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Jo Gill
My Story

Hi, welcome to my website. My name is Jo and I am a leatherworker specialising in leather marquetry. I bet you don’t really know what that is, so let me try and explain. Leather marquetry is a technique where you cut pieces of leather very precisely, so that each piece fits snugly together like pieces of a jigsaw. This is a technique I developed when I went back to college to learn shoe making.  

When I hit 50, I felt like I needed a change and a different career. I had tried lots of different creative jobs before, but they didn’t really seem to click. I had been an illustrator, I had been a map maker, drawing three-dimensional maps of the UK & abroad and I had even been a web designer, without having used the internet (this was a LONG time ago). I even had a go at being a painter! But the career I had for the longest was as a graphic designer. I loved designing logos and a few of mine are still out there, but dealing with text was always a challenge due to my dyslexia. 

I continued being a freelance graphic designer for some years until I got to a point where I realised this wasn’t what I loved doing, I needed to find my creative mojo again. I was looking around for something that was going to spark a passion in me again, something that was really creative and also challenging. So, I went back to college and did a year of shoe making. 

This was very challenging, particularly with the massive dyslexic struggle in having to write mountains of notes. Shoe making was unlike anything creative I had done before. Even making patterns for shoes blew my mind as I had to think in 3-D!! I had also never used leather before, so there were lots of techniques and skills I had to get my neuro-divergent brain around, but I had fantastic and very experienced tutors to help me on my way. 

Months after I left my shoe making course Covid hit. I wasn’t able to get out or connect with people, so I took this time to develop my skills prototyping products. I came up with lots of new ideas and also challenged myself to make a pair of shoes at home with limited materials and equipment, which I did. I actually made a pair of Koi carp sandals because, well, why not?

Since that time I’ve continued to grow my business, coming up with and making lots of new products. I love getting out to markets and try to visit lots of you lovely people as often as I can. It’s wonderful to have chats, but it’s also nice that I can sell direct to you in person or online on my website. Either way it’s lovely to connect with clients. 

There are a few things about my business which are really, really important to me. One is colour, I LOVE colour. I can’t even wear black socks, they make me feel miserable. That’s why there is lots of lovely colour in everything that I do. When I was at college, I tried to make a brown pair of shoes and I failed, I just couldn’t keep the colour out.  

FUN! I always want my designs to be fun. I want you to smile when you look at what I’ve made. I want you to smile and enjoy wearing it. I want it to bring you pleasure and joy whenever you use it. 

Sustainability is also important to me. You might be wondering how that works with leather? Well I try to be as sustainable as I possibly can. All my new leather is ethically sourced from reputable suppliers. It’s also a byproduct of the meat industry so if we didn’t use it to make lovely things it would be binned. Another way that I try to be sustainable is to use as much recycled leather as I possibly can. I use damaged secondhand clothes which I clean and cut up to reuse in my work. Unfortunately, most of this leather tends to be black, but I use it as a background to nearly all my jewellery. 

I'm leaving my most amazing and biggest news till last. I was recently given the most fantastic opportunity to take part in a BBC1 television program, called ‘Make it at Market.’ This was a fantastic opportunity and I met so many lovely, wonderful creative people through this process, including my mentor Andy Bates and my co-leather worker Dani from DD Practical. I had to really push myself creatively through the process. It was also very challenging for my neuro-divergent brain, I had to be super organised to achieve my challenges and hit my sales targets in the two months between filming at the beginning and end. 

If you don’t know the program, I’m sure you’d be able to check it out on BBC iPlayer. I was episode 8 of the second series and one of 30 lovely makers, so in total there are 60 fantastic creatives to watch and learn about their stories. I hope you enjoy watching mine. 

I hope this gives you an insight into what makes my crazy brain tick and the meaning behind my making. I should also say that I have quite a short attention span, so I tend not to make big runs of things unless they’re really, really popular. I usually make small batches of work which often sell out, but you can always commission me if you see something on my website that you really want.  

Thank you for visiting my site. I hope you enjoy looking around at all the bright and colourful fun products that I have to offer. 

Thank you to Isobel Gill for the photos

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