“All our work is from the basic materials used in the leather industry but we use them in a new and contemporary way. It’s craft work. Artisan leather craft – but self taught!“
A creative couple have pooled their skills and creativity to bring to life magical leather jewellery inspired by nature.
Tom Newton and Sonja Claydon have found his skills and her creativity have been the perfect mix in creating unique natural designs in their leatherware company Just Us.
When the couple moved to Scotland eight years ago they decided to branch out into leather work, tapping into Tom’s background in dyes and leather work, and started tinkering with processes and materials to find their creative niche.
Tom said: “We bought some leather (it has to be chemical free tanned) some dyes, scales, leather cutting shears, clay modelling tools and just worked and experimented for 6 months. “Inspired by a feather on the lawn we developed a skill for making it in leather over the course of three days development.
With both having created works of art for years, they were able to draw on their experience to create unique and colourful designs inspired by flowers, insects and feathers.
“The inspiration for all the work comes from the beautiful nature all around us here in the Scottish Highlands,” said Sonja.
Their pieces are handcrafted and mark the culmination of hours of work in hand cutting, dyeing and shaping. Using just three colours – cadmium red, yellow ochre and French ultramarine – the couple have been able to draw out an exciting mixture of magical hues into the leather they work.
As they use vegetable tanning to process the leather, a by-product of the meat industry, the finished leather remains bio-degradable.
The development of their works continued out at craft fairs, with the couple bringing their wares to market. The events helped the pair refine their pricing, the types of design people wanted and enhancing their skills. Chatting with other makers, including shoe makers, jewellers and leathersmiths has also given them new perspectives on their creations.
Tom said: “We have had some really beautiful compliments by good, skilled and decent folk. And it helped us a lot. Some made leather handbags for the queen or have shoes in museums showcasing British skills and crafts.”
However, living in remote Caithness, Tom and Sonja have found craft fairs more difficult to find and attend. This was compounded by influxes of premade “crafts” of lower quality. The Covid-19 lockdown helped the couple decide to leave the fair scene behind and redouble their efforts in selling online.
They now hope to establish their brand online – offering a wide variety of beautiful works and the opportunity for customers to create something more personalised with commissions. Their work is also currently for sale at a number of arts centres across the country, as far away as the Isle of Wight in the Quay Arts Centre.