40 under 40 Masterclass

As some of you will have seen, back in September I found out that I was selected for the Abbey England 40 under 40 list, and had been awarded their 2022-2023 scholarship. Abbey England are celebrating their 40th year and have created the list to help promote up and coming crafters within the leatherwork industry. I am so grateful to have been nominated but also to Abbey for their incredibly generous prizes, which included a masterclass for everyone on the list, with the one and only…Suzie Fletcher!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Suzie, she is a Master Saddler and the resident leatherwork expert on BBC One’s “The Repair Shop.” Since the show has risen to fame, I have recieved an increase in requests for repairs, with many people stating that they had seen Suzie repair something similar.

So, last month I drove up to the Leather Skills Centre in Walsall for the day, to attend the masterclass. I always enjoy a little trip to Walsall, as the home of Saddlery I love finding all sorts of fun saddler related items out and about in the city. This time I found this saddle statue which had a headknife and awl rested on top and all over it where carvings of hands at work.

Statue of saddlery saddle in walsall


The day began with some introductions, to get to know a little bit about everyone. It was fascinating to be in a room full of people with such a variey of stories and backgrounds, but all united over the passion for working with leather.

A few people from the group had brought in items that needed repairing and we listened as Suzie looked over them, identifying the areas of damage and discussing possible methods of repair. Suzie then set about working on the different projects, talking us through her thought processes, showing us all sorts of tips and tricks, and introducing us to her favourite products. She encouraged us to all share our own ideas and, given the outstanding talent and knowledge within the room, it was interesting to hear everyone’s different approaches for tackling certain challenges. Over the years I have found products that I prefer to use more than others, but I was interested to learn the science behind WHY these products work better with others with particular leathers (knowledge I will be sure to pass on to my customers.)

Whilst Suzie was working away on things, the whole group had the chance to get involved in some interesting discussions. From the importance of leatherwork and restoration in creating a more sustainable future, to correctly pricing and valuing our work in order to make a living. It was refreshing to hear that I am not alone in some of the struggles I face! Sadly the day was over far too soon but I am hopeful that the success of this masterclass may encourage more of these sorts of courses in the future.

I am looking forward to testing some of these new products and techniques on future repair jobs I have, but for now I better get back to the Christmas orders I have.

(If you are planning on placing an order for Christmas be sure to get it in as soon as possible!)

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