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a chat with an artisan | Mike and Nia of Rural Kind

It has been a while since I posted to this series, not for any particular reason other than holidays and beginning of school term. I am really enjoying getting to know those who craft and create, finding out a little more about the people behind the brands. For this months instalment I am chatting to Mike and Nia of Rural Kind who, as a two person team, hand make bags and accessories with great quality materials.

I can honestly say so after having seen one of their bags for myself, their products are made to last. If you are looking for an investment piece that is functional, practical and well designed then look no further! I will let Mike and Nia explain a little more…

Please tell us a little bit about yourselves…

We are Mike and Nia, husband and wife, both 34, owners of two unruly dogs and one fat cat, living and working in rural Carmarthenshire (phew – think that about sums it up!).

One of us is a qualified architect who still runs a solo architect’s practice on the side (Mike), and the other studied archaeology a million years ago (and is still a lover of history and digging).

When not designing and making, we can often be found exploring the wild hills and valleys of Wales (and even beyond!) with dogs in tow. We have a tendency towards stargazing; book reading; vegetarianism; rugged coastlines and sea-salty air; crackling fires; early crisp frosty mornings; freshly baked bread; and cake.

What lead you to open Rural Kind?

Mike’s going to answer this one:

There are a number of reasons that lead us to embark on this journey that is Rural Kind. Over the years we have dreamt of working together and setting up a small business that supported our ideals of simple, rural, sustainable living.

As an architect I have always loved designing buildings and other bits and pieces, but found myself more and more with an urge to create something physical, with my hands, whilst still being able to use my designer’s head. Nia had plenty of experience with a sewing machine (experience and an old industrial machine both gleaned from her mum), and we both shared a love of simple, honest craftsmanship.

After a couple of wrong turns (or maybe right turns in the wrong direction), the pieces of the puzzle seemed to slot together last year and Rural Kind was born.

Please tell us a little of your ethos

High up on our list of values is a desire to do things really well – to do things properly. We think that by designing and making well, we can create goods that are durable, functional, that can be used every day, and that will last a long, long time. We live and make with a – buy less, buy well, buy for the long term – kind of approach.

In our bid (or maybe quest?) to ‘do stuff well’ we take the time and make the effort to carefully source materials that will last a generation but that are also ethically and sustainably manufactured; we use construction techniques that are sometimes laborious (but satisfyingly so) to ensure strength and longevity; we design our goods with much thought to ensure they are both functional and hopefully beautiful.

What inspires you?

We take inspiration from a variety of sources – and more often than not, from non-bag related areas. We are lovers of simple, functional design so we may find inspiration in the clean lines of a modernist chair, or an effortless junction of materials in a piece of contemporary architecture.

But we also find inspiration in, say, a beautifully crafted but ancient wooden table, for its quality of traditional craftsmanship and inherent durability. This combination of traditional craftsmanship combined with considered detailing and simple clean lines is at the core of what we love / believe in / do.

We undoubtedly take additional inspiration from the big outdoors. It’s not so easy to pin this one down – but we certainly feel the benefits and get much pleasure from exploring wild landscapes, and we’re sure this feeds into what we do somehow!

Tell us a little about your workspace and making process

We currently work out of a basic (there’s no heating) converted barn belonging to Nia’s parents. Work revolves around a big table where we cut our fabric and leather, a couple of heavy duty old industrial sewing machines and an old kitchen table (which we use as a leather-working bench), with a small collection of old and new hand tools.

We have a fairly traditional approach to making, using our four hands to do the majority of tasks (with the help of the industrial sewing machines for stitching the fabric). As we hinted at above, we try to do things well and properly. So if this means hand-punching hundreds of tiny holes before hand-stitching a leather wallet, or hand-hammering solid copper rivets to get the strongest and longest lasting connection between fabric and leather – this is what we will do.

Each item we make is made to order, by us and by hand, from the first mark on a roll of fabric to the last copper rivet, and we try to do this with care, a little pride and a lot of love.

Finally where can we find your products?

Currently you can find our bags and leather goods for sale on our website, where you can also find details of our collaborative harvesting bag for Charlott’s Garden. Over the next few months we hope to start supplying a select number of shops that share our values and philosophies – so watch this space (or maybe our instagram feed!)

We are also really excited to be working on a couple of other collaboration projects with like-minded creative folk – more details to follow in the coming months.

Thank you to Mike and Nia for sharing their story with me. You can find Rural Kind on Instagram here and the website and shop here, as always I really recommend you pop over and say hi!

Julia x

photographs top and bottom are mine, the rest are from Rural Kind’s Instagram gallery


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