On Location…. Mackenzie & George

I’ve worked with Chris and Melanie Clarihew from the luxury British leather accessory brand, Mackenzie and George since about 2018.  We come together on specific projects within their overall brand photography needs.  I’ve also teamed up with Melanie on a number of occasions as part of #HihoandCo, a group of entrepreneurs, business owners and specialists who help others gain better brand skills.  This time, I was going ‘On-Location’ with them very locally.

Melanie and Chris were making the long trip from their workshop and office in Shropshire to visit Bakers Tannery just down the road from me and over the border into Devon.  J & FJ Bakers & Co Ltd in Colyton are the ONLY traditional oak bark tannery in Britain and this business has been in the family since 1862. That’s 6 generations and counting.  While the tannery creates other styles of tanned leather, it’s the Oak Bark leather that was the focal point for the trip.

On location with Mackenzie & George at Bakers Tannery
On location with Mackenzie & George at Bakers Tannery

Heritage Methods in the Leather Industry

Oak Bark leather is used by M&G to create some of their beautiful, handmade and timeless designs.  It’s a hardwearing and unique leather that takes more than 12 months to produce.  This slow process is super labour intensive too.  

As passionate, creative leather workers, Chris and Melanie understand the traditional methods associated with leather work. They love to share that passion back with their customers, explaining the story behind the product.  I was with them to capture the story behind the Oak Bark Leather process as they were guided through the site by Baker descendant, Andrew Parr, their MD.  

A real challenge lay ahead though…

On location with Mackenzie & George at Bakers Tannery
Mackenzie & George at Bakers Tannery

Intoxicating

While the Baker family have been creating Oak Bark tanned leather for more than 160 years in Colyton, the site has a history that goes further back to Roman times.  It’s a place where you can distinctly feel the history running through the walls and buildings that form the tannery.  Processes frequently happen in dark, dingy, slimy areas.  Woodwork creaks and groans as it sways back and forth or lifts and falls under the guidance of the team as they work.  Photographing in areas like this is a real challenge, but there’s so much. magic to be found in the hidden corners and where the light infiltrates. 

There’s an abundance of earthy, honest smells – I found it weirdly intoxicating but something I felt should be somehow conveyed with my camera too.  

It’s not a place for the faint-hearted to work and much of my time following Chris and Melanie through each area was spent picking my way through the network of dipping and treatment areas.

I didn’t want to be ‘that’ photographer that ended up somewhere smelly and wet!

British Made Collaborations

The passion in the whole team at Bakers was really clear to see. They are extraordinary people creating extraordinary leather, ready for brands like M&G to turn into lifelong accessories.

Thanks for reading.

Rachel x

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