Jeremy and Carla Bonner
Jeremy and Carla Bonner – leather
Jeremy and Carla Bonner have their studio at New Brewery Arts and they've invited me in for a cup of tea. I know this room well as it's where we have our NBA meetings. There's a lovely strong smell of leather in the air, paper patterns and Jeremy's drawings of chickens hang on the walls. The place is full of old Ercol furniture, Robin Day 'Polo' chairs, and what looks like a 'Tanker' metal desk. Like me, Jeremy's a Brummie and we have a chat about people we used to know at 'Margaret Street' - the Birmingham art school.
'So are you two 'resident makers' here now?' I ask, referring to the studio scheme that's been a feature of NBA for many years. 'Technically no,' they say, 'but we've got the use of this space on the days when there are no meetings.' We discuss my idea that craft adapts with the times, moving sideways and popping up in other places. Jeremy and Carla are a good example of this as they've both had other lives and other careers before turning to craft. They attended various classes at NBA before deciding on leatherwork as a way of earning a living. 'We're still learning,' says Carla, 'but we've got past the kitchen-table stage. We wanted something we could both do together, equally.' Their progress in their craft has been remarkable; they've learned the traditional processes of stitching and pattern-cutting, but their inventive interest in design gives their work a brilliantly contemporary feel. Around the studio are examples of their leather bags and satchels in unusual but pleasing proportions and colours. Carla shows me a beautiful old leather bag that was her father's tool bag. 'Dad bought this from a retired 78-year old,' she tells me. 'You should make a modern version of that,' I suggest. 'We're going to!' they say.
They ask my advice on selling and marketing their work. 'Don't sell too cheap,' I tell them (as somehow I have the feeling this may be exactly what they will do). But I think if they get the pricing right then - neither too low nor too high - they could have a great future. What they make is not only desirable, it's useful. It's real craft.