FEATURED MAKER: Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags

FEATURED MAKER: Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags
Please welcome our newest Featured Maker, Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags! Gail took the plunge into starting her own creative business and now makes and sells beautiful, waterproof bags of all shapes and sizes. See more of her work in her Etsy shop!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

I grew up in the Denver area, and majored in mechanical engineering in college. I moved to the Seattle area to work as an engineer, which I did for 20 years. Eventually the creative urge got the best of me, and I left to start my own business. I enjoy crafting, reading, traveling, and gardening.

What do you make and sell?

I make bags of all sizes – from large laptop bags to tote bags, hipster bags, and wristlets. I also make other small accessories.

FEATURED MAKER: Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags #handmade #interview

What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

For many years I traveled extensively for business, always with my laptop. I had a laptop bag that I loved for its functionality, but like most laptop bags it came in your choice of – black nylon. I hoped to find something a little more colorful but that was impossible to find. It wasn’t until a friend of mine gave me a Fake Louis Vuitton Bag as a gift and said I should use it as my new laptop bag. It was perfect, as it meant I could have something other than the standard black nylon bag. As I used my laptop all the time, over time, the bag didn’t look brand new anymore and so I was then back to square one and using the black bag once again. I had had enough and all of a sudden decided to make my own bags. I am a creative person, so I had an idea as to where I wanted to go with it. Eventually, I tried one made from quilted cotton – it was pretty but didn’t hold up to heavy use. Back to the boring black nylon. One day I discovered vinyl laminated cotton fabric, and I immediately thought “Eureka”! This beautiful fabric came in designer prints, was strong, durable, waterproof, and easy care. It was perfect for a laptop bag – or for any bag. That was the beginning of my Rockabella Bags journey. Now I make bags that indulge my love of color and design. Living in the rainy climate of the Pacific Northwest, I love that these bags are waterproof – and they wipe clean. I hope that you love them as much as I do!

FEATURED MAKER: Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags #handmade #interview

What’s your process for coming up with ideas for new products?

I think of products that I would like myself that would lend themselves to laminated fabric. Sometimes people ask me to make specific things, usually these are already on my list. I have a long list of new products to try, and it is constantly growing!

Where do you look for inspiration?

Fabric – I love the color and design of fabric prints. Certain prints just reach out and grab you – that is what I’m drawn to. I also enjoy mixing and matching prints to come up with great combinations for bags.

Function – I’m in love with the beauty and functionality of laminated fabric. It is waterproof, wipes clean, strong and durable – and still buttery soft to the touch. Wonderful.

Design – I love to explore different designs for bags. Large, small, they are all good! Personally, I like to carry a small bag on a daily basis but I like to have options for special events or travel. Who doesn’t?

FEATURED MAKER: Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags #handmade #interview

What does your workspace/studio look like?

I have a spare room in my basement that I use as a studio. I love working in the basement because it is so comfortable – cool in the summer and warm in the winter. My studio window looks out over the back garden, and I always have music playing when I am working. When I started my business a year ago, I threw my studio together with what I had on hand – folding tables, etc. Currently it is very messy with not enough storage, so I’m planning to make it over in the next few months. I’m looking forward to a little more organization!

FEATURED MAKER: Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags #handmade #interview

What are some of your favorite tools or techniques?

Of course, my favorite material to work with is laminated cotton fabric. There are a lot of tips and tricks to sewing with laminate that can be used if you are working with it occasionally. If you work with it a lot, like I do, a walking foot for your sewing machine is essential. The walking foot also helps in dealing with thick layers of fabric which happens with bag making.

FEATURED MAKER: Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags #handmade #interview

Is your business your full time job? Or do you have a day job?

Rockabella Bags is my full time job.

What does a day in the life of Gail look like?

I usually spend around 2-3 hours in the morning catching up with email and social media, ordering supplies, any paperwork or organizing that needs to be done. Then I am sewing until around 4:00, when I pack up any orders that need to be shipped.

FEATURED MAKER: Gail Kirwan of Rockabella Bags #handmade #interview

Visit Gail’s Etsy Shop and follow Rockabella Bags on Facebook.

Thank you so much Gail for sharing your story with us! Want to be our next Featured Maker?
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