From Mayor to Bag Lady of Snohomish

I started making these beautiful tote bags in 2019, just as I was finishing 12 years of service as a Councilmember and 7 years as Mayor of the City of Snohomish. At this time, I also reprioritized my long-standing career as a visual artist, working as a painter, printmaker, and public artist. The art market dried up and unsold work accumulated. I cleaned my studio, donating some print portfolios to museums, and giving art supplies to schools, but keeping enough to start painting again. 

Along with this general approach to deep cleaning, I started sorting through fabrics I have collected over many years. I had used these fabrics for making crazy quilts, unique bedspreads, curtains, tablecloths, and creative throw pillows. All ancillary to my career as a visual artist, all to enhance my eclectic home and to give as gifts. 

This sorting and cleaning activities were at a time when we, at City Council passed a plastic bag ban.  I had a Eureka moment with these fabrics! “I’ll make tote bags for my grocery shopping.”

At first, the bags were simple, mixing and matching existing fabrics. Then, I needed more fabric for the bag linings and started shopping at a local thrift store. I found an ever-changing abundance of drapery, tablecloth, bed sheet, shower curtain, and upholstery fabrics. A friend had access to some remarkable Indonesian cottons. All of these became my palette, and beautiful tote bags became my part-time occupation. I balanced sewing…a kind of sitting meditation…. with continuing to teach at my yoga studio, where I promote an active range of physical activities and an abiding attention to self-care. 

So, all of these bags, approaching 700, now called KAREN GUZAK’S HANDMADE BEAUTIFUL TOTE BAGS. These are made from repurposed fabrics in my continuing commitment to reusing, recycling, reducing, and making beautiful things. And doing my small part to contribute to the greater good. 

Bags are commodious, packable, and measure 20 wide x 16 tall x 4 inches deep. Most straps fit over your shoulder, and some bags are washable – not all.