WINNER ‘Progress toward circularity’ Marie Claire Sustainability Awards 2023

Interview with Laura Morwood-van Tongeren

Laura is a designer and maker known for her handcrafted leather bags and textiles. She tells us about her journey from language to design, from Amsterdam to Northern Ireland, and the inspirations that prompt her to keep creating.

Portrait of Laura Morwood

How did you get into creating and designing?

My mind is usually buzzing with new ideas and things I want to make. I adore colours and have been surrounded by them all my life. As a child growing up in Amsterdam, I loved browsing in my dad’s sample books with curtain materials or carpet.

Blue suede handbag and makeup bag on a table

How did you start your journey towards creating your label?

My background is in languages: first writing as a journalist, later on as a translator. When I moved to Scotland, I started on my creative path with a short course in quilting. It felt as if I had found my niche. Textiles were the perfect outlet for my creativity. After moving to Northern Ireland and while my girls were growing up, I continued with C&G in quilting and embroidery. In 2015 I decided to do a leather bag making course in Amsterdam. One full week of 9-5 resulted in a professional looking bag and a new obsession was born.

What do you do in your spare time?

Crochet has been something to do on the side: nothing nicer than choosing a basket full of yummy colours and crocheting a blanket or something simple in the evening. It’s a hobby that I feel would benefit so many people, something to take your mind away from everyday worries. That’s why I have started teaching and it
has been great to see people evolve and have a good old chat at the same time.

Crocheted blanket on a bench

What are your favourite materials to work with?

I like leather because it oozes quality and is long-lasting, I love the feel and the precision that it demands. Yarn and textiles on the other hand offer freedom and endless possibilities.

flat lay of leather cut outs for making a bag

Who or what inspires you?

I take my inspiration from anywhere: sometimes I’m blown away by colours in nature, other times it’s a fashion magazine that sparks the design of a new bag. I’m not much of a sketcher so a design is thought through in my head for days: The type of leather, what closure I want on a bag, can I actually make what I have in mind, in what order do I need to stitch all the parts together... I then proceed to a paper version so that I can check the size and look at it in 3D. From the paper version I make a pattern in thick card so that I can trace around it on the back of my leather. Now it’s time to take the plunge: cutting out all the pieces in leather. From there it’s a case of being slow and precise as a mistake cannot be undone. It’s always scary and exciting when the bag is finished: has everything worked and is it what I wanted? If need be I will tweak the pattern and make another one.