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'It doesn't matter how many bags you already have, you don't have this one," says Tali Shpritcer as she lifts the small leather strap of one of her handbags to show off the laminated photo underneath. "And a woman can never have too many bags," she giggles from behind the counter of her new space on Sheinkin Street in Tel Aviv.
A little over two years ago, as she was finishing an undergraduate degree in psychology at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Tali decided to make her own purse after her efforts to find something original for herself were unsuccessful. Her mother was suspicious when she saw Tali borrowing her sewing machine, but the end result was so charming that everyone, including her mom, encouraged her to make more bags and start selling them.
Between attending classes and studying for exams, she began designing bags and selling them in various stores across town. "Each bag is hand-sewn and each photograph is carefully chosen and decorated," says Tali, "so making them and completing my studies was very difficult. I couldn't make many."
When she finished her degree, she decided to expand her business, and was accepted into the exclusive artists' market at Nahalat Binyamin. She set up a stall selling her bags twice a week, and despite the large number of things to choose from at the market, she found people enjoyed her bags and often returned to buy more.
"In order to sell at the market, the committee needs to approve you and they look for creative things that the actual artist will both create and sell," explains Tali. "The hardest thing for me with selling the bags is parting with them. I often want to keep them for myself and not let anyone else have them."
But seeing people pleased with their purchase and having customers return to collect her bags makes every sale worth it. The exterior of the bags is made of pleather, or sky material, that looks like leather. Although she is not opposed to leather, this material allows her to keep the bags affordable. "If I were using real leather, the bags could cost up to three times as much," she says. And with prices around 150 shekels for each bag, Tali says people often buy more than one.
Each purse has a unique decoration, and some of them are reversible. The interior of the bags is sewn with a variety of fabrics that match the exterior photograph, and each image is taken from either Tali's own photographs, graphic art, or images she has amassed over the years.
The laminated photographs are sewn onto the bag and then accentuated with real accessories to liven up the picture. "Some of the images have necklaces or earrings or flowers," says Tali. "I occasionally put rings on the fingers in the photograph or lace on their clothing. I want my buyers to identify with the image on the bag, and this is one way of making each bag unique."
Tali named her company, Otilya Decorations, after her paternal great-grandmother, Otilya, a Romanian woman who was also a talented seamstress and made accessories for her own store. "My father always tells me he wishes his grandmother could see me now," she says, taking a sip of her coffee and looking proudly in the direction of her new venue that just opened this morning, still dusty from the renovations and smelling of new paint.
Between taking phone calls for bag orders or from customers wanting information about the store opening, Tali explains that she found the space herself, and hopes it will help her business prosper. "The space I'm in is very small," she says of the tiny, modest setting she recently rented, "but it's a good start."
She is also branching out into making jewelry from metal and plastic, so the side shelves display some of her newest creations beneath a pale green circular skylight.
Despite the common complaint of Israeli artists that their work goes unappreciated, Tali says that many people do recognize the value of the creative process. Otherwise, it would be impossible for her to be opening her own store. And for Tali, it is a reciprocal process: the more customers she has and the more positive feedback she hears about her work, the greater her inspiration and energy to design more.
"This is my future," she says with a smile. "This is where my heart is, in the creative process, making unique and beautiful designs and watching people enjoy them."
For more information, contact Tali at 054-7829-289 or visit her store on Sheinkin Street at 17A in Tel Aviv.