps of the bags. She cuts the leather herself based off of several design models that she came up with and applies the finishing touches. The entire process, Stevens said, from idea to reality, takes about 2 months.

            Over several years of developing and refining her craft, she began marketing and selling the handbags to stores that specialize in handmade items. Stevens has participated in exhibitions sponsored by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and The British Arts Council in London.

            Stevens noted that an important moment in her career was the receipt of an invitation from the curator of the Tassenmuseum in Amsterdam for a solo, comprehensive exhibition of her handbags. The museum acquired four of the bags for their permanent collection.

            Another critical point in Stevens' life came in 2004 with a devastating fire in her studio that destroyed a substantial amount of her work. By that point, she had acquired an expertise for her design and fabrication of the bags and was able to rebuild her business within a year.

            "I'm so fortunate because if I had stopped [making my handbags], I never would have been where I am today," Stevens said.

            Despite the setback, her client base has increased in size and, in turn, her company drew the attention of a national television show, "Handcrafted America", on the INSP network.

            After seeing her work on the Smithsonian Institute's website, the network contacted Stevens and asked her to be a part of their program, which highlights the work of unique artisans. Although she admits to not knowing about the show, she agreed to the endeavor.

            "They were an awesome group of people that were very thorough," she said, and added, "I am super passionate about my work."

            The production came to her studio to record the episode that will air in September or October of this year.

            The program's host, Jill Wagner, formerly of shows such as "Wipeout" and MTV's "Teen Wolf" remarked of Stevens' work: "[The bags] were incredibly unique and super functional. I was originally worried about how heavy they would be but they were super light. I think Wendy's purses defy trends. They looked cool in the 80's and they look cool today. I've never seen anything like them. I admire her spirit as a woman and her talent as an artisan."

            Stevens' next event is the Bridal Expo in Philadelphia at the convention center in January 2018. She has already started the bridal collection and will continue to add to it over the next several months.

            For more information on Stevens and her unique handbags, visit her website at www.wendystevens.com.


 

 

 

 

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