Talented Auckland leatherworker and embroidery designer Jennifer Strange says her travels have inspired and helped her learn from the very best. She feels truly blessed to have acquired her skills, and to be able to share them. Her acorn logo represents new growth, with the resulting tree becoming strong and dependable – values she connects with. Her experience has shown her that the art of creation is rewarding and teaches valuable life skills – and can be a great de-stressor too!
What do you make?
I love to design and make leather products that are durable, functional and beautiful. My pieces often start as a request or are inspired by the leather itself. I also design embroideries as I wanted to provide more variety to contemporary embroideries and make sure these skills are not lost in today’s modern landscape.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I’ve been formally trained in both leather shoe design/production and embroidery. For leather, I travelled to London and qualified at the Cordwainers’ summer school, while also working with a shoe designer for six months.
Loving the experience and wanting to further my knowledge I went back to London for a handbag intensive course with Anthony Vrahimis. I worked for three years in shoe production in New Zealand, and continue to learn from experienced makers in Auckland.
For embroidery, I attended courses with Royal School of Needlework trained tutors (Nicola Jarvis and Phillipa Turnball) and classes at RSN in Hampton Court, London.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Leather, flax, linen and willow are all materials I love to work with, but at the moment, I’m working mostly with leather and linen. A sharp knife is a must-have for all leatherwork, and there are many ways to make products, so a creative and practical mind is required to get the construction steps perfect.
What inspires you?
Natural forms and the use of to-hand resources inspire me to create. Many designers and their great craftsmanship have inspired my designs in different ways.
I have always loved Mondrian, Roger Vivier, Florence Broadhurst and William Morris – their lives, journeys and work are truly an inspiration.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
An appreciation of slow craft and handmade products.
Describe your creative process:
Because I like my products to be functional, the creative process often starts from a need, either mine, a friend’s or often a person visiting me at a market or finding me through places like Felt. I love the challenge to work out how to make it and then what sort of leather to use – sometimes they are bespoke, and others get in the range for trial at a market. A good example of this is the Poochie, which was made for a friend who needed a gift for someone who had everything.
Describe your workspace:
I would love to say it is tidy, but that is not often! If I get an idea or need to get products made for a market, it can get messy – but even then, I could tell you where everything is. I converted a room in my home to be my studio. It has good natural light, which is essential for finishing pieces to a high standard.
A favourite quote:
‘Be part of something bigger than you.’ There has been a noticeable change with people around the world starting to appreciate the uniqueness of handmade products and slow crafts. It’s exciting to be a part of that movement, and I hope to help promote the wellness aspects of people taking up a craft and experiencing the joy of creating for themselves or a gift.
What was the first success you had with your business?
At my first market, I had many people comment on the embroidery and how they loved seeing some colourful leathers. At that time, there was really only blacks and neutral tones available, so my little, bright-coloured purses were a hit and still are today.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
It will likely take longer than your business plan expects to get where you want to go, and to just enjoy your encounters and the changes along the way – the reason will become clear!
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
When people buy handmade and locally made products, I believe they value them more – if they have the chance to understand your story, then a connection is formed. When they hold your product, they appreciate the craft that has gone into making it.
What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
It means someone else likes what I’m creating, they see the value and quality of my work. It gives me the confidence to keep going, and hope they will continue to enjoy my journey.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A handmade porcelain platter for an engagement gift. I was attracted to its uniqueness, and I knew the person it was going to would understand and treasure it.
What’s in store for 2021?
My embroidery direction will be changing this year as there is a renewed interest in this craft for younger women. My leather earring range will increase, and I’ll be working on ranges for retailers as that part of my business expands.
Special offer for Felt readers!
Jennifer has offered free shipping for anyone who purchases from her gorgeous range of leather goods and embroidery kits on Felt! That’s right, for the whole of her feature fortnight you’ll pay no shipping to receive her beautiful products, simply by entering the code FebFeltFeature in the voucher code field at step 4 of checkout when you make your purchase. Thank you so much Jennifer!