During the coronavirus pandemic, many people picked up a new hobby. Astoria resident Amy Magnussen started expanding hers, and ended up creating a new business.
Magnussen’s business, Oso Made, is present on Etsy.com and inside Forsythea in Astoria.
Oso Made, which features purses and other handcrafted items, started with face masks.
When health regulations required everyone to wear face coverings, Magnussen broke out her sewing machine and learned to make masks. She started making them for her colleagues at Clatsop Community College and friends.
After she made 80 or so, she was ready to try something new. She was loving sewing and had more time than normal, so she took on a project of recreating a threadbare purse she had.
“In those first couple … I learned a lot,” she said with a laugh.
As she kept practicing, she got better at making the bags and her friends showed interest in having them. As she continued to improve, she decided to start selling them.
“After a couple months of making them, I started to think that people may enjoy having these,” she said.
She opened her Etsy shop and did an art walk at Forsythea, which still sells her bags.
Magnussen’s shop name is inspired by her life. Oso means bear in Spanish. Bears are a symbol that has come up several times in her life, from her first toy of Winnie the Pooh to her hometown sports team the Chicago Bears.
She has also worked to learn Spanish over the years, so when it came to picking a name for the business, Oso just fit, she said.
Magnussen’s grandmother sewed a lot when she was growing up. Magnussen would observe her, but never really learned herself, she said. Other than a cursory home economics class in middle school, she never really thought about learning more about it.
She made a few items through the years, like curtains for a trailer or minor repairs, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that she started to sew seriously.
Though she wasn’t always a big sewer, Magnussen said the ideas of color, design and texture have always fascinated her.
As she started the project and started sewing her bags, Magnussen also started designing them. She develops them using paper bags first to build a mockup, held together with lots of clips. Then, she uses fabric and perfects the design before making the final versions and adding them to the shop.
Along with that creativity is the creativity she uses to choose her fabrics. She uses an online forum called Spoonflower that allows her to choose designs and communicate directly with artists.
Magnussen said she is particularly drawn into designs that reflect the Pacific Northwest environment, plus those that have geometric patterns and lots of color. She also tries to work sustainability in as much as she can, including with fabrics and how she packages her orders.
Magnussen also works with customers on custom orders. Getting to interact with people in a customer setting and settling into community support is still something that Magnussen is getting used to. She said working with people has been a great thing.
“There is really inner joy at seeing people enjoy my bags,” Magnussen said.
She still remembers the first time that she saw someone she didn’t know walking around town with one of her purses.
“I was so excited, and she was very nice to me,” Magnussen said.