An Interview with Josh Bradshaw of Sonder Leather Goods

A man holding a large piece of kangaroo leather.

Interview by: Johnny Gibson 

Photos by: Ashleigh Vermaak

We’re excited to announce the first of our Neat Places urban travel products, created in collaboration with some of our favourite makers.

To kick things off, we’ve partnered with our friends at Sonder Leather Goods to create a travel wallet for all your essentials, including your wallet, credit cards, and of course, a Neat Places pocket guide.

We sat down with Josh Bradshaw of Sonder to chat about the collaboration and the rhythms of leather...

Tell us a bit about your story and how Sonder came about. 

Sonder was started back in 2015 by my friend James Richardson whose grandfather was a saddlemaker back in the day. James and I ended up working out of the same coworking artist studio, and as someone who does woodworking and art and loves the process of making everything by hand, I always kept an eye on what James was making and was keen to give it a go myself. As James grew the business, he needed another pair of hands, so I quickly volunteered to help out. After a couple of years, and all the skills and knowledge had been passed on to me from James, he offered to have Dom from Indigo and Provisions and myself take over the business as partners. 

I see you describe Sonder as ‘ leather goods that will elevate your daily carry’. Can you expand on that a little? 

I think a sign of good design is when it reliably works just as it should, so much so that you do not have to think about it. Knowing that my keys are safe, that my wallet has everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t, without constantly questioning it, is elevating my daily carry. If you find yourself questioning and having to deal with little things like that every day, then it might be time to upgrade your daily carry. 

How did you approach the design of the Neat Places x Sonder Travel Wallet? 

Sonder used to make a travel folio for passports, boarding passes and documents, which quickly became irrelevant when the covid travel restrictions were in place. I combined that design with a simple notebook cover to make a new product that was more functional on a day to day basis while still being useful for travel when needed. This design was the perfect base template for creating the Neat Places X Sonder travel wallet. It just needed some scaling up to accommodate the Neat Places guide and then some extra details that ensure it functions as best as possible. 

What do you love about working with leather?  

Aside from leatherwork being quite a satisfying process for the most part, I really like the fact that if I have done my job properly, then at the end of making something, there is a product that will last forever. Especially because it is an animal byproduct, I want to show it respect and give it a second life that won’t just fall apart and end up in landfill. It’s nice knowing we didn’t let any part of the animal go to waste on our part. 

What are the misconceptions about leather? 

One of the biggest misconceptions is when people see “Genuine leather” tags on leather goods. Naturally, one would assume that’s good. However, “genuine leather” is one of the worst quality versions of leather, made up of layers of low quality leather  bonded together and made to look nice. It will fall apart pretty quickly a lot of the time. Full grain leather is what you are after if you are looking for an item to last a lifetime. 

Your products will last a lifetime. How has working with leather provided you with any life lessons? 

It has definitely taught me some lessons about sustainability and fast fashion, and having a quality over quantity approach with how, where and what I choose to spend my money on. The products I buy now are way more considered, and it’s always interesting seeing big brands and the differing prices vs. the products’ actual quality. Sometimes all that glitters is not gold, with some of those luxury brands. 

The Sonder Leather Goods range is available to purchase  at Indigo & Provisions. What’s the chemistry between the brands? And where else can people find your goods?

Indigo and Provisions was the first stockist of Sonder goods outside of our website, and I actually ended up working part time for a while in the shop with Dominic. While on the shop floor with Dom, I started making some of the leather goods in the store. While our Sonder website is the best place to enquire about our products and consistently find the full range available, it is nice to have some stockists where people can view the products in person. Good as Gold is our other main stockist in New Zealand. 

What are the key accompaniments when you’re in leather flow?

Luckily I’ve made enough leather goods now that it doesn’t take much for me to get into that nice workflow state. When I’m working in the home studio, then it’s just a podcast, movie, documentary or tv show playing in the background that makes the time disappear. Having way too much coffee is also a crucial part of the Sonder operation for both Dom and I. Sonder wouldn’t exist without a steady stream of caffeine. 

Dream piece you would like to make? 

This is a hard question because I’m super picky about what I decide to make. Off the top of my head, maybe an article like an old school leather boxing bag. That would be a good challenge, a bit more obscure than the usual Sonder range, that’s for sure. The quality of my work would really be tested on a boxing bag with having to withstand a frequent beating. It could be a fun way to show off my workmanship. 

What do you hope for the future of Sonder? 

I would like to get better at documenting and presenting the process of what goes into making this stuff. The process looks so cool, and people feel more connected to the product when they see it fully made by hand. Other than that, I would like to continue making and developing meaningful products and perhaps look to getting more stockists locally and maybe internationally. 

You wear a few creative hats. Where else are you putting your creative energy? 

I’m still actively making and exhibiting my artwork, so any spare moments I can find, I try to make art. I also have another part time job at Deluxe Box, where I mostly do fine, detailed woodwork, making high-end wooden packaging for luxury goods like expensive whiskey and honey, for example. I’m basically always making something now that I’m thinking about it. 

What are your favourite daily rituals? 

It’s coffee. It has to be going for a nice walk to get coffee. Other than that, it’s trying to quieten my mind by keeping my hands busy making a piece. I find it really meditative. 

Where do you seek inspiration? 

I’m inspired by anyone who does something in a creative space, and whatever they do, they do it to the fullest extent. I like it when things are done properly, all the way - every aspect considered at every step, and a choice made, right down to the smallest detail. I often find this in other makers, designers, jewellers, artists and musicians. That’s the good stuff.

 Purchase the Neat Places x Sonder Leather travel wallet here

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