We chat to leather craftsman Tim Hardy to find out more about his business, The Worcestershire Leather Company
Tim Hardy has been crafting beautiful accessories in leather for over 30 years and has customers all over the world. Here he tells us about the history of his business, and where the idea for a ‘quick release’ belt came from. If you would love to own something from Tim’s collection, head over to our competition pages to win a £100 gift voucher to spend on Worcestershire Leather Company products
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the business?
I started the business trading under the Tim Hardy brand in 1983, and soon began supplying independent shops with my hand-made leathergoods. The business grew pretty quickly and in the 1990s I had a small factory with 10 leatherworkers that I employed.Everything was going really well until foot and mouth hit the UK in 2001. We had been supplying a lot of the country-wear market and selling at the horse trials, and this just dried up overnight. Then 9/11 happened and affected business with our US customers. This meant that I had to cut the business right back and start working on my own again. The business was re-named The Worcestershire Leather Company in 2004.
How do you find working on your own again after employing a team?
I really enjoy the way that I work now. My business involves dealing directly with my customers, and I get great pleasure out of making one-off items for people. The advantage of supplying directly also means that I can offer quality at a great price. Plus, when I am making to order I can produce items specifically to customers requirements, such as making belts in unusual sizes.
What is your favourite product in the collection?
The one that I am most well-known for is the ‘quick-release belt’. It is based on a buckle that I found in a market in Ludlow that was used on leather fire engine hoses to keep them from unwinding. In order to release the hose in a hurry there was a flick mechanism on the buckle. I had the design modified slightly and made them in brass and pewter to use on the belts. I’ve been making them since the mind-90s, and they are particularly popular in Japan.
Where do you source your raw materials from?
All the leather that I use is from British tanneries and the buckles are made at Abbey’s foundry in Walsall. Walsall is the traditional home of saddlery in the UK. When I first started going there in the early ’80s many of the homes in the area would have signs outside saying that they were a saddlery, there were so many. It is why Walsall football team is known as The Saddlers. The area was also well-known for its small leathergoods, such as purses and wallets too.
There is a lot of handwork in your products – how long does each piece take you to make?
A fisherman’s bag would take me two days if I worked on it solidly, the weekend bags take a lot longer. Quite often the larger pieces are bought as gifts. I made Prince William a leather and canvas polo bag for his eighteenth birthday – a lot of work went into that one!
If you would like your chance to own a piece from Tim Hardy’s collection then head over to our Worcestershire Leather Company competition where he is offering the chance for you to win a voucher for £100 off one of his beautiful hand-made items.