Iseabal Hendry’s hand-woven leather textiles are wonderfully intricate, inspired by the traditional basket making, roof thatching and carpentry of her Scottish Highland home. But as an embroidery graduate from the Glasgow School of Art, it is Iseabal’s delicate take on leather, which she combines with fine cotton before hand-weaving, that makes her work so unique.
Pictured: Iseabal Hendry. Photo by Isabelle Law
AN ISEABAL HENDRY HANDBAG IS A COLLECTOR’S ITEM, AN EXQUISITE PIECE OF CRAFTSMANSHIP TO BE TREASURED
Her incredible technique saw its first commercial outing in her capsule collection of handbags made from the softest, vegetable-tanned leather in a range of greens, tans and blues, a reflection of the natural world around her. That range has now sold out but fans of Iseabal’s work will be delighted to know that a new limited-edition collection of her signature curved handbags became available again in mid-2021. This time the collection incorporates new colours including a bright apple green and rosy pink to add to her existing palette. Future launches will also include a much-requested and coveted card-holder.
Iseabal Hendry weaves each of her bags by hand, and her hand alone, in the Scottish Highlands. It is a slow, meditative process that she would not change for the world. For her, it is not about volume or constantly producing new designs. Each collection can be several years in the making, amounting to no more than around fifty items in total, using only naturally vegetable tanned leather responsibly sourced from Italy. An Iseabal Hendry handbag is a collector’s item, an exquisite piece of craftsmanship to be treasured.
Yet it all happened by chance. A race by fellow students to secure the biggest, ‘best’ pieces of leather during a project set by the Glasgow School of Art and the Bridge of Weir Leather Company saw Iseabal determined to make something beautiful out of the slivers and trimmings cast aside by her peers. She has since made an artform of weaving narrow pieces of vegetable tanned leather – around 7mm in width – into her glorious leather textiles. Her bags are curved and round by design – not only are they practical and wonderful to look at, echoing the steam wood bending she practiced when learning traditional boat-building skills; they also allow even the smallest leather trimmings to be used.
ISEABAL HENDRY WEAVES EACH OF HER BAGS BY JAND, AND HER HAND ALONE
Photo by Isabelle Law
Photo by Calum Douglas
Her dedication to zero waste is also a cornerstone of her sustainable lifestyle in the West Coast Highlands of Scotland where she grew up. Having been brought up as a vegetarian, she feels a responsibility and respect towards the original animal, that means wasting as little of that precious resource as possible. This commitment to reducing waste is one that her entire craft centres around.
Iseabal is now looking beyond her handbag collection, exploring new ways and artforms to showcase her craft. She has already started to work on interiors projects and her framed weaves are increasingly in demand, made to order as private commissions in bespoke sizes and colours, designed to be wall-mounted. A commission from a hotel or other public space or a collaboration with an interior designer are all part of the plan. And a place in Collect, the international art fair for contemporary craft and design is high on her wish-list. We think it’s just a question of time.