LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A sign above Mary Allmann's desk provides the daily inspiration she needs to design each bag.
The purse is the mirror of the soul, it says.
A retired teacher from Wisconsin, Allmann, 67, spends her days making purses by hand out of her Sarasota home.
And she never makes the same bag twice.
"That makes it special," she said. "They're not going to see this bag coming towards them when they're walking down the street."
On a recent Tuesday, Allmann was working on a cross-body leopard print bag with a vintage brooch affixed on the front to sell at an upcoming art show in Lakewood Ranch.
As a member of Lakewood Ranch's Creative Arts Association, Allmann is able to participate in the Fall Art
Show held every year by the association. This year's show is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 16 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
"All the money made goes to the artists," said event organizer Mary Litle. "This is for the promotion of the artists and the association."
Litle, who makes beaded jewelry, is expecting between 300 and 500 people to attend this year's sale. The event is open to the public and has free admission. About 20 artists -- from painters to purse makers -- will be selling their work.
To prepare for the crowd, Allmann is bringing plenty of her bags, which range from $70 to $100 each.
Allmann's bags aren't simple little things you could pick up at Ross.
Each one is elaborately made with fabrics, brooches and little trinkets she's picked up over the years. Her studio is full of storage units containing her finds.
"Sometimes I go to garage sales and look for vintage beads, baubles, bangles, whatever. It just has to get me excited and inspire an idea," said Allmann, who has been making purses for 16 years.
Allmann remembers the first bag she ever sold. It was at an art show in Wisconsin. One lady came right to her booth, picked up a bag and bought it.
"I had died and gone to heaven," she said. "Somebody actually paid to have my bag, something I created."
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.