Elegant and refined. Those are the two words that came to mind as I explored Sarah van Oosterom’s shop of finely-crafted handmade leather goods. Sarah’s bags exude refinement and you can see it in every detail: from the leather selection to the finishes, this is truly a haute handmade collection.
If I had to pick one item as my own, it would have to be the Satchel vertical. It just looks important, doesn’t it? The styling is classic and timeless, yet there is an obvious nod to modern tastes. I love the two side closures. This bag is multi-purpose as well: the strap can be removed and converted to a backpack. This is the kind of bag that could easily function between the world of work and casual play.
Sarah shares her creative insights with us in this edition of Handmade Profiles. Her thoughts on creativity, social media and the challenges she faces as a maker. I think many of us can appreciate her feelings. Enjoy the interview and then support this maker by visiting her shop afterward.
What inspired you to begin your collection?
Finding the perfect leather has taken me about two years and even now I’m still looking for better. Being a maker I wanted my label to be a celebration of the craft. There is such a focus on design in the industry that I think people forget the integral role that the manufacturer plays, without a perfect understanding of your materials I don’t believe you can really conceive something truly well made.
I’m always inspired by the raw materials, finding something to bend or hold in just the right way. I love the look of natural leathers with some grain and a good surface quality that doesn’t feel like its been heavily processed. I love looking to other designers for inspiration as well, there are so many talented people from all over the globe, the little businesses in the small, hard to find places, are creating some amazing work.
Describe your creative process. Where do you start?
My inspiration always comes from the raw material, the shape, the feel, the patterning, the look, will all determine what kind of object is best made from it. I always try to solve problems with my work for example adding a strap here, creating pocket there. I have worked with a lot of clients on custom orders lately and it’s always great having some design input from them and collaborating on a piece that works for their particular lifestyle.
[faktory_blockquote title=”About The Maker” subtitle=”Sarah van Oosterom” size=”normal”]Sarah’s designs centre around the unique natural qualities of leather and how carry items interact with the human form. With a degree in Fine Art (RMIT Melbourne) and having studied under master craftsmen in Australia and Japan, Sarah has a refined technique in leather crafting incorporating local and foreign, traditional and contemporary, skills, techniques and tools. All leather and patterns are measured and cut by hand. Time is taken to piece together every element and up to sixteen hand made processes are used per bag.
Leathers are carefully selected from local and international suppliers for their particular application. Eco friendly dyes and finishes are used and the most ethically produced natural leathers where possible. Every piece is meticulously handcrafted in a boutique artist studio in Melbourne with the same passion and attention to detail as the work of an artist.[/faktory_blockquote]
How do you maintain your creative drive?
Ideas don’t always flow like a waterfall but the drive is always present. Most creatives can relate to the fact that it’s an obsessive compulsion. An artist will always make their artwork.
What materials do you love to use?
Solid brass in a natural finish is one of my favourites. It goes so well with almost any colour leather and it ages at roughly the same time frame so as the leather patinas so does the brass. Leather itself is the most incredible material to work with and I love that it comes from a natural source and is biodegradable.
Every product has a story. Is there a story behind one of your pieces that stands out to you?
My vertical satchel seems to have an ever evolving state of being, I’ve done so many different custom variations on it from changing the width to the straps, to adding pockets, taking away pockets and even changing the size completely. It was originally influenced by the need for a laptop sized bag but I didn’t like the way it would feel so bulky when made length ways so I gave it some extra height, in doing this it sits more streamlined along the body. The short flap is easier to open and hold out of the way than a long flap and the tabs at the side were a design feature to make the bag look more modern.
Do you have a dream collaborator?
I haven’t really thought about it. But I have thrown some ideas around with my woodworking friends. I think wood and leather are a great match, so maybe there will be a collaboration there one day.
[faktory_blockquote title=”About Creative Challenges” subtitle=”Sarah van Oosterom” size=”normal”]In Australia I find it hard to get the supplies I need and often the mark-ups from Australian suppliers make the parts cost a fortune. Trying to avoid cheap labour and poor quality and still provide an affordable product has been a challenge. At the moment I still do a lot of the work myself right down to individually cutting each piece of leather by hand with a knife, it does take a lot of time.[/faktory_blockquote]
What are some of the challenges that you face as a maker?
In Australia I find it hard to get the supplies I need and often the mark-ups from Australian suppliers make the parts cost a fortune. Trying to avoid cheap labour and poor quality and still provide an affordable product has been a challenge. At the moment I still do a lot of the work myself right down to individually cutting each piece of leather by hand with a knife, it does take a lot of time.
How do you use social media and blogging to promote your work?
I have found Instagram to be the perfect landscape for displaying my work, as the designer and manufacturer it enables people to get up close and personal with my studio practice and I love having the quality engagement with my customers.
[faktory_blockquote title=”About Inspiration” subtitle=”Sarah van Oosterom” size=”normal”]Being a maker I wanted my label to be a celebration of the craft. There is such a focus on design in the industry that I think people forget the integral role that the manufacturer plays, without a perfect understanding of your materials I don’t believe you can really conceive something truly well made. [/faktory_blockquote]
Where do you see your shop/project going?
I’m not hoping to take over the world, I’d almost prefer to stay small, for me its not about creating a superior investment, I would rather create myself and a few select people a full time job. I hope to keep it small, keep it real. Although you can’t control demand, I hope to always keep quality over quantity in mind.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I’m just trying to get to the bottom of my seemingly endless to do list, but after that I can’t wait to get stuck into some new designs. I’m really in need of some new handbags, I’m constantly sketching out designs but I hope to get some materialized in leather soon.
Sarah van Oosterom:
[faktory_button icon=”gift” url=”http://www.sarahvanoosterom.com/” target=”_blank” label=”SHOP”][faktory_button icon=”instagram” url=”http://instagram.com/sarahvanoosterom” target=”_blank” label=”INSTAGRAM”][faktory_button icon=”facebook” url=”http://www.facebook.com/sarahvanoosterom” target=”_blank” label=”facebook”]