Currently Reading: Enid, by Jeep Collins

It’s been a while since I did a book review. It’s not that I haven’t been reading, as of course I have been. I read constantly. Enid was the fifty-second book I’ve read this year, many of them rereads of books on my shelves. Some of them I wrote reviews for years ago.

Eleven years ago I was lucky to interview Jeep Collins, the son of handbag designer and maker Enid Collins. If you have spent any time at all looking at vintage goods, you know about her handbags. What began as a way to generate extra income on her family’s Texas ranch grew into major fashion business in South Texas.

Last year Jeep published Enid, His mother’s story, and the story of her handbags. It’s also the story of his father, Frederic, and that of the couple’s two children, Jeep and Cynthia. The story actually begins with Frederic, who was a metal crafter. Money was scarce on the ranch in the late 1940s so he began casting sculpture and small metal pieces to sell. The couple came upon the idea of making leather handbags that were embellished with Frederic’s metal pieces.

After these handbags began to sell, Enid thought up new designs, such as screen printed linen bags trimmed with leather. Then she began to embellish her designs with plastic “jewels”. By 1960 they were also making screen printed and embellished wooden boxbags. The handbags, under the name Collins of Texas were being sold in stores across the US.

As a person who loves a great personal narrative, this book really hit the mark. At times the timeline of the company was a bit confusing, but Jeep included lots of documentation with footnotes that included dates. So from Enid’s own letters we learn when certain designs were made, and how the business developed chronologically.

Some of the most enlightening passages in the book concerned the other products that were made by Collins of Texas. This leather belt is a good example as it incorporated Frederic’s metalwork for the fastener. The company also made items from papier mache for a short time in the late 1960s.

Enid is a great resource for collectors of her work, and for people like me who love the stories of how these iconic products came to be. Like many personal histories, this book would benefit from an index. There are also few photographs showing the actual bags, though I imagine Jeep figured that most people who were interested in this story would already be familiar with the various styles of bags.

If you are interested in this book, the best place to buy it is directly from Jeep’s website. I do want to mention that Jeep is a deeply committed Christian, and he talks about his faith quite a bit. He doesn’t preach to the reader, but you need to be aware of the religious references.

1 Comment

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One response to “Currently Reading: Enid, by Jeep Collins

  1. Ruth

    I received one of the small box purses when I was 14 and it was my “church purse” for years. I still carry it on occasion and I was delighted to inherit another one from my mother in law!!!

    Like

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