Interview with Hedy Peterson

Hedy Peterson makes beautiful, well-crafted handbags. I’m very lucky to carry a fun black leather bag with purple, red and brown suede polka dots that she designed especially for me. Many years ago, I met Hedy when I was looking for a bag to carry my portfolio. I couldn’t find anything I liked and she designed a stunning black bag with a heavy duty zipper for me.

I get lots of great compliments on my bags and I want more people to know about Hedy Peterson. Read on to experience her inspiring interview and see photos of her work. Check her out on Etsy.com!

Where can you be found on the web? Or out in the real world?
I’m currently working on a website: HandbagBoulevard.com which should be up before too long. I have a shop at Etsy.com under the name of hedilu. I also do open studio in Berkeley, CA on Saturdays from 10-5 so people can come see where I work and buy directly from me.

What do you create?
I design and produce handbags and small accessories mostly in leather. I also make a small collection of Christmas ornaments (mini-stockings and tote bags) that I originally designed for a group of decorators in San Francisco who were doing a charity fundraiser.

How did you learn your craft?
I mostly taught myself how to design and sew leather. There was not a school closer than England when I first started, so I just had to do a lot of trial and error.

Where do you find inspiration?
That’s a question that I have some trouble coming up with an answer for. Since I’m a very visual person, nothing escapes my sight and I think I synthesize much of that input. In other words, a beautiful pointy toed shoe and a brown and white puppy I just met may come together in my creative mind to become a brown bag with white stitching and a pointed flap. But, for me, it’s all about taking a bit from over here and something from over there and spinning it from inside myself. That’s the best explanation I have for it.

What motivates you?
I just love the creative process. I’m very motivated by the materials I use. A beautiful piece of leather or a sublime piece of hardware motivates me to get going and turn it into something else.

When did you start your business?

Sometime around the middle seventies.

What early creative memories stand out for you?
When I was about 14 years old, I asked my grandmother to help me make a purse and together, we made a beautiful little shoulder bag using crocheted pieces and cotton backing. Before that, when I was much younger, I used to gather up every toy and lots of other stuff (small pieces of wood, boxes, old thread spools and who knows what else) and set up my own little town on the floor of my playroom. It took up the whole perimeter of the room and took weeks to make. I still don’t know what that was about. Perhaps I missed my calling as a developer. (chuckle)

Why did you decide to start your own business?
I was working at a bookstore doing accounts receivable. I have no idea how I could have possibly gotten that job since I could hardly type and to this day do not balance my checkbook. But there I was..miserable in a job that didn’t fit me at all. One of my roommates had a booth at a cooperative craft store in Palo Alto called ‘The Artifactory’ and that looked very attractive to me, so with $55, I was able to rent a booth for one month and buy some clothes at the second hand store. I cut up the clothes and made them into skirts, jackets and shirts and sold them at the Artifactory. My first business was called ‘HedTrips’. It was a good name in the ‘70’s.

What do you love most about creating your work?
The feeling of being a creator is a hard one to explain. It’s the flow of creation through me that keeps me going. I guess it’s the connection to all of creation and the energy that created me and everything else. It’s the stepping into the flow. And I’d be lying if I said the outcome wasn’t important. Seeing that finished product after hours of doing detail after detail and working to get each one of those right is so great.

What’s a favorite book of yours and why?
I fell in love with the writing of Robertson Davies after I read ‘Fifth Business’. It’s art on the printed page. It’s clever and intelligent and witty and draws on the metaphysical in the storyline. All the things that draw me in.

What advice would you give to women starting their own business?
I don’t think I’d be giving too much advice to someone else other than to ‘go for it’. I feel like I’m still figuring things out for my own business. When I started, I didn’t have any idea at all how to run a business. I just knew how to create and I tried to plug in to marketing that fit my product.
OK — if I had to give advice, I’d say learn some basic business skills. Or find a partner that has business savvy if your forté is the creative part.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work?
The previous question spotlighted my biggest weakness. I think I’ll take my own advice and take some business classes.

How do you get unstuck?
I go and do something else for a bit. There’s nothing like gardening or doing the sanding on a wood project to loosen things up. It has to be something that takes my attention off the stuck area. If I just go for a walk, I just stay mired in the problem.

What’s your approach to balancing your time between work and life?
I have a set schedule for my work. Sometimes it flows outside of that schedule, but mostly it’s never a problem for me. If I have to be out of the studio for a time, I just make it up later. I have a tv at the end of my big cutting table, so if I find myself working at night, I don’t have to miss watching ‘The Office’ or any of my other faves.

What do you love to do in your free time?
I enjoy anything outdoors. I have a couple of bikes that I like to ride. I also really like to go dancing. Cajun/Zydeco is very cool. I’ve always been athletic, so any kind of sports or games is fun for me.
What are you working on right now?
About half a dozen different things. I always have a few things brewing in my mind, so when I finish with a project, I can pluck out another and get going on it right away. I’ve been producing a series of woven bags and I know I haven’t made all of those that will be in the collection, so for today, it’s that. Tomorrow, I may have a different answer.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your business?
How to be absolutely fearless in the face of great obstacles. I now believe that nothing is worthy of fear.

What’s your favorite quote?
All my favorite quotes seem to be set to music. I don’t have just one, but for the sake of answering the question, it’s this: “and, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” ~the Beatles. Brilliant.

Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks, Leah.

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