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Washington Voices

Record album purses a hit

Spokane artist Lisa Allen incorporates vinyl record albums and their covers into her custom-made purses. (Dan Pelle)
Spokane artist Lisa Allen incorporates vinyl record albums and their covers into her custom-made purses. (Dan Pelle)

Colorful hand-made handbags are beginning to attract fans

A couple of years ago, local artist Lisa Allen was trying to come up with some good Christmas presents to make her girlfriends. Someone had recently given her a stack of old record albums picked up from a garage sale. She had a lot of fabric lying around, so she decided to combine the two, and that’s how Allen came up with the idea for record album purses.

“I’m not sure exactly how it happened,” she said, laughing. “My friends and I used to have what we called girls’ poker night. What we did was open a bottle of wine and watch Project Runway, so I had all those fashion ideas floating around my head.”

Allen’s album purse features see-through pockets on the front and back that fit an LP or an album cover. She makes them using all different types of fabric, and after experimenting with a couple of different designs over the past four years, she’s found a good model.

The round purses are roomy enough to be used for work, and they are sure to draw attention – at least from folks who remember LPs.

“They’ve kind of taken over my life,” Allen said. “One night when I was out, 13 people in three hours came up and asked me where I’d gotten my purse.”

The LP purses aren’t available in any local stores, yet. Allen said she’s working on putting a business together with some investors, to make it possible to market the purses better and get a studio.

For now, she works out of her South Hill home.

“I’ve really got to get my studio out of here,” she said, gesturing at purses, fabric and clothing on display around her tiny living room. Until that happens, the purses may be ordered through her website.

Sometimes clients bring in their own fabric.

“They’ll say, ‘This is the last pillow from my favorite couch, can you use that?’ ” said Allen, who also had a woman bring in a worn-out leather jacket she then used to make a purse. “And people bring in albums from special occasions, like the concert where they met their husband. I hear a lot of cool stories.”

She’s not sure why the purses have been such a hit, except that people “of a certain age” remember albums and what a big deal they were. As an artist, Allen said, she always dreamed of having her art on an album cover and when she began making the purses it was important to her that she didn’t deface the albums in the process.

“You saved up all your money to buy them back then,” Allen said. “I didn’t want to punch holes in them or anything like that.”

Allen’s favorite medium was always drawing. She grew up in Gary, Ind., and went to Indiana University.

About 20 years ago, she moved to Spokane to better be able to spend time with her mom, who was diagnosed with cancer.

“They gave her a very short time to live,” Allen said. “But she lived 10 more years. I’m glad I was here for that.” Allen said both her mom and her sister – both of whom have now died – were great seamstresses.

“I was always drawing and they were sewing,” she said. “Now, when I struggle with the sewing machine, I have a feeling they watch over me and laugh a little bit.”

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