Rachel Hosmer Reyes, Bag Maker & Owner of Ami Bags
Rachel Hosmer Reyes
Bag Making & Owner of Ami Bags
Painting, running, cooking, baking
SFF: How did you begin your bag business?
RH: About four years ago I was living in LA and had been working as the COO at my sister’s jewelry business, Anna Beck, but we split ways professionally. I had some time to figure out what I wanted to do, so I started taking sewing classes and learning how to make a bag. I knew how to sew, because I used to do appliques on onesies and gift people things I designed, but I didn’t know how to make a bag or work with a zipper or anything.
SFF: What was that like for you, going from running a business to learning a new craft?
RH: I was going through a transition to say the least, from working at my sister’s company full time, to not knowing what I wanted to do. I was ending something that I had helped build, so it was a confusing time, but it was also the most beautiful time. I realized that I’m a creative, so I could either ride on someone else's coattails, or do something myself.
SFF: I think so many creatives have been in that spot. Did you immediately enjoy sewing and bag making?
RH: When I started taking sewing classes, I would finish the projects before everyone else in the class. The teacher told me, “That was really fast!” Sewing just made sense to me. I asked my teacher what I should do to get really good at it, and she said “Just go home and make five zip pouches,” so I went home and made them. I knew that I wanted to make them out of really cool textiles, so I started getting into textiles and communicating with people around the world about how the textiles are made and the history. Then, my husband Brad had a studio in downtown LA, and I kind of took over half the space. I started making bags, and my friends bought them immediately on Facebook. And I thought, “Well, maybe this is something that I could do.” So I had my first trunk show, and it was really successful, and shortly after that we decided to move to Santa Fe.
SFF: What brought you to Santa Fe?
RH: My husband is an artist, and it was always his dream to move to Santa Fe, so we came here to see how I liked it. I ended up loving it. We actually got engaged in Santa Fe! We bought this house, and on our way here from LA, we hadn’t even closed on it. I didn’t know whether this was going to work out, but I knew I couldn’t be in LA anymore.
SFF: How is your business doing since you’ve moved to Santa Fe?
RH: When we moved here, I put everything I had into it. But seven months ago, a recruiting firm called me and asked me if I wanted to supervise a department of a local CPA firm, so now I work full time at a CPA firm. I make my bags on my own time, and I actually think it’s been the best for me to develop my bags on this time frame. I am always going to be a student; that’s what drives me. I want to be a student of bag making and learn the craft of bag making. It excites me! And now that I have a fulltime job, it’s allowing me to really get good at my craft, because I am so new at it and I don’t want to rush the learning process.
SFF: Yeah, you don’t want to feel like you need to be rushing to process and selling bags to earn money.
RH: Yeah, and I think a lot of creatives can ride that wave of having a lot of money, then not having a lot of money, but it doesn’t work for me. Part of that is being a runner and an athlete. There is some continuity and expectation with that. Now, I know every day I’m going to go to a job and make a certain amount and it doesn’t put so much pressure on my little creative business.
SFF: Having a full time job also requires a specific schedule that only gives you a certain amount of free time, so you have to prioritize what you want to do.
RH: Yeah, I’m busy right now. I set a marathon goal for December, it’s in Las Cruces. I’ve been upping my mileage every week, and today I ran my first 8-miler, which I haven’t done in a while. I like to set big goals for myself, I enjoy the balance of having several interests. I am so impassioned about creating and learning. It’s not really about being successful -- money doesn’t drive me. It’s more about making something special so when someone sees it, they think it’s really cool and they want it. At this stage, I realized, to be successful in this business, I was going to have to make a whole lot of just one style to keep up with the demand. There was one time that I had to make 100 of one bag. It was actually my wedding - by the end, I couldn’t even see straight.
SFF: Did that kind of take the joy away from the craft?
RH: Well, when you’re such a new creative, you need to know what you need to make it enjoyable. It became so much pressure to make money, so I actually think my bags have gotten better since I joined the CPA firm. I’ve done a lot for the firm. I realized I’m good at helping companies. And they’re so supportive of me for having these two jobs and I’m grateful. They come to my trunk shows! I feel like through all the confusion of not knowing what I wanted to do after leaving Anna Beck, I landed on my feet. It was a much sexier job, but that’s ok.
SFF: It seems like you have the life you want right now, and that what you’re doing brings you joy.
RH: Yes. I have met really, solid, good hearted people in Santa Fe. People who are building businesses and working really hard, like Cynthia Jones and Heather French. When I didn’t have any money for fabrics, I asked several local interior designers for their scraps and older textile samples, and they all told me to come over: David Naylor, Reside Home, Heather French, all three gave me bags of fabric for free. They were excited to see me repurpose them. So sometimes if they come to a show, they look at a bag and say “Oh, I remember that fabric! That’s my couch!”
SFF: That is such a good idea to ask for their scraps!
RH: You have to be resourceful as a creative. You’re going to go through lows when you have little to no money, but you don’t necessarily have to go into debt or dig into your savings. I listened to a podcast with Kate Spade and her husband Andy about how they built their business, and when she started she didn’t have any money, and she didn’t even know how to make a bag. She literally just used little pieces of paper to layout her designs and decided she wanted to make a box bag. And then she went to a potato company and bought and utilized burlap for her first collection. You just have to be super resourceful! When my little puppy chewed up my couch, I learned how to reupholster. I did all the pillows in my living room, I’ve made rugs, Brad, my husband, made the kitchen island, I make rope shelves and planters, and he does all the artwork. If you don’t have a ton of money, and you want to live in a nice environment, you just start getting smart about how you’re going to achieve it. If I have a vision, or I see a bag I like, I go on YouTube or Pinterest and figure out how to make it. I have a real passion to make my own stuff now, although I still like to shop...
SFF: How did you define the style and aesthetic of Ami bags?
RH: When I moved here I was getting a lot of suggestions from people and makers here, like “Make this Indian bag, make this bag with tassels, make this bag like this,” and it worried me because I thought I would have to do that in order to sell anything. But then I started to do my own thing, and I would show them to shops and they immediately said “We’ll take them!” Array was one of my first accounts. Tom, the owner, told me he loved fresh, new and locally made. I just had to learn to be true to myself and what I love, and that my work would speak for itself. Because, as a creative, if you try to do something that’s not in your heart, people can tell.
SFF: It doesn’t feel good to make it if it’s not what you really want to do.
RH: Exactly, and there was a lot of that… people telling me what I need to do and having an opinion about what I should make. So I just decided to do what I want to do, and whether they love it or not, I’m going to keep doing it! Because I want to carry it. That’s honestly what I do -- I make bags that I want to carry! And I fell in love with making bags, because you can get lost in it. There’s so much destruction going on in the world, and when you’re making, you are putting something together, creating, and in a way, healing. I can create something purposeful out of just a piece of cloth. It is pretty cool! It was so natural for me to become a maker, it’s like I had to do this to heal myself. And it’s still like that. Sunday’s are my day to be in the studio all day. I just do it because I love it.
SFF: How did you meet people in Santa Fe when you first moved here?
RH: I used to work at Body of Santa Fe, and I met many of my friends there. For the first six months, I didn’t know where to meet people, but Body was the best place for me to meet the women that I love so much now.
SFF: What’s next for your Ami bags?
RH: I know my business will continue to develop. It will happen, but I can’t rush the learning process. I remember when I first started, I would go into the leather shops in LA and ask them all these questions about how to do things. They were so annoyed, but also very helpful. I was just learning how to do everything and asking a ton of questions. Afterall, I can’t be Kate Spade week 1.
SFF: But also, not everybody wants a huge business. Some people don’t want to be super busy.
RH: Agreed. And I feel like the more I market my business, the more work it brings. As soon as I start updating my website, people ask how many they can buy. So now my goal is just to put up on Instagram what I can sell right now. Or I do trunk shows so it’s just cash and carry. At the end of the day, that’s awesome for me. When you’re making your own products, it is much more time consuming because you’re also the marketer and the salesperson. I don’t want to put that much stress on my business at this stage. A lot of people can handle that, but I enjoy balance in my life. With marathon training, working for the CPA firm, my husband, our four pets, cooking, baking bread, I’m a happy-busy.
SFF: You have to be really confident in what your idea of success looks like.
RH: You have to know what makes you happy. For me, what makes me happy is making one-off bags. I love grabbing a piece of fabric that I know would otherwise be in a landfill, and making a bag out of it. Knowing that it’s a bag that no one else is going to have, created out of last year’s samples or something that someone was going to discard. And now it’s this beautiful thing, and it’s yours. That brings me joy!