If you happened to be out at the weekend you might have popped down to the Hotwalls in Old Portsmouth for their Christmas Market and also Traders Keep, an artisan market full of creative and inspiring makers selling their wares at the old Round Tower next to The Canteen. One of the founders of Traders Keep is Katie Barrett who owns Raw & Auburn which is a leather craft product range designed and hand-made by Katie herself.
Having followed Katie and her artisan craft for a while, I noticed she had designed a new product – the leather plant hanger! Loving plants and of course macrame plant hangers I had never seen one made in leather before and I went off to purchase one. It also got me thinking about Katie and why she spends time creating leather goods away from her busy day job.
Katie studied Fashion Design at University and part of a project there was to design and work with leather by deconstructing and remaking a leather jacket. Loving this project stayed with Katie and when she wanted a certain style of purse for herself, she decided to have a go and make it. Being a menswear designer during the day, handcrafting with leather was a hobby that brought such joy as it allowed her to relax and do something with her hands. Katie spent time researching how to use hand tools, how to become an artisan in leather craft and decided to expand her new hobby into a range that she could sell which is how Raw & Auburn was born. At the forefront of Katie’s mind was that she wanted her products to have a simple design that would be hand cut, hand sewn and hand made. When purchasing one of Raw and Auburn’s products you can see the timeless quality and beautiful craftmanship in every single piece.
So, what is the fuss about leather? Well, it’s long lasting and we all know how leather shoes last for ages offering durability and comfort but it’s amazing to think that leather has been around for centuries. Starting with our early ancestors using it for footwear, clothing and tents, animal hide has been a firm and functional favourite in our civilisation for a very long time. Certain materials go in and out of fashion but leather has remained because of its versatile flexibility which is seen in many products we use daily.
Offering aesthetic simplicity but also a product range that is functional is important to Katie and that shows in her designs and the style of Raw & Auburn. Creating pieces that are unique and always hand finishing them with the Raw & Auburn red stitch means this attention to detail offers the best artisan look and feel to each product she makes.
Catching up with Katie I asked her a few questions.
I know how busy you are working full time so I wondered is Raw & Auburn born out of doing something relaxing away from work?
Yes, definitely. I enjoy being very hands-on making things, so R&A helps me to do just that. There are no rules and deadlines so I manage my own time, creating things I want to create. It keeps it simple and fun.
I first used leather for a project at university, and I really enjoyed the way you can work with it. It’s a more robust material to work with than fabric, and I love hammering, cutting and stitching. I also love the way it softens and ages over time, it really grows with you creating very personal and unique pieces.
Any new lines you want to expand to? I notice you have designed a new plant hanger.
Yes, I love plants and plant hangers so I wanted to see how a leather one would look, and I was really pleased with the outcome. I think I will definitely be looking into more designs within this and I’ve got a few in mind already!
I’d also love to get into bags too. I have lots of vintage military fabrics and bags I’ve been collecting for years just waiting to get used. As most things, it’s just trying to find the time. I have more ideas than I have time ha : )
Is it fun to display your work amongst other artisans at the Traders Keep?
I love being at The Traders Keep and being alongside so many fantastic makers & creators, and talking to the public and other artisans. It gives me a real buzz and gets my mind racing too. I’m always thinking of things I could do next time and new designs to make. It probably comes from being surrounded by so much talent, and not to forget it’s one gorgeous building!
You can buy the Raw & Auburn range at Strong Island on Marmion Road and also on Etsy In case there are a few stocking fillers you need to buy. You can also find Katie at the Portsmouth Creates on the Strong Island Clothing stand!
Find out more here.
Photo Credit – Darren Drinkwater