Heather Hanshaw from Loch Ness Leather

Midday Makers

Before I became a full time Leathersmith, I had a number of other jobs, including Wildlife Ranger, Tour Bus Driver/Guide, and Reindeer Herder!

I’m actually a second generation Leathersmith, learning my skills from both my Mum and Dad. So, where to begin.

I was born in Liverpool, to Leather working parents Joan and Steve. And not long after I was born, they went on holiday to the Highlands of Scotland, loved it, and stayed. And that was that! We moved to Laggan, a tiny village of 200 people in the middle of the mountains. Dad then opened a shop on the shores of Loch Ness, named the Clog and Craft shop, a suitable name as one of his specialities is Swedish style clogs. While Mum stayed in Laggan and ran her workshop out of a static caravan at the back of our cottage, specialising in leather sandals (Red Leather Yellow Leather). As a child, when other kids’ mums gave us paper and crayons, my Mum gave us pens and leather to colour in. It wasn’t unheard of for my friends to visit, and to go home with a full new pair of shoes!

So, I as I grew up, I was learning leather work without really knowing it. But when I was younger, it wasn’t particularly in my sights as a future job. I went to Edinburgh University and got my Degree in Physical Geography, with a view to working in some sort of job that would enable me to work with animals and be outside as much as possible. Well, The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre certainly fulfilled that brief! I first began working there when I was 16 years old, and was a reindeer herder in the Cairngorm Mountains, off and on, for the next 15 years.

I eventually left the reindeer and I moved down to Edinburgh to live with my partner Will. Down in Edinburgh, I had a job as a Ranger and then a Driver/Guide. Both jobs enabled me to be outside and travel round all the most beautiful parts of Scotland. But I was always keen to get back to the Highlands. I had begun my own business whilst still in Edinburgh, taking my stall to Highland Games during the summer months as my parents always had, and about 3 years ago, we were able to move back up, and Will and I now live in the beautiful village of Carrbridge in the Cairngorm National Park.

The reason I was able to leave the big city and come back here, was the same reason my parents could leave Liverpool all those years ago, Leatherwork can be done anywhere! Will and I have built a workshop in the garden (mostly Will!) with a number of machines and tools I have inherited from Mum and Dad. I should say, Dad is still very much in business and showing no signs of retiring! 

And I have been running my business, Loch Ness Leather for about the past 5 years. I started off doing it part time along with my Driver/Guiding. But as of April 2019, it has been my full-time job. I am really enjoying carrying on the leatherworking skills of our family, and hope that I will be able to for many years to come. And now I have my own workshop, rather than having to share Dads, it’s full steam ahead!

Watch our Midday Makers chat with Heather on our IGTV channel.

Website www.lochnessleather.co.uk

Instagram @lochnessleather