Customer Spotlight #16 J.H. Leather

Customer Spotlight #16 J.H. Leather

Customer Spotlight #16 J.H. Leather

Multi award winning Saddler Jo Heard is the proud owner of J.H. Leather. Established in 2014, J. H. Leather specialise in making bespoke accessories including dog collars, leads, belts, phone cases, shooting accessories to name a few. More recently, Jo’s business has taken a new direction offering leather work classes to keen leather enthusiasts. We caught up with Jo to ask what inspired her set the company up, what are her most favourite things to make and what impact social media has had on her brand. When did you realise you wanted to work with leather? I was doing my A levels and wasn’t too sure what I was going to do afterwards. A friend jokingly said “why don’t you become a saddler? So you can make me a saddle” and I thought you know, I could do that. So I looked into getting into the industry. I did a 1 week work experience and loved it so I applied to Capel Manor College for their Cordwainer’s Diploma, had my interview with Line and was lucky enough to get the last place on that year’s intake. What were your reasons for starting J.H. Leather? My big plan was always to work for myself and have my own business. After completing my modern and millennium apprenticeship schemes with Stroud Saddlery and Cirencester Saddlers I stayed on for a year to try and get my plans sorted. I moved to Wales in July 2014 where I set up the business, it was an amazing experience working and learning from Laurance, Issi and Emily whilst doing my apprenticeship but, by working for myself I was able to be more creative at what I was doing. How important is sourcing quality materials for your products and brand? In an age of mass produced products, being able to offer top quality materials in all my handmade items is paramount to my brand and the products I make. People can purchase mass produced dog collars and belts from the local supermarket that, if they are lucky will last a year tops so by using the materials I do my items are far stronger and more aesthetically pleasing as well as being bespoke to each person’s wants and requirements. Do you ever find it difficult to source these materials? Having a company like Abbey who supply a huge variety of fittings and materials I haven’t really had any issues getting any materials in. I once had a lady who wanted rose gold fittings on her dog collar, I knew Abbey did copper plating and that was pretty close to rose gold so I emailed them and they were able to get some copper plated crown buckles and dee rings to me, they looked amazing and the lady was over the moon with them. How has social media helped you to develop your business? Social media is a huge platform for me, I also do photography part time so I can use the photos I take to really push my brand and products on Facebook and Instagram by tagging my products in each photo which links back to my website. I also have a YouTube channel with over 5,000 subscribers where I upload tutorials so more people can learn the craft I love. (Also I’m a super nerd so really enjoy making the videos). I love the YouTube platform and have learnt a lot from the tutorials I watch on there so being able to be a part of it is awesome. You have recently started your leather workshop courses. Can you please tell us a little bit about them and what were the reasons which took you in this direction? I started the leather workshop courses on the back of my YouTube videos. I was getting messages from people asking about doing 1-1 lessons and if I offered in person training so it was a natural progression for me. The courses range from complete beginner to more advance skill sets and cover a wide range of techniques and items. Each of the courses are for a maximum of 4 people, this allows me to have 1-1 time with everyone and I hope that students will get the most out of it. I also offer all the courses as 1-1 sessions which can be arranged at a time to suit the student taking part. The first course of the year is a fast track introduction to leatherwork aimed at complete beginners and is running on the 9th-11th April 2019, this course not only covers the basics of leather working but also the set up and maintenance of tools which I saw was missing from a lot of other courses. I have a total of 29 courses scheduled to run between then and October and I can’t wait for them to start. Do you have any tips for those people who are looking to get into leatherwork? The best advice I could give to anyone starting out is to have a good sharp stitching awl! It is such an important part of the leather working process and having a good awl will not only make your stitching straighter it will be a whole lot easier to stitch with. Also watching videos on YouTube is a great help, I watch loads of leather working videos and I have learnt a lot from what the crafters in them are making. Jo Heard, Owner of J.H. Leather stitching her latest project. What do you enjoy most about your job? That is quite hard to say really, I love so many parts of it but seeing all the finished items I have made at the end of the week is quite satisfying. Also now with the courses I love seeing the progress the students make and how amazed they are that they have managed to make all these items on their own. What is your most favourite thing to make? That’s quite a hard question, I am making prototype wallets in between orders at the moment as I am looking to start making them as well as offering wallet making as a course in the future. I’m not sure what it is about them but I am really enjoying the process of designing and making them. What is your best selling product? At the moment my best seller is the padded hound collar, most of what I make are dog collars but for some reason that one is booming at the moment. What has been the most challenging aspect in running your business?  I think motivation is a huge challenge in today’s world and it can be really hard to motivate yourself to get into the workshop when it’s cold (my workshop is in a Victorian workhouse which has no heating and single glazing! The insides of the windows have frozen on a few occasions) or when it is quiet on the order front. I have worked hard to push myself to work though these times (albeit from home when its super cold and I can work on videos, blog posts and website updates). Also as I am my own boss there is no one to shout at me for not going in! Once the orders start coming back in though it’s great and I am excited to be in the workshop.   For more information, please visit Jo's website www.jhleather.co.uk.   Bespoke Key Ring made by Jo Heard, J.H. Leather Handmade dog collar by J.H. Leather Handmade leather belt.
3 years ago
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