Without a doubt, one of my proudest moments has to be being selected to represent one of 30 Contemporary leather makers in The UK by the Leather Museum in Walsall to celebrate their 30th year Anniversary. I was unable to attend the celebration due to a prior commitment, but as soon as I had a spare moment I dashed over to Walsall to see it.
The exhibition sits comfortably in the Museum on the first floor and as I walked into the exhibition space I was totally in awe of all of the work on display. The level of craftsmanship was on another level. A selection of bags, small leather goods, gloves, shoes, armour, rifle cases, vessels, bookbinding and saddlery are displayed sensitively.
I started the exhibition at the opposite end of entry near Ettinger and Launer. Both brands have royal warrants so it seemed fitting to start here first. Ettinger supply leather goods to HRH the Prince of Wales amongst others and in 1999 acquired one of the oldest and last surviving English leather goods manufacturers in Walsall – James Homer Ltd (est 1890), where their leather goods are still manufactured today.
Not many people know this, in fact, nobody knows, but I did some work experience at Launer when I was at the start of my leather journey. I wrote to three if I remember leather manufacturers in Walsall and Launer were the ones who were happy for me to walk through their doors and learn. I will write about that part of my journey one day. For those of you that don’t know, Launer makes bags for the HRH the queen and if you look at press coverage of any occasion, you can guarantee it will be a Launer bag that you will see. Enough said.
I’m a keen admirer of Sarah Williams of Williams Handmade, her bags have that sense of quirkiness and definitely sit well in the camp of ‘English eccentricity’. A new name for me was Caroline Groves a shoemaker whose shoes are so beautifully crafted that I know if I owned a pair I would seriously struggle to wear, not because they are so beautifully made. But because I wouldn’t want to ruin them. In fact, I would wear them but then they would live high on my pedestal of beautiful possessions that I own ( I don’t own that many beautifully crafted objects).
Then there is me, I can not explain how overwhelmed I was to be part of the exhibition. My work is very simple, I have found over the years that there are many people who create complicated, over-designed and often over-engineered work, not just in leather but across the board. I’m the opposite, simple, functional everyday products. There are a few reasons for this, but most importantly I see leather as a canvas and experiment with its surface. Products that I make have that art edge to them, I guess a happy combo of art meets craft. I feel I’m still somewhere near the start of my leather journey and have so much further to go. You will see an airbrushed pouch and purse, with a hand-dripped painted pouch.
So many other names to mention, but I’m going to let you go find those out. The Leather Museums 30th Anniversary exhibition is on until 29th September 2018. If you’re into leather, go check it out.