Inspired by her daughter’s musical interest, Becky Chaffee has started an online business, Violettes by Becky.
Working out of her Kensington subdivision home, she sells purses shaped like musical instruments, greeting cards, posters, crafts, coloring books, prints and paintings. Chaffee said she also sells some of her works in a few odd stores around the country.
Her works also go toward fundraising for Knox County School Music Department
“Come on out to purchase fun greeting cards, matted prints or posters,” Chaffee stated in a press release, as the first of her three fundraisers will be held at Dixie Lee Farmers Market, 12740 Kingston Pike, from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug. 12.
Whether for a fundraiser or for profit, Chaffee’s purses, which people can order to be made like guitars, violins, pianos, cellos, ukuleles and banjos, are designed and handmade by Chaffee, she said.
The handbags can double as a string player’s gig bag. She also makes chin rest bags. She said she may make scarves in the future.
Chaffee’s customers have included Grammy award winner Maggie O’Conner, wife of fiddler Mark O’Conner, and violist Rachel Barton Pine.
“[O’Conner] came to Oak Ridge and she already knew about my stuff because she saw it on another famous person’s wife,” Chaffee said.
“Becky, I absolutely love my [Violettes handmade violin] purse, and I get compliments on it every time I wear it,” O’Conner wrote to Chaffee in an e-mail. “It is so well-made and I love the beading/embroidery details and the use of fabrics.
“It is a very high-quality product,” O’Conner also wrote. “It also has lots of compartments, and I was surprised how much I can fit in that little purse!”
The idea of Chaffee’s creations started after her children went off to college, about seven years ago, and she looked for something to do.
“I had some time to sew after all these years,” she said. “I was in a craft store and I saw beads the shape of a violin and my daughter [Jenna Chaffee] plays violin. I just thought, ‘Oh, it would be fun to try to make a violin purse.’ So, I did and people loved them and I kept making them until they were as practical and beautiful as I could make them.
“Since they stand out for their shapes, a lot of people ask for them for fundraisers,” Chaffee added. “People saw them and asked if I could make a guitar purse, make a piano purse. That’s what I seem to be doing most.”
Chaffee had hired an artist to paint her guitar purses but then decided to paint them herself. That decision led her to start painting on canvas, from which she created prints and cards with musical themes. “I photographed [the paintings] and made them into prints with captions,” she said. “Everybody was buying the cards.”
For more about Violettes by Becky, go to ViolettesbyBecky.com or call 865-850-9220.
“Now, I have well over 80 prints,” Chaffee said. “What’s best about them is the humor, the wit and the fun.
The prints and purses are not just for music lovers, Chaffee said, adding they can be for anyone for fun.
“The posters make great kids’ room posters,” she said. “They make good dorm room posters. One teacher bought large prints for all his graduating seniors.”
The hardest part of her business has been marketing, she said.
“Most of the people don’t know what I do so it’s really hard to break through,” she said.
She is hoping to hold a local event in August that would benefit Knox County Schools System’s music department.