How I Got Started: Paige Davidson of Cahoots Handbags
Paige Davidson is a busy woman. The UT Austin grad owns a successful retail store in Gainesville, Texas in addition to popular handbag, painting and greeting card businesses (yes, you read that right).
We’re fascinated by the multi-talented artist and harassed her for tips, tricks and tidbits on how she turned her creative hobbies into a full time career.
When did you decide to start your business and why?
My mom, sister, and I began making classically shaped bags for ourselves in 2003 using wacky vintage fabrics that our family had collected for decades. Friends immediately wanted what we were making, so we began making them some and created a small display of bags in my gallery space. Bust Magazine got wind of my personal website showing off our wares and things snowballed into a business almost immediately.
What’s the story behind your business name?
My mom and I are in cahoots together when it comes to making bags, and that word just resonated. Despite our brick and mortar store/gallery being officially named Paige Davidson Studio, everyone just refers to us as “Cahoots.”
Did you go to school or have professional training in your field?
I got my BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000 and began painting full-time then. Though I’m not trained in pattern making or fashion design, it is my art school training that informs my aesthetic decisions for our line and the way I create our designs and combine fabrics and buttons.
Is this your full-time job?
I’m a full-time maker. I’m in the Gainesville store six days a week, working in the studio in between customers, and then I work from my home studio in Denton on Sundays. Though I consider my “real job” painting, which is what I’m trained to do, my studio time is split pretty evenly between painting and other little creative projects like the handbag line and hand-painted card line.
Do you have any employees?
No. My mom sews our bags, but we work independently. It’s just the two of us, and she is a wizard on the Bernina sewing machine! My husband, dad, and sister also pitch in here and there for shows or around the store if I’m drowning. I’d have sunk long ago if it weren’t for my family.
When you started your business, did anything completely surprise you?
I couldn’t believe how quickly the business took off. I had just moved from Austin back to my hometown of Gainesville, which is a small, quiet town an hour north of Dallas with lots of historic charm. I was living in a warehouse downtown which also served as the gallery space for me to show my paintings. It blew my mind that without any effort on my part, magazines like Venus and Bust, known for promoting makers and indie artists, were hearing what we were doing and telling their readers about what we were doing. The internet has been a God-send for makers.
What was the hardest part about starting your business? Favorite part?
The hardest part of starting my business has been the non-creative part. Dealing with things like personal business property taxes always dampens my day. The best part is by far the time spent in my studio working. That is coupled with the reaction in our store or at a market when a customer really responds to something I’ve made. I love when a customer tells me a clutch reminds me of her grandmother’s couch.
What has been your proudest moment so far business-wise?
We were asked to send our clutches for the gift baskets at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards and MTV Movie Awards a few years ago, which was a thrill. Around that time my paintings were also on the set of the television show Dallas. Seeing my paintings fill Christopher Ewing’s room in Southfork was really, really exciting for me.
Do you have any tips for newbies in the industry?
1.Work hard and be grateful. 2. Choose to be friends with other makers and build momentum together. 3.You are your best advertisement, so act like it.
Find Cahoots Handbags online at cahootshandbags.com and at Paige Davidson Studio located at 205 S. Commerce St. suite B in Gainesville, TX (940-665-2138).