Meet the maker: Liz Huband, Badger House LeatherPosted on 1st March 2021
Liz Huband from Badger House Leather combines traditional skills with contemporary design, to create unique handmade items, using the finest, ethically-sourced leather.
Tell us about your business, what is it you do and how did you get into it?
Hello I’m Liz I am a leather worker based in Frome. I have a small studio workshop at the Black Swan Arts Centre, and I make an array of leather and waxed canvas treasures. I also run a range of workshops and undertake various restoration projects. I love the challenge of creating something individual, practical, and sustainable, so leather is the perfect material for me to work with.
I found leatherwork in a slightly unusual way – it started from my experience of small holding. My partner and I created a smallholding on a small area of waste land on the edge of an industrial area on the Suffolk border. We grew fruit and veg and reared a few animals. A modern day good life setting!
For an urbanite like me it was really significant. I realised how little I knew, or appreciated, about where our food comes from. I then became aware of my own disconnect to how other everyday things were made and produced and found myself wanting to waste less and appreciate natural materials more.
Leather is still predominantly a by-product of the meat industry. It is a hard-wearing natural material, that can offer strength and durability beyond many of its synthetic competitors. It is a material that should be prized and cared for, not treated as a throw away item, and it partners perfectly with craftsmanship.
When I’m not making leather goods I escape to the woods somewhere with my Dog, ‘Monkey’!
Where do you source your materials and how do you choose them?
This is really important with leather. Fast fashion has led to poor practice and poor regulation in some parts of the world and there are very real consequences to producing very cheap leather.
I try and use vegetable tanned leather as much as possible- it’s deemed to be a more sustainable, less toxic process. It is slower to produce than its chrome tanned counterpart which is why it only accounts for 15% of leather produced globally.
Whether I use vegetable tanned or chrome tanned leather, I source it from reputable tanneries who share my values for sustainable production. I am currently making a range of belts with leather from J & F.J Bakers tannery in Devon, the last Oak bark tannery in the UK. The leather takes up to 18 months to produce and the result is a gorgeous hard-wearing leather
that is just so beautifully natural. Tanning leather is a real art form in itself.
Do you have music you listen to or a ritual to create the right atmosphere to help you create and concentrate?
Music is really important for me, it helps me concentrate and not rush the making process. Leatherwork is many things, but it isn’t quick! I am a fan of brass instruments, so lots of what I listen to features a trumpet in someway or another – I am enjoying Beirut’s ‘East Harlem’ as I write this!
What does the future have in store? What plans do you have for your business in the future, and how would you like it to develop over time?
I really want to create a range of leather goods in partnership with a certified local regenerative farm, and a tannery specialising in vegetable tanning, in order to produce leather goods with full traceability – a range of leather goods that really connect farmer, producer and maker to the consumer. A real celebration of slow fashion, which for me is all about meaningful connection.
What’s behind your business name?
I just really like Badgers! I think it comes from my Dad reading me Wind in the Willows when I was young. Lots of people assume my leather wares are made from Badger leather – but Badger leather’s not really a thing yet, maybe road kill leather is a sustainable way forwards?
How has lockdown affected you and how have you adapted?
Lockdown has been tough. I started my business in 2018 and because I have also worked part-time throughout my start up years, I am one of the 3 million people who have slipped through the net of being able to access any financial support.
My studio workshop has been forcibly closed for 4 months due to Corona virus, so I rebuilt my workshop at home and have tried to carry on. There is a real sense of being a bit forgotten about which is difficult to bounce back from. It has, however, reconnected me with my own values and re-engaged me in the search for others who share those values.
I am very much in the process of adapting to using new online platforms and forming new relationships with both organisations and consumers. It feels exciting. I am also looking to develop some tutorial videos in partnership with the Black Swan Arts Centre and these will include some ‘repair, reuse and repurpose’ videos, as well as ‘how to make’ type videos. This feels like a useful contribution to be making.