Designer's Brush Results in Beautiful Bags

Wendi McGowan thought it would just be a fun date with her boyfriend. A painting class in the Design District, with a little music and wine, sounded like a good idea on an otherwise unremarkable night of the week for the former marketing consultant.

That first experience with oil on canvas, however, tripped some kind of a hidden switch. “The feel of the paint…of letting that creativity come out, it just released something in me,” McGowan recalls.

Fast forward one year, and her life has changed completely.

Seated in an Uptown lounge this week, clad in coral ruffles and royal blue booties, McGowan explained that she wanted nothing more than to carry that first painting under her arm – all the time. She literally wanted to fold it into a clutch, rather than frame it and hang it on the wall. Taking a flyer, she did just that.

The result was stunning.

Friends and family loved the bold slashes of gold, turquoise and green in her first “Peacock Fields” bag, and the budding designer saw the potential for a new business.

Would other women want to buy bags like hers? To answer the question, McGowan did some homework.

She researched pricing and marketability, utilizing her professional training to set a stage for her artistic new endeavor. She found that, yes, there was an audience for the “impact accessories” she envisioned, and this month bolarti was born.

Launched just two weeks ago, McGowan’s line of handbags combines creativity and function. Each piece features a color palette of five to seven shades in an abstract pattern, painted on linen canvas. The bags are glazed for durability and finished with coordinating silk linings.

We’re partial to McGowan’s clutches, which evoke classic DVF designs. Think minimalist lines juxtaposed with expressive prints – in this case, wide strokes of color, applied by hand.

In addition to ready-made bags, McGowan also offers custom creations. She meets, swatches in hand, with clients planning outfits for events or special occasion gifts. The turnaround for a bespoke bag is about one week.

On a final note, the name McGowan chose for her line combines the Italian words for handbag (bolsa) and art (arte). Fitting, in the case of a new designer who draws on a professional past while painting a creative future.

Bolarti handbags start at $350. They are available exclusively through the designer’s website at

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