Priestleys – Meet The Maker April 2, 2021 – Posted in: Meet The Maker – Tags: , ,

What and who makes up Priestleys?

Priestleys is founded and run by us, Karen and James Priestley. We are a husband and wife team, we have a daughter Eleanor who is the main inspiration behind our brand. 

2019 Making at the RJ sewing school 2020 James in our undecorated new house perfecting and exacting the hardware for our prototypes

When you were growing up what did you want to be?

I wanted to be art or fashion teacher, James wanted to be submariner. 

How did you first discover your passion for working with leather? 

I have always loved handbags and design. I studied fashion at uni and my final collection was handbags, I went into lecturing straight after. But always wished Id had the confidence to pursue my dreams of making and designing bags. I would only ever buy leather bags, there’s something so luxurious about a leather handbag, its long-lasting, and something that feels so substantial about a leather bag. I had my daughter, went back to work, and just thought what am I doing… I shouldn’t be here, I should be at home with my daughter making bags! I quit my job as Learning Manager of Creative industries, I enrolled in a leather course and loved it! I came home so excited about what I had been working on, I couldn’t wait to show James, he was so excited, and really loved the technical aspects. I started to show him little techniques and that was it, he fell in love with it too! He loved the challenge of trying to turn ideas into real things, the skills came so easily to him, suddenly we realized that between us, we could create something really special for our daughter. 


Who or what inspires you to create your pieces? 

Our daughter Eleanor has inspired every aspect our lives, including our business and she has actually shaped many aspects of the business. We design things that can last a life time, that can be passed on from one generation to another. We design repeat patterns for our products that are timeless, we want our pieces to still be relevant in 20-30 years time. So really every part of our business has been inspired by Eleanor. 

Can you describe your workspace? 

We work from home, currently, we both work alongside setting up our business, James works full time and I lecture part-time. We have a small upstairs office to run the business from and do all of the design work. We make all of our products downstairs in our dining room. During the day we eat every meal together as a family, then we transform it into a workshop in the evenings we have very clever storage solutions so it never looks like a workshop during the day! 

If you had the opportunity to teach only one technique to somebody relatively new to the craft what would it be?

For me, I love saddle stitching! I could show someone this all-day

What’s one thing other people might not know about you?        

I have a completely fused spine, I had very severe scoliosis and have had two big operations to help me have a very normal life, without these I would have been in a wheel chair by now. One thing people don’t know about James he is one of the most selfless people you could ever meet. He works incredibly hard to support us as a family and his main goal in life is to make sure we follow my dream for our family. He also loves a challenge, whether it be figuring out how to make sketches into 3d patterns or running ultramarathons.

If you had to choose one project that stands out in your mind, which one would it be and why?

I think our Longline Eleanor Purse. This was the first product we designed and took a lot of work and refining to make them better. We spent a lot of time on these to make sure we were happy with them. Everything is designed around the key ideas of what we want the product to be, how it should function, and what we want it to look like.

What advice would you give to anybody looking to learn leathercraft?

I think, just enjoy the process don’t worry about the final thing, the love of leather craft comes from the making process really so don’t worry about the end result that will come.

What advice would you give your old self? If you were able to travel back in time.

Have confidence!

As a business owner, what advice would you give to someone looking to sell their products?

Focus on your products, your reputation getting your message and your business out there, don’t focus on sales, these will come.

Fast forward 10 years where do you see yourself and your business?

We would love to have a shop, and a team of leather crafters working with us.

Where to find Priestleys
Name: Karen and James Priestley 
Business Name: Priestleys 
Website: www.priestleys.UK
Instagram @priestleys_uk