It started with Daisy. Laura Mark, a graphic artist by day, had a much-loved Boston Terrier named Daisy. Daisy was rather a hit at the dog park. In winter, Daisy’s big brown eyes were set off by a pink collar, a pink leash and a pink coat designed by Laura.
Daisy inspired Laura to volunteer for Boston Terrier Rescue and to make warm coats for their foster dogs. Pink Daisy Designs was the name that she sewed into their doggie coat labels.
Laura’s volunteering and graphic design work kept her busy. But, with her love of hands-on artistry, she always had a creative project on the go. There were elaborate Halloween costumes, a wooden armoire and a seven by three foot mirror crafted from sheet metal.
Laura would collect bits of hardware, fasteners and old leather castoffs that caught her eye. She was particularly taken with a piece of glass hardware that a co-worker left on her desk. Laura decided to make a black leather cuff and fasten the silver disc on top. “People said it looked really cool, simple and structural.”
“Make me one!” people demanded when Laura revealed she was the cuff’s designer. The orders kept coming in, so Laura decided to make the business official. Pink Daisy Designs would be the name and twenty percent of each sale would go to Boston Terrier Rescue Canada.
“I make wearable leather art,” Laura explains. “Mostly bracelets and cuffs.” She scours Toronto looking for interesting scraps of leather and hardware. “I’ll recycle pieces from Value Village and Goodwill. My friends give me their old things – junk jewelry, broken watches, the dangly bit of an earring. There is at least one piece of recycled material in every piece.”
Bella was made from an old belt and bits of purse. “The little dangling tab is a zipper pull from a purse. The ring is from another purse.”
Black Keys was made from “an old Roots belt I had. The metal clamps were from this punk rock belt that I found at Value Village. It reminds me of a piano.”
Clean and Latch started with a “belt that was crap, but the leather was so beautifully aged. I had to make something out of it. The latch is the door latch from an old bathroom. The vanity was broken, so I unscrewed the latch. The belt reminds me of a weight-lifting belt. The weight-lifting term ‘clean and snatch’ is behind the name.”
“The latch on Unbridled reminds me of horse hardware and the colour reminds me of horse tack. I grew up with a friend who rode horses a lot.”
Sometimes a chance finding will inspire a new line. “I bought a bag full of vintage Russian watch movement pieces on ebay. They were steam-punkish. The whole piece in the centre of Maverick is from a vintage Russian watch.”
Laura makes her leather creations in a small studio in her basement. Every nook is covered with treasures and tools. “There are cases that have compartments full of rivets, fasteners, grommets and all the pieces I have collected. “ You’ll find mallets, rivet setters and a strap end punch piled up on one of her Dad’s old wooden workbenches. “He made it when he was building our house in the Seventies. He’s 6 foot 5, I’m 5 ’11, so it’s the perfect height for working.”
Dad has been a creative role model for Laura. “He inspired me to be creative as a kid. I would work with him in his wood and metal shop. I’d help him run raw wood through the planer and jointer and I’d sand things.”
Laura’s father, John, had built a successful business selling handmade, collectible rifles. “He makes custom muzzle-loading rifles, the old-fashioned ones that use black powder. He would make the stocks out of wood in the shop and the metal parts on the lathe. I would see these big, rough pieces of wood turn into these gorgeous inlaid gunstocks that are beautifully stained with metal inlays in them. And he would make custom cases for the guns.”
Laura was struck by how much her father enjoyed making things with his hands. “He’d get up so early and work all day, doing what he loved. He also made aircraft propellers and World War II airplane kits.” Laura’s Mum – a law clerk and painter – also encouraged Laura to be creative. “She taught me how to sew. She plays the guitar and my Dad plays the banjo, so there was always people over and music in the house.”
Like her Dad, Laura cannot wait to get down to the studio. “The time just blows by. Before I know it, it’s two in the morning and I’m still down there. I get so excited. I’ve now started to play around with dyes. I’ve got a bunch of old, raw strips of vegetable tanned leather and a stripper so I can thin them down to a nice thickness for a cuff or wrap.”
Though bracelets are her main focus, she has recently made some chokers and a clutch. Laura also enjoys applying her experience as a photographer and graphic designer to her product photos and branding.
The more time Laura has to spend on her Pink Daisy leather business, the happier she is. “It feels so freeing. I’m doing what I love, I don’t have to drive that horrible highway every day and I can take the dog for a run if I want to.”
Sadly, Daisy passed away at 11½ years old, but she is forever memorialized in photos around Laura’s studio and at the helm of the business. Thankfully, Fiona – a half Boston Terrier, half Polish Lowland Sheepdog – is here to oversee the growth of Pink Daisy Designs and to ensure that twenty percent of all sales still go towards the rescue of Boston Terriers.
Written by Elizabeth Newton
* Photos courtesy of Pink Daisy Design