Posts tagged “Meet the Maker”

Graham Richards, A 53 year road trip... 
My active journey into leather working started ten years ago, although the kernel for it was planted about 53 years back! I’ve always been a huge westerns fan and it was when I was learning to ride western style in 1970 in Hainault Forest, Chigwell, I met Bill, a leather craftsman. As a result, I’ve wanted to learn it, ever since. 
Jump to 2012. I’m on a solo road trip from Phoenix AZ to Colorado Springs CO to do a course with my work as a children’s and youth work adviser. I stopped overnight in Durango CO. It was a Sunday in early October. Everything was closed, apart from a western store. I thought I’d died and gone to cowboy heaven! The trouble was, I couldn’t afford anything. It was all hand crafted leather. However, the lad in the shop gave me a web address of a leatherwork supplier. Some months later I looked them up and they had a couple of UK outlets. A few weeks later I was driving home to Harrogate from Matlock, with £200 of tools and hide, but not a clue what to do with them! 
I scoured the internet and discovered a x2 day course in a wood outside Bath: “Learn 30 basic leatherwork skills in two days!” I went. I did. 
Then followed ten years of honing my craft. I was fine doing the basics, but I wanted to do more. The odd course here and there gave me new skills. I began carving and tooling leather. I tried making different things, to see what people might buy. Commissions started coming in. I was finally getting somewhere. 
In June 2019 I retired. After 25 years in North Yorkshire, I felt I needed to come home to Essex in London, where my family are. I ended up in Tollesbury, overlooking the salt marshes and North Sea, because it was affordable! I looked for possible markets and joined a monthly farmers’ market in Wivenhoe. I used it to hone my presentation skills; test products and build a rapport. Then came Covid… 
Introducing Jan Cadman, Collage Queen and Chair of the Essex Craft Guild 
I grew up in a very creative family - mum was a dressmaker and grade 8 pianist; I learned knitting, crochet and embroidery from grandmothers; painting, gardening and how to wallpaper and redecorate a room from my dad; had piano lessons and could make my own clothes by age 14. My creativity has always been essential to my well-being - dressmaking, knitting, embroidery, drawing, painting, playing piano, and I am also a published poet. I have never seen myself as an academic but found great satisfaction in achieving an MA in Health and the Arts. 
I originally started to make collages in box frames, often as memory collages, using fabric, lace, ribbons, beads, and memorabilia. I then moved onto using canvases as a base so I could use paints for my designs and backgrounds. I now make imaginative and playful mixed media collages each one being unique, my own original design, and is handmade by me. My inspiration comes from shape, form, colour, textures and my sense of fun and creativity. 
I first heard about the Essex Craft Guild when myself and a group of friends attended glass fusing workshops taught by a Guild member who eventually suggested that I apply for membership. At the time, although I was being encouraged by people to sell my collage work, I hadn’t had the courage to try. Being accepted for Guild membership had a huge impact on my confidence and I started by exhibiting at some Guild events. 
I went on developing my glass fusing skills and applied to the Guild for a second craft and am now recognised for Mixed Media and Glass Collage. I make fused glass pictures, panels, waves, curves, plates, dishes and other unique glass collage art. I am good with colour and design so was thrilled to find another medium to engage my passion for play and creativity as I allow the rich colours and textures of glass to inspire me. 
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