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Meet Jon Shakespeare -

Handmade Leather Goods

Our third blog in our designer interview series is on the subject of handmade leather goods. This series is all about showcasing some of the amazing women who have supported, inspired and been part of Saloukee’s 10 year story in business. However, I have made an exception for this one blog in the series, for my ever so handsome and brilliantly talented husband Jon. One man I will allow to appear amongst so many amazing women. Because not only does he produce handmade leather goods, but he has supported me in my business journey for half the time it has been in existence (plus he does ‘feminist’ pretty well too!).

Our month three showcase is all about handmade leather goods. This material is chosen because leather is the gift given for the third wedding anniversary. This year for us is all about celebrating our 1-10 years in business.  So during May, I will also be making new leather jewellery. Plus recommending other brilliant independents who work in the same medium.

Handmade Leather Goods Jon Shakespeare

Some Background

Handmade Leather Goods 1940 Watch
How did you and Sarah first meet?
We personally met in early 2013 but it was not until the final preview night at the Birmingham School of Jewellery in the following June, (after she had been teaching there), that I understood her more in a professional environment. We now work in each others’ businesses on a day-to-day basis.
What are you doing at this stage in your career?
I am currently in my 5th year of having my own watch company W. T. Author, and having originally thought things would be getting easier, I’ve realised the longer you have your business the harder it gets. Continuously re-inventing yourself, and your products, and how the world sees you, so you don’t appear stale, and standing still.
We have just brought out our 5th watch, the No. 1940 and have finished designing our 6th, and I can honestly say, through the ups and downs it is very much the best, bravest, and boldest thing I have ever done. It helps having amazing colleagues who constantly inspire me, and remind me, that when things aren’t so good the reasons why we do what we do!
Handmade Leather Goods Watches
What’s your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

Probably the very first show we did. Up until that point, it was a dream, a scribble, and a prayer. We had spent a lot of money, and at this point there was no turning back. We had done a pre-order crowd funded project, but this was also heavily contributed towards by amazing family and friends.

Our first show was in East London and it was the first time we had stood in front of the general public to be judged. And although we didn’t set the world on fire, we sold products. We also had so many incredible conversations that provided us the proof that we weren’t totally mental, and gave us the belief to go on.

Is there one piece of advice that you would give to someone thinking of starting their own creative business?
Believe in yourself, and your abilities. Develop a thick skin. Not everyone will like what you do, some will hate it, and they’ll happily tell you that. But who cares, they’re not someone you want to be associated with anyway.
Tell yourself, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Haters will hate, you will question your sanity, and you will contemplate going back to a ‘normal’ nine to five. But highs are oh so much higher, the rewards so much greater, and the feeling of pride will never be rivalled! To quote the brilliant Dr Seuss ‘Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” And if you believe in yourself, others will believe in you too!

Running A Business

How has running your business changed in the time you’ve been involved in the industry?

There are a lot more watch brands out there now, small start ups, all doing similar things. It’s frustrating, as everyone talks about how different they are, but the majority are doing much the same thing. For us at W. T. Author, we feel that we have to just make sure that we keep upping our game. We see it as clarity to look back at what we’ve done, and figure out how we can elevate the next watch to being completely unique.
This goes in to me questioning everything. Just because it’s a watch, why does it need to look a specific way? Let’s break down the perception that all watches were created equally, and must look the same, and let’s to trust ourselves, and be brave enough to re-think and challenge the need to be ‘normal’.
Handmade Leather Goods Makers Hands
Can you name a female role model (alive/dead) that you believe  future generations should know about?
Other than my wife, and the fantastic Jewellery Designer Sarah Kelly? {edit by Sarah : bleugh – sorry readers!}  Well I have to say the lack of equality in the world makes me angry, and the fact that we’re in 2018, and it is still such a hot topic is an absolute disgrace. Sojurner Truth was brave enough to speak out about the rights of women, and race, back in 1851, that’s 167 years ago!!! She made the speech ‘Aint I a woman?’ at a monumentally embarrassing point in history. At a time when just because your skin was a different colour, or you were able to bear children, meant you were treated horrifically.
To have been brave enough to stand up to the possibility of getting murdered for trying to break that cycle and make that change. When everyone else around you is too scared to speak out, well that is someone every person in the world should hear about, and take inspiration from:
I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman’s rights.  I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble. I can’t read, but I can hear…
Handmade Leather Goods Watch Straps
What’s your favourite material to work with and are there any you’d still love to explore?
I spend a lot of time working with handmade leather goods, as I hand make the leather straps for our watches, as well as assembling them too. However, I probably love making things out of wood the most. It doesn’t require complicated machinery, and is a very simple material to use, with any mistakes just a sheet of sand paper away. Plus, I love the smell of freshly cut wood, and how it transforms from a living being into a beautiful object.
I would definitely like to get more into metal work. I would like to be more precise, and learn how to weld. I like the idea of having the skills our ancient iron age ancestors had, and being able to make things out of metal, without having to rely on someone else making them for me. Making something yourself from scratch gives me one of the greatest satisfactions there is.

Real Life Stuff

What’s one thing that creativity has taught you about life?

To question everything. There is always more than one way to do anything, and just because you think it, it doesn’t mean yours is the best way. Be open to other ideas, but also if you genuinely believe your idea is better stick up for yourself. Don’t cave in to external pressures. Stand up and prove it.

Remember, there was a time, when we thought the moon was made from cheese, that the earth was flat, and our world was controlled by mythical creatures. These were concepts thought up by the most intelligent scientists/theorists and scholars of their generation. We make the best assumptions given the technology we have at the time. But that’s not to say it’s correct. So don’t just assume, ask why.

Handmade Leather Goods His And Hers

What’s the most sentimental object that you own and why?

My wedding ring. It makes me so happy that I found everything I could ever wish for in another human being, someone who I genuinely want grow old with, and share every experience I have in life with. On the rare occasion I’m not with her, it’s a permanent reminder of how much I love her. {edit by Sarah : I absolutely did not pay him for this – really!}

Sarah

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