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Repurposed, recycled leather
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Anita Hopper

“My family has a wonderful heritage of women who took whatever they were given, or whatever they could find, to make something useful and beautiful.”

When other 50-somethings were looking toward retirement, Anita Hopper found what she wanted to do. She started ReFind Originals, a business that repurposes old leather.

“It really is true that a person is never too old to start doing something they love,” she said. “Sometimes it’s risky, but the risks are worth it when you see what you can accomplish.”

A leather jacket in a thrift store launched her journey. “I loved the worn-in, organic look of the leather and thought that if I could find a leather bag that looked and felt like that, that it would be my idea of a perfect handbag,” Anita explained. “I wondered if I could make a bag out of the jacket, even though I had never made a bag, or worked with leather; but I liked the idea, bought the jacket and took it home to see what I could do with it.”

Experience told her she could do quite a lot. Anita has been sewing since she was a young child – sewing was one of her favorite 4-H projects and her mother was a skilled seamstress – so like everything else she’s done in life, she read every book she could find and taught herself through trial and error to work with leather.

While Anita designs the bags, she says she can’t predict how a finished bag will look “because each type of leather is unique.” She lets the leather’s texture, color and worn-in properties inspire her. The shape and size of materials on hand determine the shape or size of the finished bag. A large bag entails figuring out how to piece together several coats or leather items.

“Most of the time I just let the lines, stitching, pockets, or any other features of a garment be the inspiration for a particular bag,” said the Marion County artisan.

Her goal is to make something from recycled materials that doesn’t look recycled. “Repurposing old leather items is rewarding when I see the delight on the faces of those who buy my work and ask where I get my materials,” Anita added. “When I explain my process and that everything I make is one of a kind and made from recycled materials they are amazed at what can be done with something that has been discarded.”

Anita credits the support and encouragement of family and friends for being able to do what she loves. “I am grateful beyond words,” she said. “I want to encourage others in the same way, and especially women who may think they are too old to start something. I had many excuses for not starting this new endeavor five or six years ago, but it really is true that a person is never too old to start doing something they love. Sometimes it’s risky, but the risks are worth it when you see what you can accomplish.”

Even with that strong support network in place, she turned to Indiana Artisan “to have a place and a way of connecting and being part of an organization where I can go to bounce around ideas and ask questions,” she said. “When I look through the list of other Indiana Artisans, and see the quality and beauty of the work of each one, I am extremely humbled to find myself among them.”