Slow Process | Iseabal Hendry

Iseabal Hendry is a designer based in the Scottish Highlands, who after studying at Glasgow School of Art, decided to return home to create her work in the place that inspired it, rather than following the route she felt expected of her in going down to London, for unpaid internships and fast-paced expensive cost of living. Her hand-crafted leather work is inspired by traditional basketry and carpentry techniques. As she prepares to launch her first leather accessories collection, she shares, in her own words, her hopes that lockdown has shone a light on those who live and work remotely, as there is no reason location should limit participation in the fashion industry.

These fraught, tenuous and trying last few months have taught me to embrace slowing down. I love being busy. I thrive on deadlines and that ‘buzz’ of adrenaline when you’re not quite sure if you’re stressed or excited. And yet I actively seek things that enforce a slower pace.

I studied embroidery at the Glasgow School of Art (surely one of the slowest art forms) and while I was by no means a traditional needle and thread embroiderer, I loved creating intricate pieces that took time. Working with your hands is meditative; it forces you to engage with the materials, to consider them as the key ingredient of any design. I fell in love with vegetable tanned leather, a centuries old technique of tanning hides naturally with vegetables and tree bark. I visited tanneries. I read books and worked with local makers. It seems ridiculous to have to say it but, in stark contrast to the high street fashion we’re accustomed to, materials matter. Where they come from. How they were made. Engaging with materials and the process of making is what defines craft for me – and what made me start slowing down.

After graduating almost all my peers moved down to London to pursue creative careers. We had already experienced the pressures of working for free during internships – this was just the next step in a pre-ordained path that we, as creatives, were expected to follow. The fact was if you wanted to work in the fashion and textiles industries you needed to be in London. I stayed in Scotland.

During the next few years, I had an ongoing battle with myself over this decision and what I might be missing by not being in the epicentre of creativity. Yet, after a few years working in Glasgow, I was more determined than ever not to have to choose between lifestyle and career. I moved back up to the Highlands with the aim to launch my own leather accessories collection, handwoven with high quality, mindful materials. Fast forward another few years, and I’m preparing to launch said collection (it feels exciting even writing that down). As much as I struggled with it, I absolutely acknowledge that this is in huge part down to the imposed slow pace of lockdown, and the time and space that resulted from it. Sometimes an enforced break is what we need to step back and take stock of what we value, what we need and what we want. To ask yourself what are you doing when you feel your best? Where are you?

As the UK comes out of lockdown, that ever-ambiguous term ‘the new normal’ circulates, along with figures showing huge swathes of society who do not want to return to ‘normal’. Living for the weekend and framing our lives around work perhaps isn’t what it’s all about. We can still be ambitious and successful without sacrificing our lives out with work. We can, and I think should, consider our lifestyle choices with as much importance as we do our careers.

For me, my lifestyle is mirrored in my choice of profession. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way living somewhere with a slower, more peaceful pace of life has in turn led me to pursue my craft; a time consuming, slow process, honed over years and years. My work and my lifestyle go hand in hand, each inspiring and promoting the other. I found myself wondering today if I would be doing what I do had I moved down to London. Probably not.

So here’s to living rurally; to engaging and participating in the creative industries wherever you are
and to recognising the art of slowing down.

To follow Iseabal Hendry visit her website and follow her on Instagram.