Dyeing Leather With Morgan Parish
The color-happy designer teaches you how to work her tricks at home.
Color us impressed.
Dye-master Ayeisha Mesinger of the way-slick, hyper-pigmented line Morgan Parish has painted and stained pretty much anything that can take color—horsehair and cobra skin? Check and check. One of her favorite materials to amp up: leather. “It’s definitely harder than dyeing fabric because it’s a tedious process, but you can be more precise with where your dye goes because it’s hand applied,” Ayeisha explains. “It’s definitely worth it!” Here, she shows us her ways. —monica derevjanik
Speaking of crazy-colored leather: Check out Ayeisha’s bold pouches, in both electric blue and sunny fuchsia.
+ Very fine sandpaper
+ A sponge
+ A cotton ball wand
+ Acrylic leather paint or leather stain
+ Matte or glossy leather finish
Step 1: “It’s always a good idea to test a scrap piece of leather with your paint choice before you dive in. I paint, let it dry, and then stretch the leather just to make sure it’s not going to crack or peel.”
Step 2: “I get my leather ready by lightly buffing it with a small piece of very fine sandpaper to take off any finish. Then I dampen the leather with a wet sponge to make it more porous so it takes the dye better.”
Step 3: “I use the cotton ball wand to dab the dye on the leather and then the sponge to layer the color. Painting leather really just involves acrylic leather paint or any acrylic paint that has a good elasticity, like Liquitex. I was going for an ombré effect here, so I used a water-based stain instead of an alcohol-based stain, which would create a more intense shade.”
Step 4: “I let the dye dry and wipe off the excess with the sponge before adding on more layers to get the color I wanted. Usually the color will look lighter when it’s dry, so I try to keep that in mind.”
Step 5: “Once it’s dry, you can use either a matte or glossy finish to seal the color into the leather.”
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Ayeisha Mesinger Brings the Fiesta to Denver
It’s her party, and she’ll have a marg if she wants to.
Let’s get it started.
After returning to CO from her vacation in Mexico, all Ayeisha Mesigner of the amazingly sleek accessories biz Morgan Parish wanted to do was go back. Since that wasn’t exactly viable, she hosted a “We Miss Mexico” themed dinner party at her pad in Denver. “I love color and liked the idea of having a simple, fun, and bright party,” she explains. Here is how she got everything ready in just three hours—which means you have no excuse not to fake a border crossing this weekend. —monica derevjanik
Time: 1 hour
“While I was in Mexico, the Zihuatanejo International Guitar Festival was going on, so I designed an evite with that in mind—with a little Dia de los Muertos twist.”
Time: 30 minutes
“I bought a set of colorful doilies in Mexico, and now I can only find one of them. So I recreated my own with some plain white cotton doilies that I bought at a craft store and soaked in brightly colored dyes.”
Time: 15 minutes
“You can buy this trim at any fabric store—it doesn’t have to be perfect, just fun! I had some scrap fabric lying around at home, so I just stitched the pompoms around the edges.”
Time: “Literally, two seconds”
“I bought an inexpensive cutting board and sprayed one end of it with chalkboard paint so I could write my own message on it. I love that I can reuse this board with a new message for parties in the future. You can even use this technique with smaller pieces of wood to make personalized place settings.” [Ed: Craving the salsa in this picture? Check out the recipe—c/o La Esquina and DailyCandy—here.]
Time: 30 minutes
“These are so simple to make, you can use them pretty much anywhere, and they instantly brighten up any party. Just accordion fold a pile of eight sheets of tissue paper and tie it at the center with some twine. You can cut the edges to give them a different shape, or leave them straight and peel back each layer until you create a pouf shape. I love hanging them above my dinner table.”
Time: 5 minutes
“I actually used a wall hanging that my dad had brought back from Panama for this project. Sometimes I’d be looking for a plate to protect my table from hot meals, and I figured this would be a great use for it since it wasn’t on the wall. I just spray-painted it to give it some color.”
“Mex-covitch” Fried Fish
Time: 15 minutes preparation, 5 minutes cooking
“Escovitch is a Jamaican style of seasoning and frying fish. I merged that technique with the flavors I tasted while in Mexico. I don’t always cook with recipes—I like to use past experience in the kitchen, time spent watching my mom, and recipes from food magazines to guide me. Helpful tool: a deep fryer!”
2 one-pound pieces of whole red snapper (scaled and prepared)
8 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 habanero peppers, thinly sliced
½ medium white onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon butter, quartered
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon ground all spice
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground chili pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Black pepper and salt to taste
Mix the all spice, thyme, chili pepper, granulated sugar, black pepper, and salt to create a dry rub. Make 2 or 3 deep slits on both sides of the snapper and evenly distribute the dry rub into the slits, over the skin, and on the inside of the fish. Push onions, peppers, and garlic into the slits. Place the slices of butter inside the fish and squeeze lemon juice over the fish. Cover the fish with foil and let it marinate in the fridge for at least an hour (and get working on your party decorations!). Set the deep fryer to 375 degrees. Place one fish at a time in the fryer and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Remove from the fryer and sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro. Serve family-style on a platter—the fish will be super tender and can be easily picked off the bone. Serves 3-4.
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Meet Morgan Parish
The ideal line for both sides of your brain.
Ten years ago, L.A.-born designer Ayeisha Mesinger was an engineering major at a crossroads: She knew she loved math and practical thinking, but her architecture classes had made her fall for design, too. Betting on her instincts, she went for an art history B.A., which she later paired with another degree in product development from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
While on the job as an assistant designer—first at Forever 21, then at Band of Outsiders—Ayeisha found herself running around the city with a canvas tote that could not, would not handle her load. “I just wanted to have one massive leather bag that I could use for both work and travel,” she explains. When scouring vintage stores for the winning model proved fruitless, she set out to create her own version of the perfect tote. And then the perfect clutch. In no time, she was designing the perfect everything for all of her friends on the hunt for accessories as slick as they were practical—and exercise that evolved into the line Morgan Parish.
These days, she creates timeless carryalls (and a few carry-somes), tricked out with her signature dip-dyed horsehair tassel, from her new home in Boulder, Colorado. The move away from freeway-fueled Los Angeles meshes with her design mantra, as it were: “I just wanted to give people a chance to get back to basics,” she explains. “Sometimes life can be complicated, so the more I can simplify it, the better.” —monica derevjanik