Bag to the Future

Dawn and Rita Zidonis merge fashion and art with the duo's There She Goes line of custom accessories. And they've got a creation with your name written all over it.

Dawn and Rita Zidonis merge fashion and art with the duo's There She Goes line of custom accessories. And they've got a creation with your name written all over it.

A little more than a year ago, Dawn Zidonis' addiction to accessories took on a life of its own. Her mother, Rita, a crafter for as long as her daughter can remember, was making a hooked rug that Dawn decided would make a fabulous handbag.

She imagined a one-of-a-kind piece with an interesting look and texture. No one would ever have one like it. It would be art. That first handbag has since blossomed into a business known as There She Goes.

Since hatching their idea 12 months ago, the pair (along with contributing artists) has created hundreds of handbags and a plethora of pins, wristbands, jewelry and pouches, all as unique as the people who purchase them.

"The era of having what everyone else has is past," Dawn says. "Just because it's not in a style magazine doesn't mean it's not fun."

Last May, the duo launched, an easy-to-use, colorful and stylish Web site that allows visitors to browse their creations. You're likely to fall in love, so a word of caution: No two handbags are alike. If it's a must-have, grab it before someone else does. In addition to the Web site, There She Goes handbags, mittens and hats are sold at ARTspace, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland's gallery shop.

Many of the bags, which range in price from $35 to $75, are knitted from natural wool, but a wide selection of other materials goes into the pair's creations.

"We like to use vintage material, anything that catches our eye," Dawn says. "All of the purses have vintage buttons and hardware."

To fully appreciate these handbags, feel them. Rita Zidonis creates the sturdy yet soft bags using a process called "felting." Natural wool yarn is knitted into an oversized pattern about three times the size of a finished bag. During the felting process — which uses heat, moisture and pressure — the item shrinks and is then shaped into its final form. It takes about three days to complete a handbag, Rita says, and the process is unpredictable. Each bag is then named after a woman the Zidonises know or after the person for whom it's created.

"All of the bags have personalities, just like their owners," Rita says.

There She Goes may have grown from a mere pastime into a full-scale, passion-driven production in the past year, but neither woman has abandoned her day job yet. Dawn is a full-time art director for an advertising firm and Rita owns a flower business, working full time from May through September. They've grown There She Goes via old-fashioned word of mouth and by taking their creations out and about for people to see. "Everywhere we go, girls notice my handbag," Dawn notes.

The duo couldn't be happier with their Lakewood-based joint venture, which allows them to spend hours working side by side, but it's also a serious business. The self-described "partners in craft" split their costs down the middle.

"We have to be patient and realistic with our budget," Rita adds in true maternal fashion. "We have to do things as they come along."

Both women are banking on their brand of funky, fresh handbags and accessories bringing them many more women looking for a way to freshen up tired wardrobes with truly original handmade pieces.

"You can't go to the mall and ask for a particular item in your favorite color," Dawn says, explaining the allure of There She Goes' custom creations. "It makes you feel special knowing that no one else has your bag."

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