This week we have been chatting to Lucy Leaver who is a trained textile designer living in Saltburn. Lucy produces her own one off bespoke shopper bags aswell as helping manage a fabulous retro shop in Saltburn.
DM: So having been trained in Textiles and Surface Design, what got you into bag design and making?
L: Two things! Firstly I was kindly given two huge bags of amazing vintage fabrics featuring retro prints from an elderly lady who was once a seamstress, but simply couldn’t continue making clothes any more. Secondly, at my previous flat in Richmond, London there was a leather interiors shop just down the road that was closing down, I popped in to soak up some bargains. I spotted a clear bin bag full of bright coloured leather off cuts for a £10 - a textile designer’s paradise! Unfortunately they only accepted cash, on my return to the shop to my utter dismay, the bag had been sold. Another bag of neutral coloured leather off cuts was presented to me which I bought for ten fine pounds. When I got it home I discovered thirty pairs of beautiful cream lined leather bag straps. Hey presto! I now had the fabric and the straps destined to become ‘Lucy Leaver Shopper Bags’!
Helen Stevens (who is a source of my creative inspiration!) (p.s. DM didnt make her say that!) was soon to be putting on her first Designers Marketplace, this gave me the incentive to hold a stall and become a part of the creative community Helen was building. I designed and stitched away for four weeks at home in London, then travelled up to Middlesbrough by train the day before the market, I was actually interviewed whilst on the train by Radio Tees about the event I was about to have a stall at. Throughout the day all twenty-four of my bags were sold for £22 each. It was like turning fabric into cash! Such a positive and exciting experience which has kept me going ever since.
DM: With such an awareness for design, how would you describe your style of work?
L: Quirky, eclectic, patterned to the max, conversational – each design tells a story, unique and retro.
DM: What do you feel the important factor in your work is?
L: The designs and sketches that I create by hand and manipulate with CAD are an integral part of my work, these sketches are what set my designs apart from other designers. They are my signature print.
DM: Where do you go to source your inspiration? Favourite haunts? Certain publications?
L: Vintage shops, charity shop books can sometimes dictate a theme or background to my designs, I love the unpredictable nature of this way of sourcing new inspiration. Favourite fabulous finds have included; ‘Paris Mon Amour’, ‘Jean-Claude Gautrand’, ‘Sirens’, by Chris Achelleos’ and ‘Drawing Architecture’, ‘Paul Hograth’. I love photography, many of my snaps have also featured as backgrounds, from bullring stadiums in Spain to the graffiti back streets of Barcelona. I pour over back copies of fashion magazines such as Elle and Vogue and also take colour and pattern inspiration from Home interior magazines such as Elle Decoration.
DM: With all that in mind, what do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have and/or develop?
L: Your own sense of direction. Developing a technique and way of working that works for you as an individual. Keeping an eye on trends and being globally aware of the art movement and what is happening around us.
DM: What has been the biggest achievement in your design career so far?
L: When I graduated from Cleveland College of Art and Design, I exhibited at the exciting show New Designers in London, which is an event showcasing all graduating creative courses from all over the UK. Whilst on the stand, I was approached by Trisha Guild owner of Designers Guild the famous textile furnishing brand. She was interested in my work and I gained a paid placement at the head office studio in London.
DM: Having newly moved back to the North from living eight years in London, how do you feel about opportunities in the region for creative people?
L: I think you have to make opportunities for yourself here. I see this as a challenge - find a niche, do your research and be proactive. It has motivated me to set up my own business making customised transfer bags in schools with travelling art workshops. I’m proud that I made this happen. It is something that I would never have done in London. Business advice I found is much more accessible in my northern region than it was in London. On the whole, moving away from London has been an incredibly positive experience that has enhanced my career goals.
DM: That is such a positive thing to hear, probably something a lot of people would relate to. So now you’re all settled back in good old Saltburn, what is the next move within design for Lucy Leaver?
L: I am currently making ‘Ickle Shopper Bags ’ for children. Seeing the children in the schools I have worked in being inspired by my designs, gave me the idea to make bags that they could use! I have enrolled myself onto photography and pottery courses, I believe in keeping your design field fresh and broad by practising other disciplines. I also work for Northern Lights Interiors based in Saltburn, where I am also selling my bags. Its great to see my products being mixed with such a jaw dropping emporium of vintage collectables. I am getting involved in the buying for this shop, which is very exciting, I also get to make my bags whilst at work in the shop.