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For BAHS graduate, re-purposing is his bag

DeSimio selected as finalist in Martha Stewart contest
By Tanya Mitchell | Sep 27, 2012
Courtesy of: Jared DeSimio Belfast Area High School graduate Jared DeSimio at work in his basement in Brunswick.

Brunswick — Jared DeSimio said he found his passion for making handbags in 2008, when he entered an art contest that involved redesigning and repurposing a handbag for the New Hampshire-based company, BaileyWorks.

I enjoyed it so much that I decided to try my hand at making a bag from scratch," said DeSimio.

Four years later, the Brunswick resident and 1998 Belfast Area High School graduate is a self-taught maker of handbags, all of which are unique and crafted mostly from salvaged materials. That method of creation, explained DeSimio, grew from his existing love of photography, a medium he's used to highlight objects and environments that have been changed, manipulated or affected by people.

"The materials I use are the same way. I’m only interested in materials that have a history of use," said DeSimio.

DeSimio, who works full time at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, makes his handbags out of vintage and antique materials in the basement of the home he shares with his wife, Hannah Curtis, and their 20-month-old daughter.

DeSimio's work has been featured in Young and Pretty, N’East Style, the Thrill List and the home page of Etsy. In recent weeks, DeSimio's designs brought him attention on the national level when he was named one of 100 finalists for the Audience Choice Award in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s inaugural  “American Made” contest.

The “American Made” program will celebrate 10 rising stars and an eleventh audience choice winner from areas of expertise including food, fashion, design, community, gardening, crafts and technology.

The search for the audience choice winner began with an online nomination process in August. The winner will be announced online Oct. 8 and will receive $10,000 to further his or her business, in addition to being featured in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living.

It's a contest DeSimio entered after a little encouragement from his wife.

"My wife heard about it and we decided that I had nothing to lose by entering," remembered DeSimio. "It would get me out there a little bit even if I didn’t become a finalist."

Since the online voting began last month, DeSimio said he's been amazed and encouraged by the positive feedback he's received about his craft.

"I couldn’t have imagined getting the amount of unconditional support from family, friends, and strangers alike," said DeSimio.

DeSimio said it can be a challenge balancing his fulltime job, family responsibilities and his home-based business, but he said he tries to follow a few simple rules to stay on track. He advises others who have time constraints and a dream to do the same.

"I would say to anyone in a similar position to get focused and get organized. Make attainable goals and be patient," he said.

Looking ahead, DeSimio said he hopes to one day move out of his basement workspace and into a proper studio.

"Resourcefulness is a theme in my business but nothing beats windows and natural light," he said. "At some point I would like to incorporate my aesthetic into a brand that features more products which can be manufactured here in Maine and offered to a broader audience."


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