Rescue and Reuse! Meet Ana Reyes, GP's Seamstress
By Liz Neumark and Ana Reyes
If you have ever been to the GP office, there is a collection you will notice: The dozens of canvas bags hanging on our walls – each one from a farmer’s market in the U.S. or beyond.
I am a bag lady. This passion merged with another trait – I am allergic to food waste. In the kitchen we aim for full utilization of food (so beet tops are sautéed and eaten; trimmed fish scraps are made into mousse or soup).
Have you ever noticed the sacks that contain rice/potatoes/onions/grains/chicken feed/seeds? They are beautiful!
Bag lady meets food sacks and BINGO – an idea takes root! Convert these intriguing materials into functional bags, skillfully adding a few pom-poms and frills. Ana instantly got the vision. The collection of rescued and transformed food sacks are now works of art.
I am pleased to introduce you to Ana!
Ana, We’d love to hear your story. How did you start creating bags?
I’ve been sewing ever since I was a little child, back in the Dominican Republic. My mom saw my love for sewing and put me in sewing classes when I was 14 or 15 years old. I never thought that I could make a career as a designer because during that time Accounting and Business was “The Career”, so I started studying Accounting in my country and when I came to the US, I received my Accounting degree. That wasn't my passion though. In 2010, life invited me to go back to investing my energy and time and effortlessly. After the economy crashed, my position was eliminated and I saw that as a sign to go and do something with my craft. I enrolled in FIT to learn more about the industry and what the business was about. I started to make clothing for designers as a seamstress and felt like that wasn't what I wanted to, I felt like everything flows when I’m making bags. One day I started thinking, ‘ There are too many bags out there, I need to create a bag that can stand out from the competition.’ So I started making bags out of old recycled jeans and vegan leather and that’s the business that I am in right now. It really is an art, and it comes easily to me because I’m so passionate about it. Being here at GP has really aligned with what I am doing and I love that Liz believed in me and gave me the freedom to use my creativity, and that’s why the bags come out the way they do.
What size bags do you prefer to make?
I usually go for the size that people can use at the supermarket and I make sure that the everything is well made and that the material is strong and durable.
What is the process like from start to finish? Where does the material come from?
These bags all come from the kitchen, they started out as sacks of rice, potatoes, onions, etc. Liz came up with the idea of bringing the sacks upstairs from the warehouse and I sort through them. I look at the colors, and when I see a color that I want to use, I immediately think ‘Oh that’s so beautiful, I want to give some life to this’ and I then I start to put different pieces together. I play with the trimmings and I try to create handles that create harmony within the sacks that I use.
It’s more than just making bags for you, what is your philosophy?
I believe in the philosophy of recycling and reusing, and Liz and I connected on that level because she shares the same philosophy that I have. So instead of throwing all of this material away, she's using it. This has a very great purpose because you know how many things we throw out, there's a lot of pollution in the environment. So in a way, she’s taking care of the environment and I really believe in that. Also, we are creating bags that people can see a story behind.
To learn more about Ana and to see her work, visit her website.