Buffie King used to have a $300 a year habit. A purse habit, that is.
“I was a once-a-year-go-buy-a-good-purse kind of person,” King said. “I’ve always had a purse fetish.”
That was then. “Five years ago, my sister-in-law gave me a ridiculous amount of clothes that were dry clean only, that were from the ’70s.”
With the clothes, King started making her own purses — khaki and butterfly hippie-looking bags, black corduroy with paint splashed on it bags, striped linen with a wool diamond on front bags.
“Then you have the people who like the bling,” said fellow Down the Street gallery artist April Bower. That bag is white and has rhinestones with a black and white swash down the front.
King cut up a pair of old khakis to make the khaki bag. She kept the pocket she didn’t use. “I’m sure it’ll show up somewhere,” she said.
The adjustable strap on the black corduroy bag belies its origins as a pair of overalls. That bag, the “Sarah” bag, was inspired by a friend of the same name who passed away. The paint splashed on corduroy invokes Sarah’s style, King said. “I think she would like it.”
That bag, at $80, is higher than most of King’s other bags, which cost about $40. When asked if the higher price represents the bag’s sentimental value or an unconscious wish that it won’t sell, King said the price simply represents how much time the piece took to create.
An “out-of-date,” brightly colored linen striped suit ended up becoming the linen bag, the wool diamond on its front came from another article of clothing that a run through the dryer made fuzzy.
“My strap is always my stumbling block,” King said. She can never decide whether to braid it, keep it straight, or how to decorate it.
King searches yard sales and thrift stores for the bags’ embellishments. “I try not to buy much from the (regular) store,” she said, save for thread or other such items.
The khaki bag features a metal circle from a car transmission. “My husband’s tool box has all kinds of stuff in it,” King said.
Such features would make the bags difficult to mass-produce, but King has no such intentions. Replicating the bags would negate the individuality appeal.
The bags are only available at Down the Street Art Gallery. Selling the bags on the Internet would require posting pictures, which “robs the senses,” King said.
King wasn’t always creative. For 15 years, she worked as an accountant. “I didn’t think I could draw stick people,” she said.
Then a divorce spurred a mid-life revolution. King became an esthetician, giving facials and tattooing permanent make-up at the New Ewe in Payson.
She met a man who, King said, “inspired me to do more creative things.”
Though he isn’t an artist, King says her husband provides a good sounding board. He’ll offer advice — if a bag seems too plain, he’ll say, “Why don’t you add something?”
In sacrificing old clothes to create purses, King says she has never cut anything only to later miss it from her wardrobe.
“I always give it careful consideration,” she said. “Those lucky jeans that I hold onto, I’m still holding onto.”