We love discovering how designers find themselves in their chosen craft, and Kelly of Hennessy Makes has a lovely story. Inspired by the intricate craftsmanship of horse saddle making from her childhood riding days, Kelly took a saddle making course, learnt from the best and started her own leather accessories business from her workshop in Sydney’s Inner West. Find Hennessy Makes at our Sydney AW15 market this weekend!
Tell us a bit about Hennessy Makes and what products we can expect to discover?
Hennessy Makes is a handmade leather accessories label based in Sydney’s Inner West. I make androgynous travel, lifestyle and fashion accessories – a bit of a mixed bag really. I love designing new products and pattern making so there are no real rules as to what I make though they’re usually things I want for myself! You will find me making: suspenders, travel accessories, wallets, jewellery, pencil cases, portfolios, card holders, yoga slings… I like to make items that are uniquely functional as well as being decorative.
What is your background and how did you start working with leather?
I grew up riding horses and learned to appreciate leather at an early age. I was fascinated by expensive leather saddles, bridles and boots (there is a lot of leather in the horse world) and spent my teenage years skulking about the local saddlery. I stopped riding eventually but my fascination with horsey accessories remained. I took a saddlery course in the North of England and started building up a workshop of my own on my return.
How has your creative style developed over time and what inspires your work?
It’s a lot more refined! My saddlery course was excellent for learning how to work with leather but my designs are all my own and I had no real training in the art of pattern making initially. There has been a lot of research and a lot of trial and error to get where I am today. I have continued to study and now have a lot more skills in my arsenal like sewing, graphic design and metal smithing. I’m inspired by other designers who blow you away with their sheer cleverness. I’m gobsmacked everyday and it’s a fantastic driving force.
What is your workspace like and what is your creative process?
I do my work from home with my trusty toolboxes and my slightly less trusty workbench. I keep a diary with all my product ideas and try to nut out at least one new idea every day, even if it never comes to fruit. I’ll draw up a design and make a cardboard mock-up, get my measurements and make some templates. Once a prototype is made I will usually carry it around with me for a few weeks and road test functionality and durability. After that I put the finishing touches to the aesthetics and make any changes I see fit. After that it becomes one of the team.
What do you love about working with leather? What are some of the challenges?
Leather is a medium without peer. It’s both strong and soft and it’s just a beautiful natural material. I’ve loved it forever so I am a bit biased! One of the major challenges is the nature of the material itself – it can be tough to work with, it’s expensive and colour, thickness and finish can vary greatly from piece to piece. I do my own shopping and pick my own hides so that helps but you will never find two pieces the same. It’s something I love about leather though I can totally appreciate it may be frustrating to a customer who wants an item that looks exactly like the image online.
What can we expect to see from Hennessy Makes at the upcoming Sydney Markets?
You can expect all my usual travel, fashion and personal accessories as well as a few new pieces. I’ve been working on an A5 portfolio that combines the elements of a notebook cover, pencil case and wallet! I designed it for designers – it’s everything I feel like I need when I’m out and about. It holds an A5 notebook (or iPad mini), pens, pencils, scissors, a ruler and your business cards. I’ve put the notepad on the left hand side so the whole thing folds out into a fully functional yet portable workspace.