Debbie Macpherson of Freeload Accessories

The English Riviera is home to some amazing talent - there are creative minds and hands at work, producing real craft. Cockington Court is a hive of creativity so we dived into it and met Debbie Macpherson of Freeload Accessories to understand what goes into making a handmade bag and the importance of slow fashion...

Tell us something about yourself and your artistry...

I was born and bred in the South West, originating from Plymouth. After working as an apprentice shoemaker in Saltash, Cornwall I moved to London to study a BA Honours degree in footwear and accessories design at Cordwainers College in Hackney. I spent many happy years in London, however, after having children my family and I decided to move back to the South West in 2012 to be nearer family and to be closer to nature. After moving to Torbay I initially worked from home predominantly selling online, however in 2015 I moved into my workshop at Cockington Court.

What making processes do you employ?

Debbie Macpherson making handmade bags in Torquay

My accessories are mainly made by hand, my vintage industrial sewing machine is the only machinery I use.  I tend to design through pattern cutting rather than drawing so the process begins with patterns made on recycled cardboard.  People are often surprised by how much hammering, glueing and folding goes into creating a handbag!

How do you decide on the materials you use?

The quality of materials is extremely important as if the time has been taken to handcraft an item, the material has to warrant the effort put in. I choose to work with leather as no other material matches it for strength, durability and quality. For my bespoke commissions, I often use cotton fabric print linings from Liberty of London as their designs are second to none.

Where do you source the materials, tools and equipment you use?

I like to build a relationship with suppliers and ensure that their materials are of high quality and ethically sourced.

The majority of my leathers come directly from a tannery in Italy that I have been buying from for many years. I always use solid brass saddlery fittings for both strength and quality these are sourced from a supplier in London that I have been buying from since I was a student.

What inspires your creative ideas?

Feeload Accessories handmade bag in Torquay

My inspiration comes in many forms. Being based in an area of such outstanding natural beauty I can’t help but be influenced by the shapes and colours surrounding me, these can often influence the shapes and design of bags and other accessories such as my moulded leather jewellery.

I am also a keen follower of fashion so I always make sure I keep abreast of current accessories trends alongside researching classic vintage designs. I particularly like to explore traditional leather techniques including moulding leather and hand stitching as I often like to add a traditional twist to an otherwise contemporary design.

What most attracted you to set up a workshop on the English Riviera?

I relocated to Torbay six years ago. Initially I was working from home as an online business, however, as soon as I visited Cockington Court for the first time and discovered the craft units I knew that this was exactly where I wanted my business to be.

How does the English Riviera & UNESCO Geopark environment influence your creative work?

We are very lucky to be living amongst some of the most inspiring surroundings. The nature around me is constantly influencing my work. I like to look at the shapes of things; the curve of a leaf may give me an idea for a new bag shape or the patterns in the cliffs may inspire a quilting design. I am also influenced by the lifestyle of those that live in the area, there are so many dog lovers in Torbay it has inspired me to create a dog accessories range which has been hugely popular.

What is your favourite spot on the English Riviera and why?

Preston, my local beach is my favourite place, especially early in the morning or in the evening when it’s at its quietest.  I often run there and always have my very best ideas whilst taking in the nature around me. I love listening to the crashing waves and seeing the families of birds.

Choose one word that describes your work?

Individual

What are you most proud of?

I began working with leather 23 years ago, when I was 18, since this time I have worked as an apprentice shoemaker, completed a degree in accessories design and have had numerous jobs which I have run my business alongside. I am most proud that over the years I have managed to stay focused and dedicated to my craft and finally got to a point 3 years ago where I was able to run it as a full-time business.

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