Longhorn Collection Handbags

Cowhide lovers, we've got a treat for you today.  Today's featured collection comes from JulieBeth Handbags, a Texas-based designer based in Houston.  Owner Beth Younger Purpich was inspired by the legacy of her family's cattle ranch for her 2015 Rodeo Collection designs, with the "Longhorn" bag as the key piece.  This year, the ranch is celebrating its 100th year in the family as a cow/calf operation, so Beth paid tribute to the iconic longhorn silhouette in these beautiful, handmade pieces, teaming with Rhed Lucy Jewelry designer Julie D. Stevenson to collaborate on gorgeous leather and hide combinations.

The result is a truly unique, one-of-a-kind, statement piece of a bag.  These spacious totes are perfect for nights out on the town, as stylish rodeo accessory, and make perfect laptop carriers.  Whatever they're used for, the Longhorn Collection bags are sure to turn heads.  The craftsmanship is impeccable.  Each member of the team of artisans boasts more than 25 years of experience in leather crafting, and each handbag is cut by hand and stitched with precision. 

Beth explains the steps involved in creating each handbag: "The process for making a Longhorn bag starts from the inside out.  We cut the lining, fillers, and reinforcements for the bag, which will give the bag its structure.  Next, the leather is cut, followed by the hide.  We pay special attention to cutting the hide and selecting a great pattern for the bag, assuring that no two bags are ever the same.  We love this aspect and so do our customers.  Once all the cutting has been completed, we begin the assembling, stitching and hardware additions.  The very last step is placing the horns on the bag, which serve as the handles."

Julie, Beth's business partner, also owns Rhed Lucy, a high-end Western jewelry business where she creates custom pieces and also wholesales to boutiques around Texas.  Each of her pieces is made by hand - she uses no casts or molds when building these beautiful sterling silver, turquoise, and native stone works of art.

To see more of the Longhorn Collection and order a custom cowhide bag, visit their website.  Julie and Beth have offered The Big and Bright readers free shipping on any handbag order using the code BRIGHT.  For inquiries about carrying the JulieBeth and Rhed Lucy lines in your store, contact Julie here.

Clothes shown with the Rhed Lucy jewelry are from the Double D Ranchwear Spring/Summer 2015 Collection.

Favorite Texas Tees

Texas Roots | Roadtrip Texas | Texas Towns | Texas Tumbleweed/Rivers

Of all the tees we've seen that show our pride for the Lone Star State - these are by far the coolest.  I mean, how genius are these designs?  Each one was created here in Texas and printed on super soft cotton blends for a vintage look and worn-in feel.  The Texas Roots shirt is a design by a Texan graphic designer and is on sale via The Cotton Bureau's limited edition tees.  This one's only available until April 7th, so get yours quick!  The other designs are by Tumbleweed Texstyles, a homegrown apparel company run by two Frisco, Texas high school teachers with passions for travel, art, design, and of course, their home state. 

I'd rather not choose just one, but if I HAD to - I think I'd go with the tumbleweed/river design.  As a current west Texas resident (i.e.: frequent tumbleweed encounters) who grew up floating the Frio and wakeboarding the Highland Lakes of the Colorado every summer, this one just speaks to me!  

Here's a close-up of the Texas towns design.  There are 187 towns included - can you spot yours?

HD West Custom Painted Leather Goods

When artist Amanda Richardson opened an Etsy shop at age 18, her hand-painted leather accessories drew lots of attention, but none to the effect of her first pair of custom painted boots.  Inundated with requests, Amanda now takes custom boot orders one at a time through her new business, HD West.  It's almost like Richardson is giving each pair of boots a tattoo - telling a story unique to the one who wears them, transforming the leather into a canvas through color and design.   These incredible works of art leave us pretty speechless, so we'll just let the pictures do the talking...

Hemlock and Heather

For this husband-and-wife team, a one-time DIY project for a charity donation sparked the interest of several proud Texans, and as demand grew, soon became a full-time endeavor called Hemlock and Heather.  Kris and Kelley are the faces behind this homegrown, handmade business, which specializes in wall hangings, headboards, and other custom projects using reclaimed wood.  We talked to the couple to find out more about the company and what goes in to each unique piece.

TB&B: Tell us about your ties to West, Texas, and how that town is intertwined with the creation of Hemlock and Heather.

K&K: Although we got our start refurbishing and building furniture, the focus of our business has shifted to designing and building one-of-a-kind wall art.  We began making our Reclaimed Texas Wall Hangings when Kelley asked Kris to build something "Texas-y" for a benefit she and a friend were planning for the victims of the West fertilizer plant explosion (Kelley is from West).  The wall hanging was a hit, and pretty soon the demand for the pieces was taking up the bulk of our time.  We make our wall hangings and headboards from 100% reclaimed wood that we scour Austin and the surrounding areas for.  Each of our pieces is hand numbered, signed, and comes with a detailed thank you card explaining what each piece of wood was in its former life and where it was found.  Making these pieces allows us to save wood that would ordinarily be destined for the city dump, as, as a writer (Kris) and photographer (Kelley), it affords us the opportunity to exercise our creative need to tell a story about our work.

TB&B: Where do you find the wood used in your projects?  What kind(s) of wood is it?

K&K: All over, really.  We use everything from discarded and broken furniture, old doors, siding, and flooring, to picture frames, old cabinets, and even broken children's toys.

TB&B: From start to finish, about how long does it take to construct each Texas wall hanging?

K&K: It depends on the size of the piece and intricacy of the design.  We've built 48" pieces that have taken two days to complete.  Generally speaking, from start to finish, an 18" piece takes about two to three hours to complete.

TB&B: What are some of the unforeseen challenges and rewards of running a business with handmade products, and doing it with your spouse?

K&K: Finding enough wood in a broad array of colors is always a challenge, and when we do find a large quantity, having enough space to store it is sometimes a problem.  The rewards are endless.  We get to make something with our own hands and send it out into the world and know that it takes on a life of its own.  We also get the gratification of knowing that we are saving wood from the landfill and giving it another life.  Some of the wood we use has already been repurposed a couple of times by the time it reaches our shop.  That's extremely gratifying for me (Kris), because I have always had a kind of unwitting affection for wood.  I've always loved the smell of lumber yards, and have vivid memories of going to the local lumber yard with my Dad.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I found out that my Grandfather and Great-Grandfather on my Dad's side were lumberjacks and carpenters, so I guess you could say that it's in my blood. 

The most gratifying thing about all of it is that it is something that we share.  We share the responsibilities and the rewards.  We make decisions together, work on designs together, and we seem to be at our best as a team.  The whole thing is very representative of our relationship and the way we feel about each other. 

It's all made from love, in the end, I suppose.

TB&B: So you've mentioned before that Matt's El Rancho is a favorite hot spot of yours -

what are a few other places you like to frequent in Austin?

K&K: We try to support local businesses whenever possible, so we've been frequenting Stouthaus Coffee PubTacodeli, and Kerbey Lane on the weekends, and our favorite local bar is Gibson Street Bar.  The great part about living in Austin is that we can try a new restaurant every weekend.  We're still getting through the list of new spots we'd like to try.  We recently went to a play at the Salvage Vanguard Theater and that was a blast.  And, of course, what list of favorite Austin hangs is complete without the Alamo Drafthouse?

Getting to know more about this couple and the work they do was such a joy.  Their passion for supporting all things local, as well as their own contribution, is inspiring.  To see more from Hemlock and Heather, visit their website here.

Desert Canary Design

"Where there is a will, there's a way" is a familiar mantra to Carly Melancon, owner of Desert Canary Design.  With a newly renovated but empty house to decorate and quite a disparity between what she'd envisioned her décor looking like and the realities of a young 20-something's budget (don't so many of us feel that pain!), Carly went to work on what she calls "furniture plastic surgery."  The term is pretty spot-on, and Carly has managed to turn her personal hobby of giving old pieces new life into a business for people "with ro-day-oh taste on a ro-dee-oh budget."  Running her restoration business in Huntsville, Carly has re-done custom pieces for clients all over the state.  Each piece has a unique Texas hacienda feel with a touch of rodeo flair.

TB&B: How did you learn the techniques for painting and reupholstering furniture?  Is it something you've always liked to do, or a more recent hobby?

CM: Refinishing furniture has been a self-taught experiment full of trial and error.  It all got started when my husband and I bought our first house and I had a very specific image in mind as to what our house would look like.  Imagine, if you will, the interior design images from the pages of Cowboys and Indians, combined with every Pinterest page related to "colorful hacienda," all smeared into one little house.  Then I very quickly realized the reality of my fresh-out-of-college budget vs. high-end home décor. But, where there is a will, there is a way.  I turned to the Internet to teach myself the techniques needed to create the pieces that I had envisioned in my house on a modest budget. 

TB&B: How did you make the transition from a doing this as a personal hobby to running a business?

CM: My furniture started to grab the attention of my friends and family, and I would do a few little odds and ends for others, but I didn't really gain the confidence to treat it like a business until about two years ago.  Our best friends' mom showed up at my house with a stock trailer full of furniture and basically told me that if I was willing to treat her like a client and not my best friend's mom, then she was willing to do business with me.  She was the push I needed to take the leap from hobby to business, and for that I will always be grateful.

TB&B: What are some of the craziest places you've found furniture for your projects?

CM: My poor husband has high-stepped across a highway or two to retrieve a chair out of ditch with me yelling, "High knees! High knees!" from the safety of the truck.  I have ventured into some shady places for a bargain, but the one trip that stands out the most in my mind is the dark warehouses in downtown Houston.  The gentleman turned out to be a very nice man and I got some really cool stuff, but my initial thought was, "Hmmm...this place seems familiar...

Oh that's right, Silence of the Lambs."

So aside from being pretty hilarious, Carly's got an obvious knack for turning forlorn into fabulous.  To see more of her work or inquire about a project, head over to the Desert Canary Design