Home Interviews Happy Hedgerow
Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

Happy Hedgerow

Hand-crafted leather goods, made to last in the Scottish Borders

by Folksy

Meet the Maker – Iris of Happy Hedgerow 

Iris from Happy Hedgerow designs and makes hand-crafted leather goods from her home studio in the beautiful Scottish Borders. All Happy Hedgerow pieces are hand-stitched using traditional saddle stitching techniques and often feature hand-drawn and embossed motifs. Here Iris talks to Emlyn Glanmôr-Harris from Cornish Spoons about escaping the rat race, and creating items that are made to last…

Treat yourself to 10% off Happy Hedgerow with code FOLKSYFEATURE – valid until 23 May 2022
Shop Happy Hedgerow on Folksy

Iris from Happy Hedgerow, maker of hand-crafted leather goods

Hi Iris. Could you introduce yourself and tell us how you started your leatherwork business?

Hi Emlyn. I’m Iris and I live in the beautiful Scottish Borders with my partner and our cat. We moved here five years ago. We wanted to escape the rat race and part of our plan to do that was to ditch the office job and develop a business that we could do from home. I have always loved art and crafts and making things – from an early age I would be drawing or painting or knitting or sewing – so it was natural that our business would involve some sort of craft.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

Why leather? Is there a memory from childhood, a moment that sparked the interest or did it come to you later in life?

We opted for leather work after going on a course in Gloucestershire. Prior to the course we knew very little about leather work and the course gave us some useful insights. We came away feeling really impressed – having never done anything like this before I had made a shoulder bag which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a posh high street shop and my partner had made a stunning moulded pouch.

From that point on we were hooked! We bought a set of tools there and then, and a few weeks later installed an old butcher’s block in the corner of our living room. For the first few years this housed all our leather, tools and kit.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

Where do you find your inspiration and what, or who, influences your work?
I find my inspiration from a wide range of places. Initially, ideas for product lines came from wanting to make things for ourselves. Nowadays most ideas come from potential customers. 

Designs are often influenced by practical considerations. With our dog collars, for example, our lovely next-door neighbour gave us valuable advice so that we avoided rough or uneven edges and bits that could trap a dog’s skin or hair. Our holsters for secateurs have double stitching for strength, a reinforced base and holes to let any dirt or water drain out.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

Some of our products have hand-painted embossed motifs on them – the influence for these usually comes from the wider countryside around us.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day starts with a bit of admin: checking for new orders and packaging up any orders that are ready to be sent out. Any small items are then taken to the postbox half a mile down the road – a very pleasant walk on a sunny summer’s day, less pleasant but still invigorating on a winter’s day when there’s a gale blowing down the valley! I then make myself a mug of tea and start on the day’s production list. This might be a phone or tablet sleeve to cut out and stitch for an order, or simply making items that have sold out. After lunch it’s usually more of the same. 

I also try to allocate time each week to any custom orders that I’ve got. Custom work is very fulfilling, but usually very time consuming, so it has to be balanced with the day-to-day orders.

Iris from Happy Hedgerow, maker of hand-crafted leather goods

Describe your workshop and how it feels when you’re working. Do you like music playing, a kettle on the go? And tell us more about your cat!

My workshop is upstairs. I still use the old butcher’s block for a workbench as it’s lovely and sturdy. This is positioned in the window so that I have plenty of light and I can look out across the garden to the river while I’m working. But the workbench is no longer big enough to store everything, so I have numerous shelving units which are home to rolls of leather, boxes of stock, and all the paraphernalia necessary for packaging items to be posted.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

I like my workshop to feel calm, although it doesn’t always look it – when I’m making something I have tools strewn all over the work bench and bits of leather laid out on the floor. Sometimes I’ll put the radio on but mostly I just like to listen to the birds singing outside. Occasionally I’m joined by the cat – she sleeps anywhere but in her basket. 

I usually lay my paperwork out on the floor so that I can see clearly at a glance what needs doing, and when the cat’s not curled up asleep on a box somewhere she can usually be found stretched out on top of my notes!  

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

She’s also rather fond of the light tent I use for taking product photos, so I usually have to plan any product photography for when she’s asleep in another room, as I haven’t the heart to turf her out of it!

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

What is your favourite tool and which part of the making process do you enjoy the most?

Um, my favourite tool. I think I would have to say my strap cutter. It makes the potentially tedious job of cutting out belts and straps quick and easy. Rather than having to painstakingly measure the whole length and then cut a very long straight line using a very sharp knife, I simply set the width on the strap cutter and then run it along the length of the leather. The job is done in a few minutes.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

I enjoy designing new items but I also find stitching very relaxing. I have an old singer sewing machine for some jobs but mostly I prefer hand-stitching. I use traditional saddle stitching techniques involving a stitching clam and two needles. The holes are pre-pricked using a diamond shaped awl, which is very sharp, so it means the needles go straight through the leather without any effort.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

Aside from leatherwork, what do you love to do?

When I’m not working on the business I can usually be found in the garden or in the greenhouse. I love flowers but I’m not necessarily green-fingered, so growing them means it’s always a bit of trial and error, with lots of luck thrown in! We also grow a range of fruit and vegetables, so there’s always something to do. 

When I’m not in the garden I do enjoy going for walks in the lovely Scottish countryside. Rain or shine, I don’t mind, I just like being outside.

Iris from Happy Hedgerow, maker of hand-crafted leather goods

What do you think is the most difficult thing and the best thing about running your own creative business?

Without a doubt the most difficult thing is marketing yourself. We make a broad range of products, from bags and belts to dog collars and whistle cases, as well as a variety of purses and wallets, and knowing which products are best marketed in which places can be a real challenge. 

The other challenge is getting the message across that, unlike mass-produced goods, these items are made to last, and therefore the price reflects this, as well as the time and expertise that went in to making them.

The best thing about working for oneself is the flexibility. I get to choose how I structure my time. I’m a big fan of spreadsheets and lists, and this keeps me focused while still allowing myself some variety each day.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

What does craft mean to you?

Craft to me means having a skill in making something handmade. It’s not just making something by hand, but it’s using specific skills that you’ve had to learn and develop. These skills were traditionally passed down through generations, but these days thanks to the internet it’s possible to pick up a lot of skills from watching videos and taking part in online forums. A true craftsperson is an expert in their field.

Handcrafted leather goods made in the UK by Happy Hedgerow

Shop Happy Hedgerow on Folksy
https://folksy.com/shops/HappyHedgerow

Treat yourself to 10% off Happy Hedgerow with code FOLKSYFEATURE – valid until 23 May 2022

Happy Hedgerow offer

Meet the interviewer

Cornish Spoons - hand-carved spoons made in Cornwall

The maker asking the questions this week is Emlyn Glanmôr-Harris from Cornish Spoons. Emlyn makes a range of individually crafted wooden spoons, utensils and keepsakes, designed and carved by hand in Cornwall.

Shop Cornish Spoons on Folksy: https://folksy.com/shops/cornishspoons

Read our interview with Emlyn:
Cornish Spoons – Meet the Maker

You may also like

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.