Hello! Today we are delighted to introduce the talent behind the beautiful leather bags and purses in our Made in Britain shop. Local (ish) lass, Fionnghuala is based in the Cotswolds, we recently caught up with her to discover what goes into making her craft....
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work?
Hi I'm Fionnghuala (pronounced Finoola - it's not as difficult as it sounds). I'm a leather worker based in the heart of the Cotswolds. I have a lovely studio as part of an old mill building in Chalford. I create unique leather goods, mostly handbags and outdoor accessories using natural veg tanned leather which I dye myself to get the perfect colour. I started doing bits of leather work after watching an inspirational piece on YouTube and my talent and passion for leather has gone from strength to strength. Eventually last year I set up on my own and I'm now doing a job that I truly love. My work is quite classic in design but I try and incorporate fluid lines and curves that add movement wherever possible.
Apart from creating things what else do you do?
Creating things is such a big part of my life, even when I'm not working as such I tend to be knitting! Other than creating my partner and I go for lovely long walks over the common with friends, we hire kayaks and explore lakes. But now that it's coming into summer I can't wait to have people over for a BBQ. I love hosting parties and getting friends together.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I've known since my second year of university that I was truly committed to making. I taught myself to crochet and then knit from a book that I picked up after seeing the most beautiful silk crochet scarf at a market. After that I was quite literally 'hooked'. I've never been particularly academic and hadn't even considered a career in making until I started to make things and wear them. People would then stop me in the street and ask me where I bought them... so I thought why not!
What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline?
There is nothing that compares to the smell and the tactile nature of leather. It's such a beautiful material to work with and there are endless possibilities. I use natural materials and no machines in the creation of my pieces.
Where does your inspiration come from?
This is always a very difficult question as I like to pull my inspiration from a number of sources. I like timeless classic design mixed with subtle chic you don't find in mass produced products. I draw a lot of inspiration from items which to their owners or users were purely functional items, like leather gun powder bags for canons, brush cases, WW1 army officer's sandwich boxes and similar cases. Each one beautifully made for a purpose but the design is fantastic and the craftsmanship and time taken over making each one is amazing.
Describe your studio or workspace?
At the moment my studio is a little too small for the pieces that I'm working on so there is a great deal of organised chaos. It's full of books and rolls of leather, belts hanging from the partitions and lots of beautiful bags ready to go to shops, customers and my own market pop up shop! A big part of my workshop is my collection of old tools... I love them! I have so many and yet I still want more. I have a check list of bits to search for whenever I'm near a car boot sale having a rummage.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I have been very lucky in my move to creating full time as I've been around some truly inspirational designers and makers in many different disciplines; jewellery, cordwaining, leatherwork, pottery and felt making to name a few. I think though, my favorite all time artist and one that I've admired for their style, fluid lines, attention to detail and stunning pieces for a very long time is Alphonse Mucha. I love the Art Nouveax movement and as I grew up near the Guild of Handicrafts where C.R Ashbee made a lot of his pieces, I think something rubbed off on me!
How would you describe your creative process?
Each piece starts with an idea. There are lots of them on a day to day basis and some never make it to the next stage. I do some basic sketches in my work book but I mostly work out the pattern when I have a fresh piece of brown paper stretched over my work bench ready to start the drawing up. After drawing out the pattern I cut it from natural un-dyed vegetable tanned leather and the piece starts to take shape. As with any prototype it takes some fiddling around and a lot of calculations scribbled on the edge of the pattern but this is the most important part of my process and one of the bits I love the most is the excitement of making something truly unique and beautiful.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My most cherished handmade possession is a jumper my Mum knitted for my favorite teddy when I was little. I don't remember my teddy without it and the beautiful detail in the jumper, all of the cabling and bobbles, the different textures is incredible and just goes to show what you can achieve if you really put your mind to it. It's only about 4 inches but is just perfect in every way and made with love which makes it all the more special!
What do you when you are stuck in a creative rut?
Creative rut?... ha ha, well when I'm finding it difficult to come up with fresh ideas I love visiting museums, a town or city I've never seen before; they're full of inspiration and little quirks. You can feel the passion others have put into their work like stone carved archways and beautiful wooden doors. I'll also go for a long walk over Rodborough Common, that always clears my head and blows out the cobwebs.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
In ten years time I would like Nu-Red to be known as a high quality British brand. I would like to teach the traditional methods that set my work apart from others like hand stitching, dyeing and finishing techniques that are in danger of being lost in the modern world. I would love to stay in the Cotswolds and live somewhere we can have a dog and start a family, This is a ten year plan after all!
Thank you Fionnghuala, we love that shot of your dyed fingers! You can discover Fionnghuala's stunning leather bags in our Made in Britain shop. Go see them for yourself!
Made in Britain
Mon - Sat: 10am - 6pm
Sun: 11am - 5pm