Simon Brock Handmade Leather Goods was born in 2012 following many years working as a craftsperson across a diverse range of industries. Simon found his calling with leather and this post will take you through his journey and show you some of his beautiful bags and belts.
We heard that you take part in one of the most English of past times, so what’s Morris dancing like?
The most fun you can imagine, with the most fascinating, generous and welcoming people you’ll ever meet. Most morris dancers are, in fact, surprisingly normal. I can’t now imagine life without it.
What materials do you work with?
I’ve worked with my hands for all of my adult life, and just love the challenge of working with new materials. In the past I’ve done stained glass and lampwork; I paint with acrylics and teach painting; and I trained as a cabinetmaker.
However, it was in 2010 when I went to train with Trefor Owen, one of Britain’s last few traditional clog makers, that I discovered leather and immediately set about finding out more about the medium.
It was surprising to me – and gratifying – how many transferable skills I found between making furniture and putting together the kind of leather goods that I make. I’ve really enjoyed getting to grips with a new material, creating new designs – and even acquiring a whole new set of tools, some of which are downright obscure.
What do you feel sets your leather bags apart from other similar looking products?
I think what sets my work apart is that I’m not just concerned with nice-looking designs, but also want to produce things that have the inner beauty that comes from working ethically, and the satisfaction and ‘human’ element that comes from working without machinery.
Joel – Yes, I think that this is obvious in the products. The stitching on the bags is fantastic – the Ophelia hand bag (shown below) is stunning.
So the leather I source is English to reduce environmental impact; likewise I only used recycled packaging; everything I make is designed to last pretty much forever, to avoid waste; the designs are timeless and organic; and of course I genuinely do everything by hand.
Whereabouts does your manufacturing take place?
There’s just me in the workshop, so every process is carried out by me. I have a small workshop in Sheffield overlooking the fringes of the Peak District National Park.
Without the clatter of sewing machines or clicker presses or any other machinery, I can enjoy the sound of the radio and the birdsong.
What is the toughest part of the product development process for you?
I’d have to say sourcing excellent quality vegetable tanned leather that is made here in England. I was determined not to compromise on this point but I know that it would have been easier (and cheaper) to source foreign leathers.
What is the most enjoyable part of the process of product development for you?
I really do love every part of it, and wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. But the excitement of creating new designs is great. The journey from a back-of-an-envelope sketch to a completed bag is always fun, although it often involves a lot of maths, not to mention discarded cardboard mock-ups.
Do you have any new products/ranges planned for the next year or so?
Yes, I’m working on a series of more unusual designs at present, some of which will incorporate materials other than leather (and some of which will probably never get beyond the prototype stage…).
What products or people have helped to inspire you to create the products that you do?
I’ve long been inspired by artists and thinkers like William Morris and John Ruskin, who aimed to combine aesthetic beauty with social justice, integrity, and an aim to promote craftsmanship by hand as a force for good in the world. All of this is embodied in my own work.
My designs also borrow heavily from the Arts & Crafts Movement, and also from that movement’s own sources of inspiration: the natural world and medieval art.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know
I once worked as a shepherd on the Canadian prairies, and to this day could probably shear a sheep if a gun was held to my head.
Which product in your range do you personally use the most and why?
That would have to be my trusty Brantwood belt, which has been keeping my trousers up for several years now and is ageing nicely. The handbags aren’t much use to me really, although they do make great gifts for female family and friends!
Joel – Thank you for your time Simon; it has been great talking with you and learning about your products.
If you would like to view and shop Simon’s full range of leather bags and belts then please click here.