Reducing our waste and making products as sustainable as possible has always been a top priority at Cheshire & Wain. Material offcuts are often unavoidable in any production process despite our best efforts. Many of these materials are still perfectly usable but often too small to make main stock with. But with a little bit of creativity, we found that scraps that would usually be destined for the bin don't have to end up there after all. I caught up with Chiara, who makes our leather collars, to find out how we're giving offcuts a new lease of life.
SF: Leather is a beautiful material, but its irregular natural shape can make it challenging to work with. Can you tell us how you make our collars and what offcuts are left over?
CC: Leather hides come in all shapes and sizes; you have to approach each one carefully and consider its unique form and patina. The beginning of the process is to cut the hide into smaller rectangular panels. This is done by carefully arranging templates across the surface to ensure they are packed together as closely as possible. These panels are then cut again using a heavy-duty mechanical press into the cat collar straps, again as close together as possible, like cutting cookies! This process results in little interconnecting strips being leftover in various bright colours - I just couldn't bring myself to throw them into the scrap bin!
SF: Oh yes, the ever-growing pile of leather strips! But we kept saying there should be some way to use these.
CC: Throughout my career as a leatherworker, I've always kept offcuts and scraps to one side with a promise to turn them into something new in the future. I knew there must be something we could make with these strips and segments of colourful leather, so I saved every panel for over 6 years until space was running out to store them!
SF: And then! A eureka moment - we saw the strips in a different light.
CC: That's right, I remember we were discussing the different types of toys your cats like to play with. You said that Penelope loves catnip, but Percy prefers chasing ribbon and string.
SF: Yeah, I often run around the house trailing a bit of string for Percy to catch but it quickly gets shredded by his teeth and claws and has to be thrown away, so he doesn't swallow it.
CC: That's the great thing about leather; it's so hardwearing, and that makes it the perfect robust and safe material for a cat's teaser toy. The strips started to make us think of Jellyfish tentacles that would create the perfect movement for cats to enjoy chasing and pouncing upon. Along with the body shape, which mimics that of potential prey to stimulate a cat's natural hunting instincts
SF: Made out of top quality leather, the Jellyfish Teaser Toy is durable and can withstand even the most boisterous of playful kittens!
CC: As they are made using offcuts, our Jellyfish Toys come in an array of playful colour combinations and limited editions. This means they are ever-changing based on the collars we are making. We love getting inspired by the different colour combinations created by using what we have leftover.
SF: As these products are made using offcuts, how are the toy designs led by what you have in stock?
CC: Absolutely! Last October we decided to extend our offering of leather toys after the fabulous feedback and success of the Jellyfish and the Spider Teaser Toy was born through our abundance of Jabberwocky collar offcuts due to their popularity, including suede. The suede texture is an even closer representation of a natural animal, along with the critter likeness, providing keen inspiration for a cat's playtime.
SF: The spiders have been as much of a hit as the jellyfish. Are there any other toys planned from the offcuts of our most sought after collars?
CC: Pink and red collars are a constant favourite for our feline friends, and we're so glad they are as they provide us with a multitude of offcuts to use for our Valentine's Day special editions. This year, we're showing our cats some love with our new Leather Love Heart Teaser Toy. They are so vibrant and engaging for your cats, and also easy on the eye for us pawrents.
SF: I love them! Can't wait to see what other toys we come up with in the future...
CC: Watch this space!