In conversation with: Bill Amberg

Bill Amberg is an internationally acclaimed master of bespoke leatherwork we chat about his craft and his latest furniture collection, launching during London Design Festival

What first attracted you to leathercraft? I fell into it by accident, growing up in Northampton which is a town known for its leatherwork helped. My mother, an architect with a love of crafting, would pick up cobblers’ offcuts and scraps for me to practise on, so I became accustomed to handling knives, awls and needles from a young age.

Then, doing an apprenticeship with Gay Wilson in Adelaide in Australia confirmed my fascination with the material. Gay encouraged me to play with the material and explore it in every dimension. The possibilities are endless.

Bill Amberg with Yinka Ilori
Bill Amberg working with Yinka Ilori

Tell me about your favourite commission. I’m always excited when a new project comes through the door and as a bespoke design studio my enthusiasm and passion are always for the next commission.

Have you ever been asked to produce something in leather that was impossible to
create?
We’ve had some very strange requests over the last nearly 40 years, but as yet nothing has stumped us and we welcome the challenge.

Bill Amberg Studio sustainable furniture for Knepp Estate
The sustainable Knepp Estate collection (photo: David Cleveland)

Tell me about the sustainable collection you are launching in September. At Bill Amberg Studio we’ve been on an incredible journey with the Burrell family at Knepp Estate, it started as a conversation about using the skins from their rewilded animals and creating something practical, unique beautiful and sustainable has always been the objective. This furniture collection for the new restaurant opening next year is the perfect culmination of all the energy and ideas.

The range of furniture is crafted using materials entirely sourced from the estate – leather produced from the longhorn cattle and deer free-roaming the rewilding project. The leather is tanned in the UK especially for the collection and the wood is ash from the estate’s dieback clearance.

Leather clad desk detail

Your studio has grown over the last 30 years with commissions from the likes of Harrods, Aston Martin and Westminster Abbey. How hands-on are you in the process? I’m very involved in the design side of the business both in terms of materials and techniques, I’m also passionate about the process of making and developing in design. Consequently, I have a studio at home where I’m able to develop things myself before bringing them to our workshop Park Royal.

What’s your favourite possession? In terms of my craft, I still have the same leather hammer and bone folder I got at the start of my career aged about 16 years old.

(Image at the top shows leatherwork art Bishopsgate)

Meet bespoke upholsterer Aiveen Daily here

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