When Beyond Measure started to take shape in my head and I was beginning to research products, I stumbled across the Facebook page of Awl Co. I was immediately struck by how well leather worker Matthew Riley had responded to customer requests for bespoke tool cases.  This was exactly what I was looking for and I arranged to go and see him to discuss developing some products for Beyond Measure.

Over a year later, we have successfully launched several exclusive products for the shop, including the the original scissor case and now a pincushion and a needlecase.  It’s been fantastic working with Matt and taking an idea through the design stage into production.  I’m so proud of these products, they tick all my boxes for being useful, beautiful and locally produced.

I asked Matt a few questions so you can find out more about his processes and products:

When and how did you start working with leather?
I first started working with leather when I was 17 or 18, during my foundation year at college. Though indulging my obsession with shoes by making two pairs of trainers from scratch and consequently being accepted into the London College of Fashion to pursue a BA in Footwear and Accessory Design, I  decided to take a different route. I chose a BSc in Sports Equipment Design, thinking it would be more suited to sports footwear design. Unfortunately, the way the course was set up didn’t really allow me to go down the footwear route, and I ended up becoming more involved in sports apparel design and manufacture.

After leaving university I worked designing and developing apparel and graphics for a well-known sportswear brand, but after a year I was made redundant.Another year of odd jobs and applying for what seemed like hundreds of roles within apparel design followed, until I took things into my own hands. That’s when I got back into making products out of leather. I started at home but quickly acquired too much leather and equipment to fit into the kitchen, and moved into Higherford Mill just over two years ago.  
What kind of challenges does it present as a material?
I find leather lovely to work with: it’s warm, tactile and, like cloth, can be cut, stitched and shaped in many different ways.  The challenges come from the number of types of leathers and suede that are available, and knowing how each one will react to different techniques, environments and usages. Also, due to leather being a natural product, one hide or even one section of a hide can be completely different to another (in feel and stretch, for example), even in the same type of leather. However, as I only use British leather from respected tanneries, I do find that the leather I buy is as uniform and high in quality as possible. 
Have you enjoyed designing and making items for Beyond Measure?  
It’s been great. All of the products I’ve made are things that I wouldn’t have thought to design otherwise.  The way my products for Beyond Measure come to life start with discussing the basic idea for a product and they way it will be used. I’ll then sit down to sketch out designs and figure out what kind of special functions are needed, and if I can add anything else to the design. Take the needle case: designed not only for needles, but with a pocket for tailor’s chalk, thread or scissors.  Once a sketch of the overall product has been refined, I usually map out rough panel forms and stages of construction, to give myself an idea of processes and costs. Next I’ll work up a pattern on pattern card, before finally cutting the first prototype in leather.  Once there is a working prototype, we have a meeting to discuss any necessary changes. Another prototype will then be made to illustrate the changes before production starts.

How do you see your work developing in the future?
In the future I can see myself refining the skills I have developed, as well as picking up new techniques in order to continue improving my work to a point where the quality is as good as, if not better than, the large luxury brands producing leather goods. I also want to expand the range of goods I offer, incorporating additional British materials such as Ventile cotton and waxed cloths from companies such as British Millerain. British materials, manufacture and quality will always be the most important aspects of anything I make.
Thank you Matt, here’s hoping there will be lots more beautiful collaborations to come!  You can find Awl Co’s exclusive products for Beyond Measure right here in the shop but please do let us know if you, readers, have any ideas for products you’d like to see in the future, we’d love to have your input!
Grace

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