Today for the Indie Artist Fixx, I am featuring Carrie Sommer, the owner & designer of Sommer Designs. Carries creates gorgeous handbags and women’s accessories in her signature classic style. Combining traditional styling with bold fabrics, Carrie’s design style is easily recognizable. Carrie’s most recognized design is probably her black & white toile tote bag—you may see others on the market, but Carrie’s was first and her bags are exquisitely made as well.
I love that Carrie adds a little bit of whimsy to her designs and comes up with the names for her bag designs from the Southern California area where she lives. They are so charming & exotic sounding to an Easterner like me, since where I live everything is named after some city or county in Great Britain. Carrie also makes lovely hostess aprons and lavender drawer liners, both of which I have featured on Indie Fixx before. Everything is designed by Carrie and made by her by hand in her SoCal home studio.
To learn more about Carrie and her wonderful designs, read my interview with her below.
1. What’s the name of your business and what do create and sell?
Sommer Designs – I design & manufacture a line of handmade handbags and women’s accessories, which includes hostess aprons and lavender filled fabric drawer liners.
2. When did you get your start and what made you decide to take the plunge?
I actually started Sommer Designs in 1999, as a web design studio. I had been freelancing for several years, in various ways, and was offered an opportunity to design a website for a local organization. Soon after, I started getting design inquires and I decided to make it legal.
In 2003, things had slowed down and I was getting bored & burned out on web design. I made a diaper bag for a pregnant friend, and once again started getting orders. My business was redefined nearly overnight.
3. What the design creation process like for you?
For me, it’s all about the fabric. My core collection doesn’t change – handbags in 5 styles, 1 apron style and 1 lavender drawer liner – I source fabric constantly for those items. It’s easier for me to have the set styles, and utilize the amazing variety of fabrics out there then to change my line each year. Really, I go with what appeals to me visually, and the fun part is matching up prints that are complimentary, but not necessarily matchy matchy.
4. What’s been your biggest, or one of your biggest accomplishments, so far?
Well, I’d be a crappy mother if I didn’t say it was my children! Despite everything, they’re turning out pretty damn good!
As far as business goes, I’d have to say my biggest accomplishment is any time I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and taken a chance. Most times it has paid off. A great example is Country Living Magazine – earlier in the year I applied to the ‘Pitch Your Product’ portion of their annual Women’s Entrepreneur Event in Chicago. This was a huge step for me! Dropping everything here and flying to Chicago, alone, to stand in front of a panel of editors and pitch my line. I was scared to death, but I did it; met some online friends and had a fabulous afternoon at the event.
Amazingly, out of (I think) about 125 ‘pitchees’, my business was one of nine selected to be featured! I am currently featured on their website, and my product will be in the November 2007 issue! I’m ecstatic about this! This was a great lesson to me in going for something you really want, because the payoff might actually happen.
5. Tell us one funny/goofy/silly thing about yourself.
Well, it’s kind of a family-wide goofy thing – our dogs speak; we have different voices for them, and they are incredibly sarcastic, and have the funniest conversations! Also, Wallace & Gromet just kill me.
6. What’s the best thing about what you do? And the worst?
The best thing is that I work at home around the schedule of my family. Also, that my business has morphed over the years to accommodate my lifestyle. The worst thing is that it is a 24/7 job that I can never shut the door on.
7. What blogs and mags do you read and what shops do you shop at? List as many as you want.
I’m not really into fashion magazines; I think they are too unreachable in terms of what the real person can afford and actually wear. I love home dec magazines; Domino, Blueprint, Country Living & Mary Englebreit Home Companion. It’s interesting, but to me, many of the styles incorporated into these magazines can be integrated into a wardrobe…maybe everyone has already realized this, and I’m just slow.
Online, I really love perusing Flickr and lately have really gotten into Wardrobe Remix. I love how it makes you stop and think about what’s in your closet, and unexpected ways of using color and pattern. I also read a fair share of blogs, and currently have about 260 in my Bloglines – if I miss a day, I have to go and mark them all as read or it’s really overwhelming!
8. Were you an artsy craftsy kid? If so, what kinds of things did you do?
I was more artsy than craftsy. I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, and I sketched constantly. My pad of paper and pencils were my constant toys…that sounds kind of pathetic, huh?
9. If you were stranded on a deserted island and you could have only one food or one type of food available to you in infinite quantities, what could it be?
Trail mix. It’s so versatile.
10. What does indie mean to you? You can give a literal definition, choose to be a little esoteric or a combination of both. 😉
Indie to me is someone who is stepping out of their comfort zone and putting themselves out there with their art or craft. It’s being personally involved in something that you are passionate about, and having a dream that you want so bad that you would rather try and fail, then not to have tried at all.
11. What are you reading, watching and listening to?
I’m not much of a television viewer, but do love The Office, Jon Stewart & David Letterman. I’m a voracious reader, but right now have nothing on deck – I’m really swamped and just can’t afford to get lost in a book. I listen to a very wide variety of music, but am an old rocker at heart! On my iPod: Counting Crows, Amy Farris, Neil Young, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Miranda Lambert, Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, John Hiatt…see? Wide
12. What are your inspirations?
I’m inspired by many things…color, pattern, people – especially people. Really, I’m inspired by all the women who are living by their own rules and doing what they love.
13. What’s next for Sommer Designs? Any new plans or products that you want to share?
I’d like to expand the house wares selection…it’s just a matter of finding