Violettes goes to the International Bluegrass Festival

International Bluegrass Festival -

Meeting Deena Bailarina

Violettes by Becky attended our first music festival in Raleigh, North Carolina. The International Bluegrass Festival was great fun with so many Gift ideas for Music Lovers! Never had so many people called me a genius before! Can’t beat that. But I also met so many wonderful people. One of which was Deena Bailarina, who came into my booth, wearing a mandolin with a stunning fabric gig bag. She said “we should refer folks to one another”, handed me her card and disappeared into the evening. Deena has a company, “DBMM: More Than a Pretty Case”, that makes handmade, designer musical instrument gear (mainly hybrid and hard gig bags but also straps). They are uniquely stunning.


1. Violettes: How did you get started with the idea to make musical instrument gear?

Bluegrass festival Hand made Mandolin hard gig bag (from DBMM) worn by Deena at the International Bluegrass Festival.

Deena:  Well, I was living between the Netherlands and Mozambique (in southern Africa) for some time and fell in love with the bold, beautiful wax print fabrics that are a part of daily life in many African countries. These gorgeous fabrics are used for everything from clothing to carrying babies and are incredibly heavyweight and durable; like no cotton we really use or produce here in the US! After doing some research, I realized that the oldest and most reputable company producing these fabrics for the African market is actually…Dutch! The Dutch company, Vlisco, has been around since 1846 and their fabrics are truly head and shoulders above any other fabrics of this type that you’ve ever seen or felt.  They’re the backbone of all my creations.

So when I got back to the USA and realized that the one official North American distributor of these fabrics was in Virginia (wholesale only), I of course had to sign up for a wholesale account.  But what to do with all those yards and yards of Vlisco fabric?

I’ve always thought it sad, the way most people take it for granted that functional things (like gig bags) need to sacrifice beauty for utility.  And, equally sad, most people automatically think that beautiful things are purely ornamental.  So Deena Bailarina’s Musical Miscellany (DBMM for short) was born in summer 2013.

Just like beautiful folks everywhere have to prove to the world that they’re “more than a pretty face”, my gear has to teach people that it’s “more than a pretty case”! Beauty AND utility. It exists in the musical instruments themselves, so why not in the cases that protect and carry those beautiful instruments?

2. Violettes: You say that you have lived in 7 countries on 4 continents, and are settling in one place for the first time in Raleigh North Carolina. Where do you come from, where have you been and why?

Deena: Life has definitely led me all over and, like most stories worth telling, it’s a long and strange one! The condensed version: I mostly grew up in PA (an hour outside Philadelphia), thumbing my way to northern California when I was 19.  I started playing Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art and dance form) in California after having been a dancer my whole life.  It was then that I moved to Brazil to play and train Capoeira in 2002.  The “Bailarina” in my business name is actually my Capoeira nickname.  I’ve danced my whole life and that’s a big part of why I wanted to make gear that would allow me to work and play at the same time! What better place to “have to go” to do business than music events? Dance the night/weekend away to beautiful music AND share my art with other artists:

So after living in Brazil for a few years, I was back in the USA for a year, then off to Europe.  I lived for years in the UK and Italy (also Hungary for a brief time).  During those years, I decided to go to grad school and that’s what had me living between the Netherlands and Mozambique.  When I first got back to the USA after about a decade abroad, I had quite a bit of culture shock! I ended up in DC for a year and quickly realized it just wasn’t my kind of place.  North Carolina was exerting this pull on me so…here I am!  “And if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die freeeeeee”!

3. Violettes:  Your web site says you have a PhD – in what (and from where)? My guess is textiles.

Deena:  Good guess! But no; my Phd is actually in International Development Studies (I focused on global health and HIV in southern Africa).  It was an international program with partner universities all over the world and administered from Trento, Italy (northern Italy, at the beginning of the Alps on the eastern side).  During the PhD, I was a visiting researcher for a bit in The Hague which is how I began the wonderful experience of living in the Netherlands, later moving to Amsterdam to have my home-base close to some great friends.  I adore Holland and most things Dutch!

I suppose, from the outside, my life seems a bit eclectic and mysterious, and it has been an ongoing adventure, for sure! Intellectual creativity is just as important to me as artistic creativity (in dance, music, textiles, etc.) and these things actually all come smoothly together in my mind to make me the creative and quirky person that I am! Global health research and Dutch/African designer fabric gig bags? Sure- why not? It’s like the phenomenon of living in lots of different countries; the more far-flung places you live, the smaller you realize the world really is.  Same with interests; the more things you’re interested in and do, the more these things come together into a coherent whole.  It all fits.

4. Violettes: Tell us a little about your business.

Deena: Well, you’ve probably gotten the gist of my textile obsession and creative compulsions from the above! Basically, my business is all about erasing this perceived trade-off between beauty and utility in music gear.

In this day and age of tons and tons of mass-produced, plastic (aka: nylon) stuff, I think people really like knowing that their music gear (gig bag, strap, etc.) was individually handmade by someone they can see and talk to on the street.  My stuff has a soul just like their instruments do!

Since I design each of my cases from scratch, often working with professional, gigging musicians to understand exactly what they need and want for their specific type of instrument, I have a lot of flexibility.  I often realize mid-way through a custom case that maybe a different kind of foam would be more suited to a certain purpose and my clients are invariably thrilled with the results.  Unlike mass-produced items, if something doesn’t work exactly how I’d imagined or if I get constructive feedback from a musician, I can seamlessly incorporate that into my designs and keep on truckin’.  I’m never locked into anything and that allows my creations to constantly adapt and improve.

I’m also working hard to show musicians that beautiful items aren’t just ornamental,hence: More Than A Pretty Case! When you met me at the Bluegrass event in Raleigh, I was tooling around with a mandolin hard bag for just that reason! It’s a lot of fun to have musicians feel my cases, both the outer fabric and the thick layers of foam protection and sumptuous lining.  Photos just can’t convey this stuff.  I love seeing their faces when they realize that “wow- this really IS a serious protective case, not just a pretty bag”!

I’m also really proud of the fact that I’ve sourced all-cotton outer materials so that musicians don’t have to put their babies in plastic gig bags! The thought of all that plastic (nylon) out there carrying so many gorgeous instruments makes me shudder!  I’ve recently added these incredibly durable, finely woven and waterproof cotton canvas fabrics to my collection and am having a lot of fun mixing and matching those with my designer Vlisco fabrics.

Though I am making some items ahead of time these days to keep up with demand, I really love doing custom work too! I love that moment when a creation is completed and I feel this connection with the musician who commissioned the item. I see the fabrics and style they chose and the final creation is really a joint piece of functional art that we’ve created together.  It’s such an honor to me and my creations that these gals and guys would trust their much-loved instruments to my cases and I’m so happy to be able to make such special and important items that can be so useful to fellow artists and creators.

So, as you can see, I can go on and on about my business! It’s really my baby and I’m a proud, happy Momma all the way!  Hope to see you at future festivals where I’ll also be showcasing my work come 2015! Rock on!!


Carolina Chocolate Drops Deena with Hubby Jenkins of the Carolina Chocolate Drops - She made him a "hard bag" for his banjo .




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