Lucy Reimer is Manitoba’s Fashionista Farmer

Lucy Reimer is Manitoba’s Fashionista Farmer

Farmers and artists are some of the hardest working people I have met, but when you put a farmer and an artist together, what do you have? An Energizer bunny named Lucy Reimer of Lucy Reimer Designs. We have interviewed many artists living in rural settings and more often than not we have found them to be inspired by their surroundings; their art manifesting itself as a representation of the landscape and nature through colour and beauty. So, needless to say, I was intrigued to learn that there was a fashion and accessories designer and maker in the middle of Manitoba’s prairie.

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When we first arrived on their farm we were greeted by both Lucy and her husband Wally. During the farming season they both work 80 acres of land together, and when not driving the combine Wally is a power engineer at the hospital in Brandon and Lucy is down in her studio driving her sewing machine. When we sat at the kitchen table and got to know each other a bit, Gary and I were surprised at how much Wally knew about fashion and accessories. I should clarify; about Lucy’s fashion and accessories. Wally is Lucy’s biggest supporter in her business and we could see how proud he is of her. In fact, when Lucy is on the road heading off to the next craft fair or art show, Wally is always there. He helps her to set up, take down and even spends time showing the Lucy bags and Lucy Lu wraps to potential customers. There may not be a great man behind every great woman, but in this case there is.

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Lucy has been sewing since she was 12 years old. Her mother gave her a couple of words of advice early on; always sew a straight seam and iron as you go. From that point on sewing has been a passion in Lucy’s life. When she got older, got married to Wally and they had children, naturally she would sew her children’s clothes. And although she and Wally knew staying at home with the children was important to them, she wanted to contribute financially. A couple of friends suggested she make clothes and sell them. At first this seemed like a funny idea to Lucy because growing up on a farm often meant you learned to sew; everyone did. Who would buy clothes that she made?

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After meeting Lucy, I couldn’t help but think growing up on a farm gave her more than just the skills to sew, it gave her an entrepreneurial mindset. After all, farming can give many gifts; patience, stamina, tenacity, learning from failure, an appreciation for hard work, and a deep love for something that never goes away. These are the characteristics I see in Lucy and it shows in the craftsmanship of her work. She has been in business creating her Lucy bags for 10 years now and there is no sign of her or her business slowing down. I have met many artists who have a hard time with marketing themselves and their work and even Lucy noted that it wasn’t easy in the beginning. But now she is always thinking about the next thing, she’s not afraid to put herself or her work out there and she thrives on connecting with people. Great qualities to have as a creative entrepreneur.

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For people who know me, I am always going on about how important it is to purchase local food and goods whether you are in business or an end user. I was thrilled to find out from Lucy that she does this as often as possible. It was happenstance that she would meet a buffalo rancher just 45 minutes from where she lives who now supplies her with hides for her Aud buffalo bags (named after the buffalo rancher’s deceased wife Audrey). Also, she met a fellow artist, Laura Hamilton from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan at a craft/art market and loved Laura’s art. The idea to print some of her paintings on leather and then sew them into Lucy bags, aptly named Prairie bags, came about from this meeting between the two artists. And the printer Lucy uses is in Brandon, not some far off land. This is such a great three way collaboration.

Collaboration purses with Laura Hamilton

Collaboration purses with Laura Hamilton

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It is important to Lucy that each person who purchases a Lucy bag walks away with something unique and special to them, therefore no two bags are alike. If you like earthy colours but want a bit of pizzazz then you may find a brown buffalo bag with a purple and green polka dot liner, or maybe the bag itself is a peacock blue colour, or perhaps you are a die hard Saskatchewan Rough Riders fan, well she has a bag for you too. Lucy’s ideas are only limited by her imagination of which it knows no bounds.

We invite you to meet Lucy in person via her video interview and we encourage you to spread the word about Lucy and her work through social media and email. Also we would love it if you would leave a nice comment below. Thanks!

Zwany Mauritz Connects Through Creativity

Zwany Mauritz Connects Through Creativity

Our second interview of our 2013 tour was with Zwany Mauritz from Chilliwack, B.C. Zwany is a fine artist as well as a fashion and purse designer. Her and her family immigrated to Canada from Holland 10 years ago. She comes from a family of twelve children and most of them are creative in one form or another. Her mother was an artist specializing in portraits and her father was a musical artist. Zwany shared with us that her childhood was rich in the arts and so creativity was always instinctive for her. She grew up walking in her mother’s footsteps so it was fitting that she went to art school and painting portraits became her passion.

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Nowadays she is an eclectic acrylic painter and does abstracts to landscapes and everything in between. But her favourite subject is still people. She loves to make a connection and so what better way to get to know someone than to paint them. People sometimes request a portrait of themselves or of a loved one and provide Zwany with a photograph, but she admits that it is much more fun when she can have the person sitting in front of her. Also, as she explained, it is easier to paint the person’s personality into the painting because they can chat which gives her a chance to get to know them while she works away. She finds her live portraiture paintings to have more spontaneity and it forces her to work fast and be concise.

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Zwany is an expressive and deep thinking painter. There are times when her paintings have a certain personal connotation for her and she finds herself using paint to lay down her emotions. In many cases she uses the swan in those paintings. It represents her as her name, Zwany, means swan in Dutch. This gorgeous bird becomes Zwany in the painting and with it she has created a diorama of the important emotional moments in her life. She has painted about love, family, anger and the dark and light side of herself.

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When Zwany is not painting, you can find her designing, redesigning and repurposing clothing, fabric, buttons, bobbles, shells and anything else that no longer seems to have a purpose. She custom makes designer fashions, typically for special occasions, for women with unique figures. One of her greatest satisfactions is to make something beautiful in order to make someone happy. Zwany also loves to design purses either from scratch or she will give an old outdated purse, as she says, “a new coat.” She never runs out of ideas or material to work with. She is either shopping at the local thrift store, being on the receiving end of outdated articles of clothing or hunting through her own closet to find something to completely change or just give it a new look. It gives her great pleasure to repurpose a neglected blouse or a lonely tie that may have otherwise ended up in the landfill. If she is dismantling an old dress perhaps she will use the shoulder straps for the straps of a new purse or turn a set of 1980’s style curtains into a funky hand bag.

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For Zwany it is not about the end result. It is about the creative journey she takes every time she picks up her brushes or sits down at her sewing machine. For her, creativity is a joyous and fulfilling place to be.

Please join us as Zwany talks more about her love of painting and designing. We always appreciate comments and spreading the word on social media. Thanks!