As part of our latest 'Shetland Made' showcase, we spoke to Fetlar based leathermaker Lisa of Lisa's Leather, to find out more about the inspiration and practice behind her work.
Lisa grew up in Cumbria with a passion for the outdoors, animals and pony riding. After leaving school she gained a BTEC First Diploma in Art & Design at Kendal college.
Lisa then pursued a dream to live and work with horses in the USA.
After many successful years teaching, riding and competing horses in the USA she returned to Cumbria with her family.
Lisa now lives in Fetlar, one of Shetland's north isles, where she can be found (when taking time out from the workshop) walking the beautiful coastline with her dogs, hacking out the ponies with her two children or taking a dip in the sea.
Along with teaching riding and photography, Lisa has turned her hand to making beautiful handcrafted leather good for horses, dogs and their owners.
Lisa has always been adventurous and creative, but has rarely done things by the “rule-book” which has taught her some valuable life lessons. She says "I am still learning and hope I never stop."
"Anything I do in life I want to do well, to the best of my ability, I’m not one for doing things half-heartedly."
Lisa always uses good quality leather, carefully sourced from the most responsible suppliers, she uses heavy duty quality fittings and hand stitches it all securely together to create a durable, long lasting product.
"When creating items I feel it is important to ensure that they are practical, functional and have longevity. Also, to ensure that they are made from eco-friendly materials that are sourced sustainably and responsibly."
Each item created is different to the next, each piece of leather is unique and as she begins to work with it the grain, colour, density of the leather often determines where a cut, fold, buckle or stitch may go, creating truly unique pieces.
1 - Where do you do your work?
My workshop is a converted cow byre located on Fetlar one of Shetlands northern isles.
2- What is your background?
After studying art & design at college I worked as a photographic printer, then became a horse riding instructor for many years. After repairing my own saddlery, making dog collars, etc I grew my passion for leather craft into a business.
3 - Who or what do you draw inspiration from? What motivates you to do what you do?
I draw inspiration from the beautiful blues and greens in the surrounding sea and sky, and love making beautiful items that I know will be used and last a long time.
4 - How do you work, what is your process? What's your favourite part of the process?
I work mainly with traditional manual hand tools which allows a more creative, personal piece to be created. I love adding the finishing touches.
5- Why do you choose to use the materials that you use? Where do you source your materials?
Leather is such a versatile material, robust, durable and each piece is unique. The leather I purchase comes from a company in Yorkshire who responsibly sources hides that would alternatively be a waste product from the meat industry.
6 - Do you have a favourite piece to make?
Bags are probably my favourite thing to make as the finished product is very satisfying.
7 - What are your most popular pieces?
The most popular items I make are knitting belts, bags and journals.
8 - How long does it tend to take you to complete a piece?
Some smaller items can be made in just a few hours, while a bag can take a whole week or more.
9 - What does your craft mean to you?
I love making items in a low impact way that are going to be used and last a long time, I take great pride in my work.
10 - Do you make your craft full time or do you have another job?
I am fortunate enough to have made my craft into a full time job, but as my hourly rate is very little I am also a First Responder.
11 - Art aside, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to be outdoors, so dog walking, swimming in the sea, horse riding, and boating are just a few things I enjoy when not in the workshop.
12 - If you could own another artist’s work, who would you choose? Why?
Steixner Leather Art - his work is so intricate and totally amazing.
13 - Who are your biggest influences?
There are no main influencers for me, I take small snippets of inspiration for my work from many different sources.
14 - What constitutes a successful piece for you?
A successful piece for me is something that looks good, functions well and is durable. I love seeing how my items are put to good use and seeing how they change over the years of use.
15 - How has your practice changed over time?
I started repairing my own saddlery and making collars for my own dogs, I was soon asked to repair and make items for other folks. My love for a challenge drove me to making more complex items such as bags, I have now progressed to making full time.
16 - What is next for you?
I plan to expand into the next building, so that I can offer workshops to allow folks to have a go at making their own belts, bags and other items.