Justine Weyman created jewel-coloured leather homewares and accessories through her brand Elytra England. Having become a dog owner, she has now turned her attention and skills to hand making ‘covetable accessories for stylish hounds’ from her home in Frome, Somerset, with her new label The Velveteen Hound.
In the third of the Objects of Desire series featuring the things used and loved by creatives, Justine tells us about her work and life as a devoted dog owner:
There used to be a Liberty shop in York when I lived there, and I started off buying fabric there and making handbags and purses. I sold them through Etsy and Not On The High Street, and gradually began to make some leather pieces.
Over the years I’ve taken some short courses, including some for shoemaking and leatherwork when I was made redundant and offered retraining. There’s also been a lot of self-teaching along the way as well!
My doggy muse is Reuben our whippet. Ever since childhood I’d wanted a dog and chose a whippet because I love the breed and thought one would fit in well with family life.
They’re beautiful dogs; known for their easygoing nature, nice temperament, and being very affectionate. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in lots of long walks every day and fortunately whippets don’t need this. They are very contented to curl up and sleep a lot, and really don’t like the cold or getting wet.
My first piece for Reuben was a teal suede and tan leather collar. My aim was to produce high quality, covetable products with understated luxury that would compliment my style. People who have whippets like to have elegant things for their hounds, and after lots of positive comments I decided to start making them to sell.
My favourite leather is vegetable tanned leather (as opposed to chemically tanned). The process of tanning uses natural tannins from plants to produce leathers with natural colours and a beautiful patina. It’s a traditional process and is considered the most environmentally friendly, which is important to me.
My essential tool is my cylinder arm industrial sewing machine. It’s very versatile and good for making small leather items like my collars and leads.
My inspiration comes from many places. I love colour, particularly jewel colours, and read magazines and books (especially interiors). And I love to observe the natural colours I see out on my walks with Reuben and generally whilst out and about.
My reward or treat is buying lovely things for the house, either online or from homewares shops. I like a good browse in Graham & Green and Anthropolgie in Bath.
All stylish dogs need… a stylish owner, who will buy them the elegant accessories they deserve!
1. Don’t procrastinate, start selling. As well as your own website there are a number of online platforms to choose from (such as Etsy and Not On The High Street).
2. Find your voice – know who you are selling to, and understand your customer so you attract the customers you want.
3. Treat every customer the same and provide good customer service.
4. Think carefully about packaging and presentation. For example, I’ve sourced some beautiful embossed boxes to set off my products. I’m very keen to keep plastic to a minimum and use cardboard and paper packaging where possible.
See more of Justine’s elegant designs at her website and online emporium The Velveteen Hound. Her Instagram account @thevelveteenhound is already proving popular and initiating conversations between stylish dog-lovers.