Ten Cloudy – Meet The Maker March 7, 2021 – Posted in: Meet The Maker – Tags: crafter, meet the maker, Ten Cloudy
Who and what is Ten Cloudy?
Ten Cloudy is a London-based studio of artisan and bespoke leather goods. It is my family business. I am, Natasha Kerimova, the brand creator, designer, and maker of our leather bags, leather art objects, and accessories. My husband, Philipp, helps me with administrative and financial matters. Ten Cloudy is about sustainable slow fashion, leather art, and preservation of leather artisan skills.
Leathercraft is a relatively new and quite unexpected profession for me. My path to leathercraft was not a straight one. Many factors bizarrely fed into it: my childhood love for fashion, a university degree in engineering, years of work in branding and marketing agencies, unplanned relocation to London, MA in fashion business management from Westminster University, leather bag making courses at the London School of Fashion, extensive private tutoring (all while raising two children). As a result, 4 years ago I made my first simple leather bag, and at the end of 2019, I launched my own leathercraft fashion brand ten°cloudy.
I wanted to name the brand as a tribute to England, the country that pushed me out of my comfort zone. 10 degrees, cloudy is quite typical English weather that we can often see on our smartphone screens any given season.
When you were growing up what did you want to be?
I thought more about how I wanted to live my life rather than about the choice of profession. I went to work in branding and paid much more attention to the matters of friendship, love, hobbies, and was not really preoccupied with strategic thinking about my career, and whether I chose it wisely or not. If I stayed in Moscow, I would have likely continued my management career in the advertising industry, and ten°cloudy would have never been born.
However, I recall one occasion when I thought it is very cool to be an expert in some particular trade. My father is a heating engineer. At some point, he was in charge of a centralized heating system of our entire town. Once I came to his workplace and overheard his discussions with workers about some pipe sizes, pressure, tools, and gadgets. I did not understand a thing but felt proud that my father was a respected professional and specialist in his narrow field.
How did you first discover your passion for working with leather?
My first degree is in engineering, but I never worked as an engineer. I have an MA in fashion management, but it did not result in employment either. I had realized I wanted to continue in the fashion industry, but with a focus on design. Considering that my previous two university diplomas mentioned above did not help with my career, and in light of my age and personal situation getting the third degree (for example, in fashion design) was not a practical option. So I decided to take a rather different, real-life experience-based path this time. A psychologist friend of mine suggested picking a few fashion-related practical classes and see which one triggers an emotional response. So I chose bag making, jewelry making, print screen on T-shirts, and garment making workshops for a start Luckily for me, bag making happened to be the first on that list.
I found a two-day bag making course in London, which was more or less in line with my esthetical philosophy. It was in spring of 2017, and this is where (stating with hindsight) my path in the leather industry began. Actually, I tried so hard not to spoil my first messenger bag that it turned out to be quite perfect for a first-timer. I called it “First” and hammered this name on the strap. So, I fell in love with leathercraft straight away, came home, and announced without any hesitation: “I will do bags, for sure!”
Who or what inspires you to create your pieces? Are there any peers or creatives that you admire or draw inspiration from?
My inspiration regularly comes from looking at works of other artists and artisans: ceramists, painters, ceramists, photographers, surface designers, embroidery, product design, furniture makers, etc. Materials are also an important source of inspiration. I enjoy attending trade and industry fairs, touching new textures, noticing new colours, testing fresh textiles, playing with fittings. I quickly mix it all up in my head, trying to create interesting combinations. Of course, the works of my fellow leather workers are also of interest. It is great that we are able to watch the works of craftsmen via mass media. Peter Nitz, Atelier Petrov, Mila Jito are among the most well-known industry leaders I regularly follow.
Can you describe your workspace?
I work at my studio, located at Fusion Arts Studios in the town center of Kingston upon Thames, Greater London. My studio is very lovely. It is full of machines and materials, of course. As I work with mixed materials, I use several industrial machines and hand tools.
My neighbors are photographer, caricaturists, comic book artist, painters. When the lockdown is over, happy to see you all at my studio. Please, visit, it will be fun.
If you had the opportunity to teach only one technique to somebody relatively new to the craft what would it be?
Short basics of bags constructions workshop would be a good starting class.
What’s one thing other people might not know about you?
At school in Russia, we had craft classes, and my grades in these classes were lower than in academic disciplines. So I really did not expect manual handwork to become my occupation one day.
If you had to choose one project that stands out in your mind, which one would it be and why?
Right now, I focus my efforts on leather wall decoration art objects. This project helps me to keep in good mental health during these lockdowns. It has a calming effect, gives me new creative ideas, helps to develop new techniques. Also, in the current situation, I actually find it quite challenging to continue designing and making bags. The reason is simple: I do not feel it to be relevant today when we all sit behind closed doors in our homes. But home décor and art at least cheer us up. Moreover, sometimes I think leathercraft is such a beautiful skill per se; it definitely can be implemented in other art and design objects.
What advice would you give to anybody looking to learn leathercraft?
When I started my career in craft, many of my friends were quite skeptical. Craftsman’s path is not a quick one, but the more you train your hands, the better the results. Not everyone realizes it. Do not despair when someone jokes about you, or when your Instagram feed is full of perfectionists and ideal product photos. You try to compare your crooked stitches with Peter Nitz work and feel bad. Don’t stress, as with every stitch and project, you gain experience, which in turn will unavoidably get reflected in your works. Let’s revisit it in 10 years.
What advice would you give your old self?
Frankly, I do not know whether you would get to this particular place sooner or later, it is not that important. But you got here, this is important. You could have been more bold and resolute. I somewhat regret I quit an art school years ago, as it would have come in handy now, but at the same time, art skills are something that can be learned later.
As a business owner and someone that sells goods through both a brick-and-mortar store and an online presence, what advice would you give to someone looking to sell their products?
I do not think I can give good advice regarding this issue. My business launched shortly before the pandemic and the first lockdown started. All initial sales of higher value goods were through brick and mortar stores and word of mouth. Online sales were only to those who had already known me personally, and these were not their first purchases. Some new online buyers came from Instagram, but these were mostly purchases of small items and DIY kits.
So right now we do not know how to change the situation. It is possible that this pandemic and lockdowns have altered customer habits and buying patterns so drastically and irrevocably that we might have to change our business model entirely, retaining our focus on leathercraft, but moving away from fashion accessories.
Fast forward 10 years where do you see yourself and your business?
In 10 years I see myself as the principal designer, artist, and maker of my Ten Cloudy leather and mixed materials objects studio. I am happy to study further and teach others. I think teaching would be a big part of my occupation.
Where to find Ten Cloudy
Name: Ten Cloudy/ Natasha Kerimova
Business Name: Ten Cloudy
Job Title: owner, designer and maker