Bag Lady

They’ve been mounting in stacks for nearly a decade now. What? you might ask. I mean, it could be anything, really, if you know me. I do reuse them, but now I am more prone to saving them. Some are like old friends. First thing I do on a Sunday is take a peek to see if Molejon greets me after I leave Beacon Bagel. I am referring to, if you haven’t guessed already, the brown paper bag. More specifically, a DURO bag–that stalwart container for home-packed lunches, ever since 1953.

I’ve always flipped the bag over to see the names stamped on the bottom, along with a date. This would be the branding of the inspection process. I imagine a person sitting in a factory, day after day, week after week–a life at an assembly line–making sure the bag is sealed to perfection. The glued seam at that most vulnerable spot is connected forever to Molejon, or Wigberto Serpa, or Lizzie Nina, or a dozen or so others that I’ve collected like other women might collect Kate Spades.

The idea of designer bags vs. this humble paper bag has intrigued me to the point where I now have started deconstructing them to isolate the inspector’s name and date, then reassembling them into a flat collage (glued and stitched) using other discards of materials–wrapping paper, packaging, ribbon–that I have saved from gifts given to me. So many times I have been given a handbag as a present, and now I am assembling an essence of a woman’s bag, bringing these names to the forefront to be noticed.

I have a fantasy of actually visiting a factory–in a town that conjures up Norma Rae (in Walton, Kentucky, or Yulee, Florida, or Progreso, Texas, or Jackson, Tennessee). I would love to meet the people that in my small way I am acknowledging. I notice that there is a Duro factory pretty close by–Elizabeth, New Jersey. Not as exotic, perhaps, to this native north-easterner. Besides, I am not sure that my name would pass a criminal background check for bag abduction. That was the scene of the crime when I *accidentally* pilfered an Ikea bag.

I’m making up for it now, I’d like to think.

Dolores Cruz

Dolores Cruz – Oct 04 07

Mili Lara

Mili Lara – Jul 08 10

Duro - Flora Alegria - lo-rez

Flora Alegria – Jan 30 07

all images copyright sharon watts 2013

I almost forgot~ earlier this year I discovered a kindred spirit in Springbyker: http://springbyker.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/who-makes-your-paper-bags/

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11 thoughts on “Bag Lady

  1. This is such a great idea! I don’t do much with visual art any more, but I did put a Flora Alegria on my bulletin board at work a couple of years ago, and she’s still up there, because just reading her name makes me happy. Thanks for linking to my article!

    • Thanks for commenting, springbyker–your list is sort of my “go to” reference list, tho I found someone on flickr taking pics as well as a Brown Paper Project where there are hundreds of names. I’ve only scratched the surface with my modest collection.

    • Back in the day, they would not let you get your cart past a certain point that was nowhere near my (borrowed) car. So…the bag was necessary to schlep my goods, and I guess I forgot to return it! Thanks for your appreciation of the V& C!

  2. I love the creative way that you think. I’ve never considered myself to be particularly creative–but I find that as I get older that I think more about design and the creative process. (Now if I could just find time to actually try to make some of my ideas.)

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