Small batch, slow fashion: the story of leather atelier Loma Studios

Rebecca Lloyd is a seasoned creative who has honed her skills over many years across a range of industries, including nearly two decades as a sculptor and a prop maker in film and television. With her partner and two pooches by her side, she said goodbye to the big city and relocated to Mangawhai, Northland, to pursue her dream of hand crafting high quality leather goods that exude beauty and functionality. Loma Studios can be found at markets around Northland and Auckland, as well as here on Felt.

Rebecca handstitching leather in her Mangawhai studio
Loma Studios small cross body bag in black and tan

What do you make?

High-quality handmade leather goods. I love how quality leather ages; it softens and moulds to an individual over time and develops a beautiful, rich patina with use and age, especially the lighter tones. And with every scratch or scuff, this adds more character and tells a story. 

How did you get into your craft?

I think it all stemmed from a big tote bag I made for myself about 12 years ago, before I really knew what I was doing but when I really wanted one but couldn’t find what I was after out in the market. It’s still going strong with so much lived-in character.

Years later, when my partner and I wanted to move from Waiheke Island to start our creative endeavours up north, I had big dreams of creating my own shop stocked only with handmade artisan products made by the two of us… then, after settling in and renovating our new home, I finally started my leather working journey, and I realised how naive that idea was. The time it takes to learn and hone these sorts of skills, then to actually build up a good product range with all that it entails in starting a business is huge even for just one discipline, so focusing on one or two things was really the only option… at least for now… I still dream!

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?

No, I’m self-taught from books and online resources, but I have a background of nearly two decades in film and TV as a prop maker and sculptor, as well as being a sewer since I was a child. These broad, transferable skills have led to this new field of learning and creating my leather products.

Loma Studios leather notebook folio
"My Osborne splitter is my favourite tool, mainly because it’s so beautiful and industrial-looking."

What inspires you?

Vintage styles of many eras and other leather workers around the world, of which there are plenty.

Your favourite materials, tools, and processes?

I use high-quality, full-grain bovine leather for all my products. Veg-tanned leather and chrome-tanned leather have a place in my work for different looks and purposes. Most are American-made, some Italian, and some from other parts of the world.
I use these leathers because of the quality, manufacturing ethics, range, and consistency available. All my products feature high-quality solid brass hardware with an antique finish.

My Osborne splitter is my favourite tool, mainly because it’s so beautiful and industrial-looking. The design hasn’t changed since Osborne of the USA first developed it in the mid-1800s. With the improvement of an 8″ blade, I can split or skive leather to suit my different needs.

Hand stitching. Saddle stitching is the most satisfying process. It uses two needles at either end of a piece of waxed thread to stitch through two or three layers of leather, creating incredible strength and beautiful detail. It is very time-consuming, but the result is so pleasing. It’s often used on pieces that could not be done on a machine, thus creating a different look from fast-manufactured items.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?

Small batch, slow fashion, sustainable, made to last, minimal and unique, beautiful and functional design.

Loma Studios leather phone slings in production
Rebecca saddle stitching a leather phone sling pocket
Loma Studios leather phone sling

What has been a highlight of your maker journey so far?

Creating new pieces that are desired by my customers, realising that what I’m making is loved by others not just me, and seeing the development in my skill level.

Describe your creative process:

I start by developing a prototype pattern out of heavy card, make changes if required… usually always required, then remake the pattern. Choose the leather that suits the design, trace the pattern onto it, hand cut it out, punch the places for rivets or weaving, or where saddle stitching is required. Finish the edges either by bevelling, burnishing, and waxing or edge painting. Sometimes I leave edges raw if the design is more natural and rugged. If it is a bag, I then cut the straps with a strap cutter, punch holes for buckles, etc. and finish the edges the same as above… this is not my favourite aspect; lots of straps means lots of edge finishing, but the end result is so slick and lovely, and it’s essential to my bags. I then construct the piece, whether it’s a woven side construction or a stitched piece.

Once I have finished the piece, I like to use it myself or give it to my partner or mum to use so I can see how it wears and feels. I then sometimes make small improvements or adjustments if needed, and now I’m ready to make the product to sell.

Describe your workspace:

My workspace is a large room in my straw bale home; it has big cedar windows and French doors opening out to my garden, good light and a lovely temperature. The space itself has a unique and creative feel to start with, even before it became my studio. It has a huge workbench in the middle; this is where I cut and make. There is a large stock and shipping shelf and more shelves in a back wall where I store my leather, sundries, tools etc. Another long low table for sitting jobs, sewing and photographing my pieces on.

Using weights for pattern layout on leather
Rebecca punching stitching holes in leather using a stitching chisel and mallet
Leather working tools in the Mangawhai workshop of Loma Studios

Five words that describe your mind:

Busy, curious, creative, over-thinking, and positive.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:

People who appreciate the clean lines of my designs and understand what goes into handcrafted artisan products. “Beautiful work” is a nice thing I hear often.

What are you currently listening to?

After finishing all 71 episodes of This is Love, a podcast created by Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, I went back to their first and continuing podcast, This is Criminal. I’m not usually into true crime podcasts, but this one has more human interest stories than murdery tales! I’ve nearly finished the back catalogue of 271 episodes and hang out for their weekly episode release.

Music… quite diverse: Boy and Bear, Leonard Cohen, the Be Good Tanyas, and Massive Attack, to name a few.

Rebecca bevelling the edges of a piece of leather for a tote bag
Rebecca weaving the sides of a leather tote bag
Loma Studios black leather tote bag made from full grain vegetable-tanned leather

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?

The Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker because of the beautiful illustrations and The BFG by Roald Dahl because he’s just so lovely.

What are you reading now?

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams.

Who is your hero/heroine and why?

MacGyver, because he could fix anything with duct tape, chewing gum and a Swiss army knife. Frida Carlo because she was a strong and independent woman with her own mind in a time when that was not the status quo.

A favourite quote:

“What you see depends on who you are.” From Vincent Ward’s film Vigil.

Tell us about your pets:

Oscar bear… my beautiful nutty chocolate border collie, aka ‘Oscar the destroyer’, the quirkiest pup I’ve ever known with the biggest heart and funny ways. We recently had to say goodbye to our beautiful boy. He almost turned 15 after living a full and happy life, and he will be missed forever. I could write for hours about him but there are far too many funny stories to mention… I would need a whole article written just on him!

Bandit is our gorgeous Rarotongan special. My partner and I met him on holiday eight years ago; he was a street/beach dog, about one and a half years old at the time, that we hung out with on and off for ten days. Long story short, with a lot of help, a few months later, he joined our pack. He has an incredible character, he is very loving and has so much joy for life, with a huge obsession for food and beds…or anything comfy. He is about nine or ten now, but we call him Peter Pan because he’s still so full of spring… He also likes to snooze.

Bandit taking a nap in the leatherwork studio
View from the Loma Studios window with a black and white photo of Oscar bear, Rebecca's chocolate border collie, in the foreground

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?

Just start. Learn, make and enjoy and put as much time as you can into it. It takes time to hone skills, develop a product line, grow a business and get known out in the world but if you love what you do, all the time and hard work will pay off.

Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?

The world is full of fast, mass-produced goods that usually follow trends that come and go. These goods often don’t stand the test of time and end up in landfills. They are also, more often than not, made by very low-paid workers with bad working conditions. By buying quality artisan products that are made using quality, sustainable materials that last, you support local artisans and the environment.

What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?

Such a great feeling when a customer buys one of my pieces, it means they truly appreciate my work and style and it gives me the assurance that all this hard work is worth it.

What was the last handmade item you bought, and what attracted you to it?

Two vintage blanket dinosaur soft toys for my great-nephew were bought from one of my fellow Felt artisans, Fully Woolly. I loved the minimalist design and the upcycled vintage blanket material. The quality was outstanding, and being made in New Zealand supports New Zealand artisans doing their thing.

Rebecca burnishing the edges of a piece of leather
Rebecca modelling a Loma Studios relaxed tote in chestnut leather

What’s your favourite item in your shop right now?

The Relaxed Tote. The leather is supple and beautiful with so much character; the design is simple but features interesting details with the adjustable straps of which the tail end hangs down long on the left side, both front and back and hand-stitched pockets inside and out, and full hand-stitched side construction. This was by far the most hand-stitching on a single piece I’ve done to date. When I finished the first one, I was so pleased to see what was in my head turn into a beautiful finished piece, and so far, it seems popular with customers – I’ve sold three at my local Mangawhai community market in recent weeks.

What’s in store for the rest of 2024?

When I’m not making existing designs to restock my Felt shop and market stalls, I will be creating new designs; I have so many ideas my brain is bubbling, and creating something new always keeps me motivated and inspired. Seeing if it takes off or not is exciting too.

Then there is my other great love of pottery, something I’ve loved since I was a child. I’m still honing that craft since getting back into it a few years ago and am currently adding small batches of tumblers, bowls and soap dishes to my brand, which I sell at markets every now and then. My aim is to do a little, and often, I always have a small range to compliment my leatherwork, and eventually, I have enough to list in my Felt shop, too. Having two time-consuming creative practices is a juggle for sure; one naturally takes a centre role as time allows, but having a variety of disciplines is so rewarding, both mentally and physically.

Visit Loma Studios now »

Loma Studios resident Bandit modelling an Italian vegetable tanned leather dog lead

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