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yay retro! love Jelly Jam Vintage Bags!!
I am not a lover of handbags, however I do have an absolute addiction to the amazing bags made by Ellie of Jelly Jam Vintage based in Dorset. I have 4 of her vintage fabric bags and am sure to be investing in more of these wonderful creations. They are perfect for use as an everyday handbag, as well as being a handy shopping bag and 'carry all'. Here's a lovely interview with Ellie about her bags, inspiration and life in general!
Ellie tells me she is not a handbag person either, but has many customers like me who buy again and again: "I wouldn't know the difference between a Mulberry and a...um... see I can't even think of another designer bag name. I have a lot of repeat buyers. Believe me you're a mere beginner compared to some. I don't know how many my top customer has, over 30 I should think! I like that I've got to know lots of lovely people who keep coming back for more".
She says: "I have always made stuff since I was a little girl. I learnt from my mum and my grandmother, both of whom always had a project on the go. I remember approaching the local toy shop to sell felt mice and rabbits I'd made when I was about 13. I did quite well! I studied art and design and education when I left school and got into the groove of staying up very late painting and making things. My final art pieces involved textiles on a giant scale".
Based in lovely Dorset, Ellie originally sold vintage items at an antique centre for 16 years, however she gave it up last year to focus on the handmade side of things and to run courses from her workshop at home. Alongside being a busy sewing entrepreneur, Ellie has what she calls a 'proper' job. She teaches in a primary school part time, she loves the balance of a job that really challenges her mentally and emotionally versus the calm of two days a week to create her own things to sell.
Ellie says that she has a vast collection of vintage fabric and needs to sew and make items to sell so that she can justify buying more lovely fabrics! As well as making beautiful vintage bags, Ellie creates soft furnishings such as cushions, curtains, lampshades and quilts. She says: "It wasn't a conscious plan to make bags, I used to sell a lot more children's furnishings using vintage nursery fabrics, however trade has gradually shifted to bags. Now they are my main seller with other things such as lampshades and cushions going on in the background. These are more often bespoke pieces for people's homes".
Ellie currently lives in a 1930s house, she loves renovating properties and gets itchy feet once a house is finished. This is the newest house she's lived in and has had quite a lot of work done including moving the kitchen into a bigger room and creating a workshop for me in the old kitchen. The living room was the final room to be finished last month.... she says: "I waved goodbye to the horrible orange pine and marble fireplace and had the chimney breast opened up. There were nice original hearth tiles under the carpet and I sourced a vintage French stove which has been converted to bio ethanol. I've coveted these for years and am absolutely delighted with it. Fabric plays a big part for me when decorating. I'll plan the whole colour scheme around a cushion or a pair of curtains. The living room is where I've used lots of mid century fabrics in my favourite, blues, greens and mustard. They look great together and not too pretty".
Ellie like many of us vintage collectors, has some great collections of vintage home wares: "I've got a loft full of TG green polka dot china that hasn't been unpacked for 12 years! I have way too much stuff to display everything well. At the moment my kitchen is home to my most treasured collection of Kleen Kitchen Ware. This has been sourced over 20 years although I have probably only bought two pieces in the last six years. I like things that are practical and the social history surrounding them. I wonder whose kitchen they stood in and why anyone would need a 3 pint jar to store their ground almonds. Some jars are redundant these days. I don't know anyone who buys tapioca and sago so I keep other things in those ones. Other collections include old toys, Mobo horses, Magic Roundabout figures, Meakin Rosa china, nursery fabric, colourful shoes, 2cvs....(!)"
I think Ellie's photos are fabulous making the bags a 'must-have' item and encouraging me to buy over and over.
It's usually Ellie holding the bags in the photos, and occasionally her sixteen year old daughter steps in as a model. Her family are now very well trained in getting the best feet and bag shots! She says: "The sun comes out and I'll shout 'I'm just changing my shoes, can someone take a photo!' If I'm home alone I'll resort to the lovely old wall at the bottom of my garden".
To get the very best photo of her bags, Ellie has been known to take them on holiday or for days out! She's even taken her sewing machine on holiday with her. Recently she made a series of cactus barkcloth bags and wanted to photograph them with the right colour backdrop, so she took them on a day out to the Eden project in Cornwall.... She says: "I only got one or two strange looks but sold all four bags in a flash". She's also been known to take them to the woods, the beach, cafes, or to borrow a nice old car... "Part of the fun is deciding how to style the photos and I know my customers like them".
Ellie says that there are so many favourite items to choose from on the yay retro! online vintage shop, and particularly likes the bold designs on some of the 1960s and 70s children's toys I have for sale. The Galt squirrel puzzle, the lotto games, the sweetie tin are amongst her top picks.... "I'm a sucker for any Fisher Price (oops another collection) and if I didn't already have it would be snapping up the minibus which was a childhood favourite".
Going forwards, Ellie says that Jelly Jam Vintage will see the development of the workshop side of things, which combines her skills of creating and teaching. She offers workshops for small groups on appliqué cushion making and lampshade making with more courses in the pipeline. If you would like to see more of Ellie's work you can find Jelly Jam Vintage on Facebook here and Etsy here. If you fancy a browse around the yay retro! online vintage shop, pop in here!