LOGAN SQUARE — Kate Sanderson described the relationship with her boyfriend Pete Gamen as a "really good fusion of talents."
Sanderson, 35, is founder of Sink or Swim, which creates designer purses. Her next line of ladies' bagware, in six different color schemes, comes out later this summer.
Gamen's work at P-Slinky Paint, where he crafts custom paint jobs for motorcycles, helped inspire Sanderson's product.
"She's trying to mimic a hot rod paint job on a purse," said Gamen, 37. "She kind of wanted to appeal to the girlfriend of a hot rod guy. Her purses are kind of like a mobile hot rod in a case."
The longtime couple has lived in Sanderson's Logan Square home, which in itself is artwork with items from the 1950s and 1960s filling the main level, for about four years.
Sanderson, a former Windy City Roller, has her "studio" in a nook near the kitchen. She sold about 1,500 purses and accessories last year, and her most popular models were ones incorporating the City of Chicago flag. This time around, she is producing 200 purses, which will retail for between $150 and $200. Eventually, she said the purses will have matching wallets, wristlets and other companion pieces.
"It's pretty inspiring what she's doing, and it's a huge deal when I see how big she's going with it and how much she's invested in it," Gamen said of Sanderson, who put all her efforts into Sink or Swim after being laid off as a senior interaction designer at Motorola. Sanderson said she's invested $15,000 into her relatively new company.
Gamen's workspace is the garage. The West Lawn native and Bogan High School graduate is a commercial printer at Bros Litho in the West Loop, but he still spends 20 to 30 hours per week with P-Slinky. He charges about $300 for minor detailing up to $1,200 for more elaborate projects.
Bucktown resident Spencer Walling, who's had four choppers painted by Gamen, said he "helps put your vision into his palate, and he's able to finish what you want."
Frank DeBose, of Avondale and a manager at Kuma's Corner, said it's obvious Gamen "submerged himself in the painting" of his three motorcycles.
Gamen's long term goal is to restore an old-school Cadillac Coupe DeVille with a 1959 Buick Lido Lavender color scheme. He would like to have the car, which sits in the garage, completed by May, when he and Sanderson would drive it to the Austin (Texas) Auto Show.
Until then, Sanderson said she and Gamen will continue to motivate each other.
"We play off each other's talents really well," Sanderson said.