Footnotes from Barefoot Leather

I’m Ray Hatley, artisan leatherworker, designer, photographer, copywriter, coffee maker, dish washer and ultimately responsible for anything and everything that happens, gets made or goes wrong at Barefoot Leather.

 

             

This is Molly Brown. Border Terrier, ruffian and guard dog. Molly is generally responsible for mayhem, mischief and mouse watching (and occasionally very small slightly nibbled pieces of leather that we probably shouldn't mention because she promised it wouldn't happen again…).

 

 

 

Let the blogging begin!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by on Mar 23, 2018 .

This was my old industrial unit, all 1500sq ft of it!

I'm occasionally asked to take on the manufacture of leather products for other businesses and it generally comes as a big surprise to the enquirer when I turn the work down. I do make a lot of leather things, but this doesn't make me a factory worker and nor do I want to be one. 

Frankly, I like the challenge of new projects and I want to keep my business nice and small. Smaller is easier to manage in my opinion and there is only one of me after all!

However, keeping a business small isn't as easy as you might think. In fact it causes me all kinds of stress as, on a personal...

I like classic cars and boats, I've even owned a few - admittedly most before they became classics - so it isn't any wonder that I make leather accessories for classic vehicles and boats on a very regular basis. Hey, I even live in a classic Hymer motorhome at shows.

It all started with a friend's Morgan three wheeler. The car was so small he was struggling to get an overnight bag inside and came to me for straps to secure a suitcase onto a rack at the back. I found some lovely solid brass roller buckles and a big chunk of gorgeous veg tan leather and set about the task. I first put the suitcase on the rack and measured around it...

Posted by on Jul 23, 2018 .

British leatherworkers live in a very strange and uncoordinated world. We buy English (and a significant amount of continental) leather by the square foot and by millimeter thickness. 

The reason for the square footage is often because the tannery that makes the leather measures it using an old (sometimes 80 to 100 years old) machine that was built to use Imperial measurements. A new metric measuring machine would cost so much that it isn't worth considering until the old one breaks down and is impossible to repair. This could be a while because they are generally built like armoured cars. Amusingly, quite a bit of Italian leather is...

Posted by on Feb 28, 2018 .

It is hard to put your finger on precisely what makes really good leatherwork. Frankly I'm unable to define it but I've tried to put down a few of my thoughts below. I've concentrated on cowhide as that is what I tend to work with, but I believe the principles apply to all types of leatherworking.

Is it just the quality of the leather? I don't believe so as I've seen some truly horrible bits of leatherwork made from utterly gorgeous leather. Certainly, leather quality plays a part, but I believe good leatherworking is a combination of both materials, craftsmanship, functionality, aesthetics and an utterly indefineable 'WOW' factor. If...

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 .

 

January and February have traditionally been my quiet months, although these days it doesn't seem there is much difference throughout the year; I'm just busy all the time. However, busy or not, it is time to make exciting stock for my summer shows. Just in case you don't know, each summer Barefoot Leather trades at lots of lovely medieval fairs around the country. I put up a big marquee on the showground and build a fascinating shop inside. Come and find us, it's a great day out.

I don't sell the same things at shows that you can find on my website. Summer is the time for pretty things, I make lots of hand-tooled handbags, supple,...

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 .

 

I make almost everything I sell, but this puts a lot of pressure on the workshop to produce large quantities of product very quickly. LIterally dozens of emailed orders arrive daily from the website and are printed out, processed, packed and posted almost before the ink is dry. It is a lot easier if I carry a bit of stock, but I generally have to work hard to stay ahead of the orders. Stock is definitely the way to go though. A firebreak in the midst of a raging inferno!

Making leathergoods for stock is actually a very satisfying process,  I love to see a great big pile of finished things on the bench at the end of a day....

Posted by on Sep 05, 2017 .

The footings were dug in short order, retaining walls were built and the concrete poured. Suddenly I could see how big the new leather workshop was going to be and could plan where the benches would go and how the workflow would happen. All very exciting!

However, this was the start of the show season so I missed quite a bit of the construction as I travelled around the country from medieval fair to medieval fair. One minute the tent was up in Cornwall, the next in Norfolk. Non stop shows for ten weeks is exhausting but each time I came home the workshop had grown some more until finally came time to fit the automatic roller shutter...

Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 .

When I moved to Bromyard, I was very fortunate to find a tiny, run-down little house with a sensibly sized garden. A place where I could design and build my ideal workplace and conserve my collection of old machines and tools. With the help of some amazing local tradesmen my dream leather workshop swiftly became a timber-framed reality and is now fully equipped with tools and machinery to produce almost any kind of leathergoods. 

Okay, some of the machines were made in the 19th century; many of the tools are at least twice as old as me and we don't have much use for the metric system as they were all built to deal with Imperial...