Cymru Culture

Articles / Erthyglau

Gaynor Davies Howell interview

(March 01, 2012)

Interview with Gaynor Davies Howell

From an old chapel, now converted into a workshop near Narberth, Pembrokeshire, Gaynor Davies Howell makes a range of the finest quality leather goods of all shapes and sizes. Her companies' - GDH Leatherwork and Pembrokeshire Leatherwork - hand-made products, range from business card holders and wallets, to briefcases, handbags and tote bags, and many other items; bespoke and commissioned. Gaynor talked to us about her work and inspiration.



March 2012 - GDH Tote GroupTote group, GDH Leatherwork



CC … When did your love of leather-working begin?

GDH … About ten years ago, I think. I had dabbled in numerous arts and crafts subjects over the years, and initially suspected that leather work was simply to be another of these relaxing pastimes. But it quickly became far more than that ... I was completely hooked on working with this material and the more I did, the more it fascinated me. Particularly as I began to realize just how versatile it was. Of course, this is true of many materials and each have their unique qualities, but for me, none can surpass the beauty of leather.

GDH Executive Business BriefcaseExecutive Business Briefcase, GDH Leatherwork

CC … Are your skills self-taught or have you studied formally?

GDH … Elements of both, really. Yes, I have had practical training in leather work; without which I doubt my work would ever have reached the standard it has. However, I’ve also learnt a tremendous amount simply through trial and error, which although frustrating at times, is a great way to consolidate learning. And of course, there is always the opportunity to learn from others - there are some amazing pieces of leather work out there, some incredibly talented people - whose work is also there to learn from.

GDH VeroniqueVeronique, GDH Leatherwork


CC … It seems a difficult medium in which to express yourself, due to the nature of the materials?

GDH … That’s correct in part. It can be a little restrictive, but I try to never indulge in using that restriction as an reason not to push the boundaries. The Belle handbag is evidence of this - on first sight it appears to be a heavily structured bag of an unusual shape. Nothing more really. It can be seen by one person as a beautifully structured piece, or be rejected by another because of its very structure. Its design, however, came about because I needed to push the boundaries and step outside the day to day designs my ‘commissions’ often dictate.

March 2012 - GDH Red Belle

Red Belle, GDH Leatherwork


CC … Having visited Venice, I was captivated by the stunningly beautiful masks created and sold there. And I think that your masks are especially wonderful. What inspired you to make these amazing pieces?

GDH … Making leather masks is really more of an artistic exercise for me. Experimenting with mask-making from time to time, reminds me of the flexibility of the material and of the endless possibilities of its uses. They take a great deal of time and physical energy to create, which is a valued part of the challenge. Although the inspiration for each of them came from the characters in Welsh folklore, they’re not intended to represent any particular being really, except perhaps for the Bwca, which is my favorite.

GDH Mask

Mask, GDH Leatherwork


March 2012 - GDH Bwca mask

Bwca Mask, GDH Leatherwork



CC … Your attention to detail on your handbags shows true craftsmanship. Evidently, attention to detail and the quality of materials used is very important to you …

GDH … Attention to detail is the most important factor when making a leather article. Like so many other artisans, I can only be pleased with the result of my work if I have given it 100% and can look at the finished piece without regret.

GDH Moulded Rucksack

Moulded Rucksack or Travel Bag, GDH Leatherwork


CC … You use vegetable tanned leather. Please tell us about this material and why you use it so frequently?

GDH … Quite simply, because it is so beautiful to work with in every way! It is a joy to work with something that’s just so natural to the senses. It is important though not to confuse the ‘tanning’ of leather with the ‘dyeing’. The ‘vegetable’ tanning process, which involves the use of vegetable matter such as tree bark, results in a quite different leather to that which has been ‘chrome’ tanned. Personally, I prefer the idea of using vegetable matter for tanning, and also delight in making good use of the wet molding capabilities and carving and decorating possibilities - and challenges - that come with using vegetable tanned leather.


March 2012 - GDH Large Light Tan Leather Tote Large Light Tan Leather Tote, GDH Leatherwork


CC … What inspires you …

GDH … I’ve heard it said that inspiration often comes from the material itself, and I would agree with that completely. Just handling a piece of hide or skin can trigger inspiration. But, aside from that, I often find that architecture is valuable for triggering off new ideas, thoughts about unique structures, and particularly textures. Of course, inspiration comes from everywhere and from all of the senses. Ideas often begin formation before we’re really conscious of it, but what counts is that the moment is grasped, the inspiration is trapped and the result is an amazing piece of work!

March 2012 - GDH wallets

Wallets, GDH Leatherwork


CC … Your current exhibition and work shop space is an old chapel in Pembrokeshire. What a wonderful space to be working in

GDH … Absolutely! I love my studio! It is such a peaceful building to work in and the most perfect place to become inspired. Steadily, I am taking ownership of my workspace and as the ‘feel’ of the building is changing I can’t imagine ever having to work somewhere different.


March 2012 - GDH chapel studio small March 2012 - GDH chapel odds n ends

GDH Leatherwork's studio, the Old Chapel, Penffordd, near Narberth, Pembrokeshire


CC … What are your plans for GDH Leatherwork over the next year?

GDH … ‘Simplicity’ is where I needed to focus for the year ahead. So I have changed course, and am working on a small range of ladies accessories, rather than increasing my range of handbags and briefcases. I’m not going to give too much away just now, but just want to say that the delightful ‘Aderyn Bach’ range which will be available in the next few weeks, is a limited edition collection, so will only be available for this year.


GDH Flower HandbagEstelle, GDH Leatherwork

March 2012 - GDH red bag

Red bag, GDH Leatherwork

CC … Gaynor Davies Howell, thank you.

Link to Gaynor Davies Howells' GDH Leatherwork website here:



© 2012 Caregos Cyf. | Hawlfraint- All rights reserved

Click here to return to the Articles - Erthyglau page

Powered by Create