I am Claire Weldon and since the mid 1980’s I have been working with artisans in Bangladesh making leather goods using their special local craft skills.
Since the early 90’s, I have been developing individual packaging solutions for our customers. Over the years we have improved the quality of what they produce and now we are considered a very special supplier to those customers with whom we work. The work is all hand-made using vegetable-tanned leather which is individually coloured and polished with glass paperweights to create the beautiful finish. We offer both a small selection of ready-made packaging and a bespoke service with full personalisation. We also offer other handmade items from Bangladesh which we buy ready-made when we are visiting over there. I wanted to try to help women from developing countries earn a living as I knew if they earn they can look after their children. A friend had started a charity to raise money to help these women through the UN fund for women which inspired me.
There is nothing easy about running a business and it certainly has nothing to do with what I learnt at Uni doing an undergraduate business degree. Dealing with staff is the most challenging part in many ways. There are daily challenges and in many ways it is a lonely place to be. On the other hand the compliments we receive are very rewarding and make it all worthwhile.
The biggest change for my areas of the industry is the insistence of many jewellers wanting to use vegan leather ( which is actually largely plastic ) or other sustainable materials. In reality, we should be concentrating on cutting down WASTE in my opinion. Our leather boxes are rarely thrown away. They tend to be treasured and used for many years, plus when their useful life is finished the natural leather will disintegrate whereas plastic never disappears except if burnt leaving toxic gases in their place.
I have several favourites but prefer not to disclose who they are. I can say if a customer makes what, for me, is beautiful jewellery, I do find it inspiring to create boxes for them.
I recently was asked to make a special box for the footballer Lionel Messi who was being given a special set of 8 heavy gold rings by his main sponsor ADIDAS to mark his 8 wins of the famous ‘Ballon d’Or’ award a few months back. We managed to complete this special project in less than a week by sheer determination. The designer who made the rings also made the box design with our collaboration with a very handsome result.
I am now looking to set up a retail website in order to offer a wider range of Bengali handcrafts directly to the public.