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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Bratsacks Interview with Jessi!

August is packed with Back to School stuff, so we're going to get started sharing it with you right away. First up is Jessi from Bratsacks! She makes some of the cutest backpacks you've ever seen! Enjoy her interview. :)

1. Tell us about yourself.
I'm almost 35 years old. I'm a Work at home Mom, married to the most amazing superman in the world, Steve, for 7 years on July 12, 2010. I have two special needs children. Jake is 5 and is a person with high functioning autism. Manny is almost 3 and has a tumor disease called Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and he has brain and spinal tumors and is also afflicted with autism which prevents him from talking or communicating. I'm a dog groomer, and I've owned a dog grooming business for 14 years. I'm addicted to live music, and I've been to hundreds of live concerts, including 58 Phish shows. Phish is my favorite band.

2. If you could spend the day doing anything you wanted, what would it be?
I love my kids, but if you are saying "anything you wanted..." I'd probably ditch them and fly with my husband out west and see a Phish show (or a nice 2 night run, or a festival where they're playing) that was NOT on the east coast.

3. What's something our readers would be surprised to know about you?
I've studied the Japanese language and at some point I could functionally speak, read and write the langauge, thanks to a pilot program that was introduced at my high school. I traveled to Japan with some schoolmates only to run away from the group and explore the national forests on my own. My poor parents...

4. What were you doing before Bratsacks were born (a different job or a special degree, for example)?
I was managing my dog grooming business. I didn't go to college. I worked as a vet tech and dog groomer at a local veterinary clinic for about 3 years. I bought the dog grooming business right before I turned 21. I still own that business, and it is still pretty successful, though I only work for a very selective group of extremely understanding clients right now. Hopefully, when my children are in school more regularly, I will be able to build up that business yet again into a more substantial source of income.

5.Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for Bratsacks?
I was at home on "maternity leave" (do you get maternity leave if you're a WAHM?) and invited to a birthday party for another "crafty" mama's child's second birthday. I wanted to make something for him and had just made a backpack for my husband. I asked Steve how big a backpack should be for a 2 year old and he said "About the size to fit a Dr. Seuss book in?" and I literally used a Dr. Seuss book as my guide. The first Bratsack was exactly the same dimensions as the toddler size Bratsack that I make now. The pattern has not changed at all.

6. What about the name? Does it have some special meaning to you or something else?
When I started babywearing, it got into my head that I would make baby carriers. I asked my husband to pose for a picture with a fleece pouch that I had made. He picked up our son and said, "Hold on, Let me put this brat in this sack" and mentally I said "bratsack. thats a great edgy name for a baby carrier, I'll use that one day."

7. Why corduroy as opposed to other fabrics?
I fell in love with corduroy in the early 90's. ALL the hippies were wearing it and making patchwork from it. I sewed hats and dresses for the 1995 Phish tour, which I followed all around the southeast. I supported myself with my sewing. I love the texture of corduroy and it was a fabric that I was familiar with and experienced at working with. I basically took a "hippie" style from the late 80's and early 90's and tried to modernize it a bit for kids and adults. Some parents MY age totally get it.

8. Occasionally, I see mama bags pop up on your site, how often do you do those?
Gosh, I answer this question all of the time while returning customer service emails. I don't do "custom" mama bags because non-backpacks are my outlet. I literally reward myself when I'm actually one hundred percent caught up on custom orders and instocks by allowing myself to make a mama bag. I tell customers, "I may stock 5 mama bags next week, or it may be 6 months. I NEVER know." Those ideas often lay in wait for months... I LOVE making mama bags.

9. How do you come up with your design ideas?
I look at bags.. all sorts of bags. I watch ladies walk by at the local market and take mental note of what bags they are carrying. I look at what fabrics are most popular for baby carriers and boutique baby clothing. I find clothing at the thrift store and cut them apart and match them to my extensive corduroy stash. I can not draw out a "pattern" on paper for a new bag idea (like the recent "fanny pack wallet"), I just have to start cutting fabric and make it... then go backwards to create the pattern.

10. You use upcycled corduroy. Can you explain what that is and where you get it?
Upcycled is a trendy way to say "recycled" or "repurposed." Most of the time that means I buy corduroy clothing from the thrift store or at yardsales and cut it up.. which can be time-consuming and labor intensive. A WONDERFUL find is a corduroy couch slipcover or bedspread that is a HUGE piece of fabric that takes less time to deconstruct. Sometimes I salvage corduroy clothing that my family and I have worn. In fact, the first Bratsack straps were made from a pair of pants that were destined for donation to our local thrift store. Last Christmas my best friend, Melissa of Kindercarry fame, dumped about 200 lbs of clothing cuts from her clothing business on my sewing room floor. Small pieces that she knew would BECOME something because they were the perfect size for backpack lids and sides and pockets.. all corduroy in amazing rare colors not reproduced in at least 10 years. Its not like you can just buy any color of "new corduroy" from some magical corduroy shop, it is a challenge to find unique colors, and sometimes vintage and clothing productions from years past are the only place you can find a vast array of colors. Maybe if I wasn't so stubborn I could use other fabrics besides corduroy, but for now, I enjoy the hunt.

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