I knew there was something familiar about today’s date.
Other than my being a science fiction fan, May the fourth last year was significant because it was the day we announced that we could restart the supply of our non-essential goods to customers (see the Covid-19 info on the Belts site).
So today marks a year since we began a new normal; one that has continued to evolve, and will continue to do so. We are still sanitising hands and surfaces, wearing face coverings and keeping our distance…
We are delighted to be able to welcome customers into our new-look shop, with the belt maker’s workbench right in the window, and a spacious shopping area inside.
Those exciting plans I mentioned a year ago became a shop called ‘The Belt Makers and Friends‘ and inside you can now find a good range of gifts and accessories that compliment our belts, and that you might find around a person who belongs – for a part of their day at least – in an office, study or studio. Things like suitable leather bags and briefcases for the trip to work. Other items that brighten your day, such as a smart shirt and cufflinks to team up with a more casual trouser; comfy and bright, British made woollen socks; and leather pens that have been expertly hand crafted from our very own leather trimmings.
The range is expanding all the time and ‘desk decor’ is an area we are aiming at for the near future. Where will we be this time next year? To quote Dave Lister, of the JMC mining ship, Red Dwarf: “It’s going to be fun finding out!”
It’s been an unusual year so far, to say the least. One of the strangest summers seems to finally be over and the children have gone back to school.
You know what that means?
It’s time to start planning for the end of the year. Let’s take it steadily, one gift at a time.
We have many lovely things
We have many lovely things on our Friends website and I’d like to introduce you to them, and to some of the people who make them.
Let’s start with our bag maker, Henry, of Henry Tomkins Leather.
We’ve known Henry for a little while now and, although he is semi retired, we were delighted that he was pleased to have the opportunity to place a few items from his extensive catalogue in our new shop.
He makes sturdy briefcases and lovely, soft bags and satchels in his studio, just 2 miles from our shop near the city centre. His hand made products are tough, durable and come with his personal 5 year guarantee.
The bold buckle strap front is complimented by a strong and sturdy comfortable handle, with reinforced leather covered metal bar to keep the briefcase in shape while carrying heavy items.
You have two internal pockets, for separating your home and office gear for example, and the front pocket has additional sections for storing those smaller items that always find their way to the bottom, eg. pens, passport, tickets etc.
There are three separate compartments in the main section, with a total of seven additional internal pockets. These are ready to hold whatever you need to fit in them, including pens, phone, wallet, etc.
There’s a handy zip compartment that is accessible from the back and the look is completed with a locking front fastener and two buckle straps. The Full Monty also comes with a fully adjustable shoulder strap with integral comfort panel. The comfort panel is fixed in the middle and the strap can be adjusted from both ends so you can always be sure the comfort part is right where you want it!
… so I had to do something else for a bit. I needed to take the product photos for Henry’s most excellent leather briefcases and bags so I greedily picked my favourite briefcase to begin, and brown and silver began to take over my day.
It’s a Brown and Silver masterpiece
Henry calls this The Full Monty
And with good reason. All Henry’s briefcases can be ordered in different colours, with extras or with other changes, however, this comes with the full works. The whole shebang. Nay, it’s the pinnacle of the briefcase department.
Inside the main section are three separate compartments, with a total of seven additional internal pockets. I’ve counted! These are ready to hold whatever you need to fit inside them, including pens and a phone.
A handy zip compartment is accessible from the back and the look is completed with a locking front fastener and two buckle straps.
The Full Monty also comes with a fully adjustable shoulder strap with integral comfort panel. The comfort panel is fixed in the middle and the strap can be adjusted from both ends so you can always be sure the comfort part is right where you want it!
I thought it would be wise to put a group together while I had the camera and the opportunity. Hmm, now what goes with a very dark brown briefcase with gunmetal fittings…?
How about a nice brown and silver belt?
This shade of brown is called Dark Havana. A very traditional colour for English saddlery, it is an ideal, all purpose colour for when black is little too dark but nearly black will do perfectly.
The silver coloured stainless steel in the West End Roller buckle is non-rusting and extremely durable. Having a roller on the buckle is designed to be kinder on the leather than not having one, however, it has to be said that the quality and standard of leather used in these belts puts the choice of whether or not to select a buckle with a roller, simply down to preference.
Following the silver theme
If your lover deserves a symbol of your depth of feeling, perhaps a pair of these cufflinks would be a useful and daily reminder?
A knot without an end, this design is, of course, widely known as a symbol of never-ending love.
Teamed up here with the utilitarian colour and nature of the stainless steel buckle, the silver coloured finish is achieved with practical, non-tarnish, rhodium plating.
Somewhere to keep them
It can be easy to lose track of tiny things. Our cufflinks are such a lovely product to handle; and to lose one, or both, would be a sad thing indeed. I would recommend keeping them together in a receptacle that is just as eye-catching… so it’s obvious that is has been made for an important job.
Alison Miles designs and makes these stunning pieces in her Shaldon workshop. Porcelain is delicate, it’s true, but it takes no time at all to become used to handling cufflinks in conjunction with this material that can bring so much aesthetic and tactile joy. Her lovely, textured trinket trays are available in lots of different shapes, sizes and colours.
Our web guru, Aaron from Takeoff-Development, was easily able to fix my website issue so I wasn’t stuck for long. Just long enough to take you on a two-tone wander through a small section of our shop…
‘It’s a brown and silver day today’ was written by Marie Buckfield
It has to be said, this has been the strangest year of our lives, and not in the way we expected
The original plan, after moving all sites under one (much more convenient) roof, had been to give all of the different TBM belt lines more space to breathe; to fill our much larger shop not only with Classics, Borders, Raises and our characteristic hand sewn patterns, but also with plaits, braids, inlays, guest leathers and, when the product reaches our requirements, to venture into the world of vegan leather substitutes.
The global coronavirus outbreak has changed things somewhat
As mentioned in our About TBM & Friends, we have witnessed the struggle faced by some of our fellow artisans and, not being bin collectors, food providers, doctors or nurses, we tried to think of other ways (in addition to social distancing and hand washing, etc) that we could contribute to the National Effort.
… and so TBM & Friends was born
We put out some feelers , talked to a number of local artisans who had lost outlets, and curated a collection of products that would work with our belts. Items that could be found in an office or studio setting, or in the dressing room of someone nipping across the hall to their work from home den.
Things besides our beautiful hand made, leather trouser support solutions, such as lovely cufflinks that you will really get a buzz from wearing, braces that are hand made in England, also available with button hole ends, leather wallets; all these supplied to us from a company only about 8 miles from our shop.
Natural fibre socks in wool, sometimes also with cotton, are not made in commercial volumes quite so close to home but we have found a maker further north who produces these items that are soft, colourful and… wait for it… machine washable!
Elegant and functional leather briefcases and bags are hand made by an artisan only 2 miles from us, so close! These are incredibly practical and delightfully comfortable to wear; guaranteed and repairable. You don’t really need to look any further for a bag that will suit your needs, as you can customise not only the colour but the number of pockets, pouches and zips, should you wish to place a bespoke order.
If you are looking for desk or study solutions, you can also find those here. Perfect porcelain pen pots, mini planters, trinket trays and lighting solutions are all in stock. Colourful and uplifting lamps and soy candles to light your way, CO2 absorbers for a more comfortable atmosphere, and somewhere to keep together all those things you can never quite put your hands on.
Elegant and functional is the name of the game in this shop. If it’s actually useful, look for it here. If it also looks, feels or works in some stunning way, search for it here. We aim to raise eyebrows and expectations… and support local artisans, wherever we can.
Browse the website, pop into the shop… you are assured of a warm welcome!