This past Sunday was a special one for mothers everywhere, but when you have the connection that Flossie Vogel shares with her daughter, Joy Cadden, every day feels like Mother’s Day. The two have become synonymous throughout the area with dance, both having taught dance classes for decades, but now it’s their passion for fashion that has them stepping out.
Roughly a year ago, the pair began sewing pocketbooks and handbags, and their popularity as designers is surging. So much, in fact, that their work is scheduled to appear in several upcoming craft shows, including this weekend’s Arts & Crafts Show at Good Earth Market and next weekend’s Artisans Fair at the Millville Fire Hall on Route 26, sponsored by the South Coastal Delaware AARP.
From purses and pocketbooks to different-sized handbags, the two are staying busy in an attempt to put their business, Bird Haven Bags, on the map.
“We’ve been sewing all our lives,” said Cadden, “and we knew we needed some supplemental income. Needlework was always a pastime for us, and we were finally able to get my mother off the dance floor two years ago.”
Vogel, who has taught tap, jazz and ballet in the area for 62 years, explained that she was happy to find something else to keep her occupied.
“I can’t just sit around,” she said with a laugh. “I need to be doing something.”
And, since January, the mother-daughter team has managed to build up a stock of more than 60 handbags. They range in sizes from the traditional “bucket” to the “mini-” and “maxi-buckets” to their curvy “bubble” style.
Cadden’s brother and husband help out, forming the wooden handles that the straps pass through. The pockets inside reveal a simplistic style, for convenience and easy accessibility for retrieving personal items or quickly moving from one handbag to another. The straps are durable, and weave through the handles to serve as a locking device, too, ensuring that belongings are safe.
But it’s what’s on the outside that makes Bird Haven Bags so unique: pattern upon pattern, from a wide array of fabrics, ensuring that no two bags are alike; each handbag is truly one-of-a-kind. Different fabric types can even be incorporated, from traditional rolls of fabric to upholstery samples.
“We specialize in custom orders, too,” said Cadden. “If someone has a memorable piece of clothing or an heirloom they don’t want to forget, we can turn it into a handbag for them.”
With such custom orders, dresses – even wedding dresses – can be converted into an elegant, everyday accompaniment to a woman’s life.
“Whatever you can think up, we can make it into a pocketbook or purse,” she said.
The handbags and purses are reasonably priced, as well, as Cadden and Vogel do not charge extra for the time they put into each project. The bags start at $25 and range in price based on the material used.
On Saturday, May 16, Bird Haven Bags will be featured at Good Earth Market’s semi-annual Arts & Crafts Show, the first true venture for the mother-daughter business. The following weekend, the two will be featured in the Second Annual Artisans Fair in Millville on Saturday, May 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I’m eager to see how they do at a show like this,” said Cadden of the bags. “I want to see what type of reaction they get.”
Until now, the fashion for the bags has just spread through word-of-mouth and being seen in public.
“It doesn’t matter where we go,” Cadden noted, “someone would stop and ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ When we’d tell them we made them, they’d ask us how much they are.”
Beach patterns and warm spring and summer colors have made the handcrafted handbags a hit with their family and friends at the shore, and the handbags are even making their way into the Big Apple.
“I’ve made a few for my daughter and a friend in New York City,” said Cadden. “It’s great having a connection like that.”
Depending on the level of sales they see at the upcoming shows, Bird Haven Bags may make their way into local gift shops and beach stores, but selling them from their Millville home suits the pair just fine for now.
Both Cadden and her mother had previously run shops in downtown Bethany.
“Finding ‘the thing’ that people will come back to buy has always been virtually impossible for me to grasp,” said Cadden, who spent years as the owner of Hijinx, Bethany Beach’s toy and magic trick store. “But I realized women love pocketbooks and purses. They can really change your whole look.”
Now, Cadden and Vogel work right out of the family’s Millville home, with plenty of sewing machines to spare. On any given day, they can have three machines going and a number of handbags being processed.
“I can typically get three to four done in a day,” said Cadden. “There’s some prep work, but each one takes two to two and a half hours.” She will usually have four or five going at once, while Vogel prefers to finish an entire bag before moving onto the next.
“It’s great having a connection like this with the family,” said Vogel. “I really enjoy making the bags, and everyone seems to like them.”
For more information about Bird Haven Bags, stop by the upcoming craft shows, or contact Flossie Vogel and Joy Cadden at (302) 539-1858 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.