Tips & How To

The following links are from past posts that detail how I created my memorial purse for my grandmother and some inspiration posts to help you get started. Remember, the sky is the limit with creativity, so don’t be limited to my suggestions. Any style or technique is welcome! Try something new and make your purse truly unique and fitting to your beloved female lost to cancer.

The steps I took in creating the purse in memory of my grandmother: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/making-an-altered-purse-for-the-purses-project/

A short writing activity to prompt memories: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/making-an-altered-purse-for-the-purses-project/

Preparing a purse for paint: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/making-an-altered-purse-for-the-purses-project/

How to begin a purse for the project: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/getting-started-on-a-purse/

How I added my grandmother’s name to the purse with hand-stitching: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/adding-her-name-how-to-a-clumsy-attempt-at-sewing/

How to add personal objects to the purse: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/adding-personal-objects-to-the-purse/

Where to find a purse: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/where-do-i-find-a-purse/

Inspiration for adding lettering to the purse: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/inspiring-lettering-adding-her-name-to-the-purse/

How to do a Citrasolv transfer with lettering: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/how-to-transfer-images-or-lettering-with-citrasolv/

For more inspirational purses and helpful techniques, connect to The Purses Project on Pinterest (click the Pinterest button to the top right side of this page)

If you have any questions, please click on the About Me/Contact Me link on my homepage. I will happily answer any questions.

How to make an Altered Purse for The Purses Project

The Purses Project is a community arts project inspired by my grandmother who I lost to ovarian cancer. It is my goal to reach out to others who have lost a significant female to cancer and embark on a creative journey together by creating altered purses that tell the story of our remarkable women (our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, friends and mentors) lost to cancer. Join me by creating an altered purse which creatively shares the amazing life story of your beloved and significant woman lost to cancer. In sharing your loss, you reflect and continue her abiding legacy.

mixed media/altered purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project

mixed media/altered purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project


I’m sure my grandmother would be embarrassed by the attention but the second altered purse in her honor is finished! In this post, I wanted to detail the how-to’s and some of the things I learned along the way. The question you may be wondering is–
Why TWO purses? Just how many purses do I have to make for this project?
You only need to make ONE purse, but I wanted to experiment, learn mixed media techniques and be able to offer a little advice to purse makers so I decided to have double the fun! Creating an altered/mixed media purse reflects the trend among women in scrapbooking, art journaling, mixed media art and various other creative ways preserve memories and tell our stories. The truth is women are creating like never before and mixed media is a popular form of feminine expression.

Now, let’s begin the tutorial
1. Go on a treasure hunt: First, find a purse that belonged to your significant female. If one is not available, scout out purses at Ebay, antique stores, clearance bins, Goodwill or garage sales. Next, Gather a few photos, memorabilia, objects, etc. that belonged to your significant female. Gather other favorites things like songs, colors, accessories, sayings, etc. Shop your local craft store for fun embellishments like stamps, scrapbook paper, etc.

Goodwill purse

Goodwill purse


My photos

My photos


A few crafty supplies

A few crafty supplies


2. Wipe the purse surface with alcohol. Lightly sand the purse, tape off any areas you do not want to paint and apply a coat of gesso to the desired areas. (This step can be optional depending on how you choose to do your purse. You can also simply start attaching photos with Mod Podge to the purse surface but if you plan to paint, you will need to gesso the surface first). Allow to dry.
Gather a few supplies for painting your altered purse

Gather a few supplies for painting your altered purse


Tape off anything you want unpainted

Tape off anything you want unpainted


Apply one coat of gesso

Apply one coat of gesso


Let it dry by propping open the painted areas

Let it dry by propping open the painted areas


3. Now the fun part–start painting, gluing scrapbook papers, stamping, etc. I created a basic background by quickly painting with yellow, white and purple acrylic paint and allowing the colors to blend together. I used white spray paint with a vintage doily and confetti ribbon to make interesting texture on the background. I also attached bits of an old lace curtain with Mod Podge.
Lace on altered purse

Lace on altered purse

Quick and simple background for altered purse

Quick and simple background for altered purse


Spray paint over a doily for interesting texture

Spray paint over a doily for interesting texture


4. I made black and white and color copies of my photos and used Mod Podge to adhere the copied photos to the purse. Play around with the arrangement of photos and objects until you feel satisfied, then glue. I created a mixed media portrait of my grandmother by gluing the copied photo of her to scrapbook paper (w/Mod Podge) then once dry, painting over the photo with thinned down acrylic paints. The butterfly wings are adhesive backed canvas pieces purchased from the scrapbook section at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. I painted the wings with acrylic paint and outlined with glitter paint. I added the stitch lines and wrote my grandmother’s favorite saying “Be Pertty” in black gel pen.
Detail of portrait. Mixed media/altered art purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project

Detail of portrait. Mixed media/altered art purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project


5. Here’s a little tip: the leather purse needed a little support while I was working on it especially to keep it flat when I was gluing on the photos so I inserted a stack of magazines into the purse keep it firm while working and for drying.
6. I printed my grandmother’s full name out from a word document. You can use the lettering as is, cut it apart and glue it down. In my case, I printed the lettering in MIRROR IMAGE (an option when selecting to print) and did a Citrasolv transfer on to canvas paper. I will post the steps for this fun technique in my next post. I detail how I did the stitching around her name in the this post: https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/adding-her-name-how-to-a-clumsy-attempt-at-sewing/
Name on altered purse done with Citrasolv transfer

Name on altered purse done with Citrasolv transfer


6. The other paper items like the restaurant check (my grandmother was a waitress) and a photo of her vintage Falcon are all attached with Mod Podge. Heavier and more dimensional items like the spoon and yellow roses are attached with E6000.
Attach paper with Mod Podge and heavier items with E6000

Attach paper with Mod Podge and heavier items with E6000


7. I hand painted the powder puffs (from the Coty face powder my grandmother used) and the coffee stains on the restaurant check. I added another coat of Mod Podge to seal the surface and keep everything well attached. I outlined the edges of the purse with black glitter paint (reminiscent of the sparkly black glitter heels in my grandmother’s closet) and let everything dry overnight.
detail of 2nd purse in honor of my grandmother

detail of 2nd purse in honor of my grandmother


8. To finish I added two more items to symbolize my grandmother’s life as a landlord and my adoption in to her family. I added the vintage key with a simple jute string and created an altered tag signifying my adoption by my father (a loving sacrifice by my dad that indicates the character she instilled in her children). I Mod Podged a small copy of my birth certificate on to a canvas tag and used parts of the certificate to create a ladder (a symbol of my dad’s profession as a paint contractor) and attached a copy of my hand from childhood reaching for the ladder.
Mixed media tag for altered purse

Mixed media tag for altered purse

Key on altered purse

Key on altered purse


And Finished! It’s as simple as that. Why not create your own unique version today? Remember, this is MY creative expression–you may want to explore a totally different avenue like sewing and IT”S ALL GOOD! You will discover new things about your beloved female as well as yourself!
mixed media/altered purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project

mixed media/altered purse by Jamie Howell for The Purses Project


Making a purse for the project is not only about your significant female but can provide healing for unresolved grief. Trust me, I was the first one that said,
“Oh, I can do this. My grandmother died over 20 years ago, I’ve already dealt with it”.
I can’t begin to tell you how healing and empowering making the purse has been for me (creativity and healing is well documented). Everyone’s journey will be different, but I would love to hear your story of creativity and healing through this project.
Many thanks for your time with me today.

Live Creatively,
Jamie

Her personal objects as a Life Map

After you’ve collected your photos and sparked your memories with the Life Imprints questions (https://thepursesproject.wordpress.com/category/recalling-memories-life-imprints/), NOW WHAT?
Adding personal objects belonging to your significant female can help to create a life map revealing more about her character, culture, career, passions, beliefs, etc.
Consider adding 3D objects and/or photocopied items such as:
personal items for purse
-Handwriting from documents, letters, cards, recipes, etc.
-Pieces of her favorite clothing or fashion accessories
-Pieces of home textiles such as bedding, tablecloths, doiles, lace sheers, etc.
-Jewelry or bits of broken jewelry
-Pages from her favorite book
-Keys to important places (home, vacation home, etc.)
-Awards, degrees, honors, etc.
-Pieces of her favorite game
-Her favorite song or poem
-Map of her favorite place, where she was born, etc.
-The container of her favorite cosmetic item (emptied of any remaining product that could melt or spill)
-Objects found in her purse (the contents of a woman’s purse are highly personal and can reveal much)
-Her favorite trinket or decorative item
-Her favorite flower or nature item (the scrapbook section of Michael’s has great 3D flowers)
-Travel mementoes
-Her favorite saying, mantra, etc.
The list could go on and on, but you get the idea–not just her life in pictures but the things she touched and treasured as a woman.
All these items can be attached to the purse by using Mod Podge (lighter items), gel mediums or the ever awesome E6000 (heavier items)Here are some things I collected for my grandmother’s purse

My collection of objects that represent my grandmother

My collection of objects that represent my grandmother


As you can see, there’s everything from old lace sheers, scrapbook paper, keys, trim, roses, etc. I didn’t pick any items carelessly and each one signifies something about her life. For instance, the keys on her purse signify her role as a landlord, the roses were her favorite color and flower, the typewriter keys (spelling out her name) remind me of the old typewriter I played on at her house, and the restaurant receipt points to her job as a waitress.

Here they are on the completed purse

My completed purse for The Purses Project (Jamie Howell)

My completed purse for The Purses Project (Jamie Howell)

A note about adding things you truly love and want to keep:
The objects that remain after someone has passed often bear new meaning and serve as relics. These are objects we want to preserve, pass down or simply keep for our own memories. Don’t include these lovely items on your purse, instead think how you could buy a reproduction, recreate a copy, photocopy or photograph it. I had a beautiful cameo that my grandmother gave me that I couldn’t find and if I could find it, not sure I wanted to give it up. As fate would have it, I was wandering the aisles at Michael’s and I found this great embellishment kit at Michael’s in the scrapbook section. It had buttons and a small cameo (missing from kit, but see it on the finished purse).

Embellishments found at Michael's A&C

Embellishments found at Michael’s A&C


Inside was almost an exact copy of the cameo my grandmother gave me! I have a little life mantra that goes like this: “Exactly what you need will be there exactly when you need it” and such was the case here. I attached this replica to the purse instead of the actual cameo and found it was a better size for the purse. As you begin your purse, keep your eyes open for the possibilities and let the process lead you where it may.
Detail of the cameo, dolies, and typewriter keys.

Detail of the cameo, dolies, and typewriter keys.

I welcome any suggestions or comments about this post. What would you add if you were making a purse?