The upside of starting your own business is the freedom to do things your way. Every day is an adventure in possibility. There’s always an opportunity to follow or an improvement to be made or a new design to try out.
The downside is that you never find time to book a holiday and you rarely see your other half. (Unless, of course, you’re in it together).
Just as well, then, that G had booked us both onto a leather course sometime back in September. Of course, he knew I couldn’t resist. (quite canny, really).
As a result, we’ve just come back from a superb break. Although not quite the same as a week drinking gluvine in the Alps (sorry, G), it was at just the right time of year, when you’re feeling a bit jaded and worn down.
I absolutely love the courses that Val Michael and Neil McGregor hold in their workshop in Tetbury.
Val and Michael are the most inspiring leather craftspeople I’ve met in my 18 years in the leather industry.
As well as their courses, they have a healthy business making hand-stitched designs of their own, as well as commissions for rock-stars and royalty, restoring antiques, and providing knowledge and expertise to museums and shows. Modest to their roots, they don’t mention any of this on their website.
Their workshop is bliss. Not a machine -or computer, for that matter- in sight. Everything is hand-stitched and crafted. Peace. Calm. And lashings of tea and cake just when you need it.
As well as an education for the novice it is also a reminder for the experienced designer what leather, and honest, no-fuss quality, is all about. I came away inspired and full of renewed love for what I do (oh, and G, of course!)
I quite often get emailed from people wanting to know how to become a handbag designer, what’s the best fashion degree etc. My advice would be to get onto one of Val and Michael’s courses before you do anything else. You will learn more about leather, how things are made, and the endless possibilities that come not just from creative thought, but from the marriage of that with working with your hands. And for any die-hard designer like myself, it’s a wonderful tonic to start the new year. Plop,plop, fizz!