Jess Boyle of South Australian-based business Rustic Wren has been a familiar face at the Gathered Design Market for quite some time now – and with good reason! Her range of leather-based stationery and accessories (journals, tote bags, clutches, pouches, and much more) has a level of finesse and sophistication that attracts customers (potential and current) to be a proud owner of her leather-based products.
If you’ve been following my website for a while, you may remember a candid chat that I had with Boyle following the devastating bushfires in the Adelaide Hills and how her business served to be her creative outlet in those unprecedented times. While it has been a tough year for businesses like Rustic Wren, Boyle once again showcases her perseverance to keep going no matter what challenges are thrown her way.
Continuing on with her fight to thrive and survive as a small-scale business, Boyle will be participating at the upcoming Gathered Design Market (Virtual Edition) during the weekend of April 18 and 19, 2020. I was fortunate enough to have an e-questionnaire with her – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Jess?
Jess: Hi Im Jess, I live in Lenswood with my husband of 10 years, our 3 girls (10, 8, and 6) and big puppy dog, Indy. I’m what you call a Lenswood local, with my girls being the 8th generation to have lived here. I love my town and the surrounding community. I’m a down-to-Earth kinda person and love to surround myself with happy and uplifting people who like to not take things too seriously. I’m naturally a creative person who loves colour, texture, and how it makes you feel. With an interior and building background, I feel a combination of all this has amalgamated to the beginnings of Rustic Wren.
Tema: What attracted you to working with leather, as I hear that there is an art to working with the toughness of the material?
Jess: I was attracted to the natural character, the texture, and the smell of leather that instantly calms my senses. Leather (and more specifically, real full-grain leather) has a grounded, Earthy scent that lasts and lasts. I learnt from my mum when I was young and I have been a lover of stationery since forever! I came across this leather journal concept on Pinterest four years ago, and the creator in me was inspired to make one for myself. That’s how my passion for creating leather-based journals and accessories has grown over the years. I pride myself on choosing each piece of leather to suit each project, and to best highlight its natural beauty. Leather is unforgiving, so when designing and piecing together a project, I pay particular attention to the way in which it has been cut and sewn to ensure long lasting durability that is combined with timeless style.
Tema: How have you overcome challenges (if any) when it comes to working with leather?
Jess: I found fitting my studio out with the correct tools has definitely helped me over time. A lot has been trial-and-error, as I have taught myself a majority of what I know regarding working with leather. I have also adapted my sewing skills from fabric to leather, and from hand-sewing (which was very tedious with a heavy duty industrial machine)! There has been a lot of samples made throughout the process, but as a result, I have a few pieces in my personal collection, such as a notebook for every occasion and mood!
Tema: What classifies as the core work of being a leather architect?
Jess: I was an interior + building designer before having my girls. My design approach is architectural and form follows its function. I see the structural elements when designing and building a new product and have formulated a particular approach when cutting out my projects to minimise on wastage and maximise on the hide when building a certain product.
Tema: What made you decide to set up your own business and what has that journey been like, so far?
Jess: When I started making leather journals for myself, a friend liked them and asked if I could make her some as presents for her loved ones. It grew from there, as people saw what I was up to. I’ve had other businesses in the past and wasn’t looking at growing it into something worthwhile. However, this felt like a natural progression. I design and make it all just the way I want it to be. The journey has had its ups and downs. Rustic Wren has been operating for three and a half years and it is only now that I feel I have (finally) found my feet. I love working with people on concepts and especially when it’s a repeat client – they have already found that they love my products and come back for more.
Tema: Can you share with us some of the products that are offered via Rustic Wren?
Jess: My first love – leather journals. There is something there for everyone. From there, my range has extended to items that can work alongside the journals. Then there is my ‘pride and joy’- the artist rolls that are made from beautiful vintage leather and softens and moulds to fit your art supplies. We also have the ‘Tote Bag’ to hold all your worldly possessions and is made to present with a strong and durable to handle all that life throws at it, while looking simply stunning.
Tema: How long (on average) does it take you to create your leather products?
Jess: To create a product in an existing design, I can make it within an hour or so. It certainly does depend on what it is. I try to make products in small batches, styles, and colours to increase its levels of productivity. If I unroll one hide, I cut several items at a time. However, it can be a few days if a custom design is required and samples need to be tried out.
Tema: What would you like your customers to experience, when purchasing something from your business?
Jess: As my customers unwrap their parcels, the leather aroma is the first thing they experience and I hope it wraps around them like a warm hug. Once they touch it, this is when they fall in love – at first touch. They’ll also experience a quality bespoke leather product that is made from the highest quality full-grain leather.
Tema: How do you think your products can add value to their homes / lives?
Jess: As we know, leather gets better with time and use. So I tell my customers that the first day is the worst day your leather product will feel. A Rustic Wren notebook can assist you with self-care, journaling your thoughts, feelings, and life experiences. An Art Roll can inspire you to paint or draw more. You will realise how good leather makes you feel and that you have many reasons to have more leather in your life.
Tema: Let’s talk a bit about your custom work – what has been your favourite item that you’ve made for a customer so far?
Jess: I had the pleasure of making a custom cross body bag, for a special 30th birthday gift. A full leather bag with a feature cow-hide panel – it was such a fun project to make!
Tema: What do you think helps Rustic Wren stand out from the rest that may be pursuing a similar business model?
Jess: I feel my attention to detail and design knowledge ensures Rustic Wren stands out above the rest. A Rustic Wren product is a timeless treasure, so you expect it to last a lifetime and that it is something you would want to hand down to future generations.
Tema: What do you think has been rewarding about being a small-scale business in Adelaide / SA?
Jess: South Australians appreciate what is made in South Australia. They find they can relate with you better. They want to support small businesses and understand quality. South Australians consider their purchases by looking for the best option available and the best quality. I’m happy to discuss options and features of a product to make the buyer more comfortable.
Tema: Do you have a physical shopfront or do you primarily operate online?
Jess: I am primarily online, with a few particular markets, along with a growing list of stockists around Australia.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA?
Jess: I had been following Gathered SA a little while and loved the vibe and styling, in addition to sensing that our brands complemented each other. I really liked that it was a market solely dedicated to South Australian businesses. When I got my chance to become a stallholder, I felt like I had been a part of the Gathered family for a much longer time! I have been a part of this particular Market family for a few years and enjoy seeing the level of craftsmanship and quality increase each time, while still being approachable.
Tema: How did you find the Bushfire relief market at Lobethal? How do you think it helped you and your business?
Jess: This market was remarkable. The heartwarming support I received from everyone was awesome. My husband got badly burnt in the fires and it was an extremely stressful time for my family and I. People were so understanding and supportive, checking in to see how we were going as a family, along with buying gifts for themselves and loved ones. The community feeling was strong too, many locals visited along with the wider community, they came especially to show their support. They were asked to support the bushfire communities and victims, and they went above and beyond to do just that!
Tema: As a returning Gathered SA vendor, what are you expecting from your participation in the upcoming Gathered SA market?
Jess: I look forward to being a part of the Gathered Market in whichever form that works at the time. The upcoming virtual market is something we haven’t seen before and it’s very interesting and exciting to see it come together. We adapt as we need to suit our environment. With face-to-face markets not possible at the moment, I love how innovative the Gathered Team has been to develop and put together this virtual market. With such uncertain times, I want people to support the local businesses wherever possible. It’ll be a long road ahead and we appreciate all the support. I’d also like to reiterate to our customers that we wholly understand that we are really all in this together.
Rustic Wren will be participating in the upcoming Gathered Design Market (Virtual Edition) during the weekend of April 18 – 19, 2020. Please head to her official website and support local by purchasing an elegant leather-based accessory for yourself or a loved one, in addition to helping in keeping the business afloat.