The Southport man who swapped a career in IT for saddlery
PUBLISHED: 01:16 09 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:31 20 February 2013
We meet a master craftsman in Southport who still loves his job after 15 years. Amanda Griffiths reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson
Chris Taylor is one of those lucky people who says that getting up for work each morning is a pleasure. He swapped the high-pressure world of computer programming to become a master craftsman.
Chris has spent 15 years making bespoke, hand-made leather goods - a career that he says wont make him a millionaire. But it has its own rewards.
I still get a thrill when I see a piece Ive made in use, says Chris from his workshop, Saddlers Den, in Southport.
We made all the head pieces for Lancashire police horses and when I see them out at shows you cant help but think I made that.
Leather work has long been a hobby but it was only when he got his own horse that he thought of making the bridles and other equipment.
Things kept needing to be sent away for repair and I got fed up waiting for them to come back, he says.
I used to go to auctions and buy cheap saddles which I would rip apart to see how they were put together and remake them. I was always happiest working with my hands.
His freelance computer business allowed him to train and in 1996 he moved into his Southport base. To start with we covered the retail side as well, selling items like jodhpurs and hats in the front with the workshop in the back, he says.
But as competition from the retail side of things increased I made the decision to concentrate on our strength - the workshop and the bespoke leather work.
Although equestrian equipment is his speciality, Chris can turn his hand to anything made in leather, from dog collars to falconry bags, shooting equipment or saddles on childrens rocking horses. He only uses top quality English leather and fittings. In the past hes completed commissions for Tarletons Geraldine Rees, the first woman to complete the national course; police forces all over the north of England
and even recently reconstructed a dressage saddle from the 1690s for English Heritage.
Four years ago, he was asked by Cambridge University to go to China to study a 2,800-year-old saddle with a view to recreating it to be pressure tested against modern saddles.
History also plays a big part in Chriss business and he now has quite a reputation for creating reconstructions of period pieces, especially pieces for Roman re-enactment groups.
Chris, a member of the Society of Master Saddlers, also runs training courses on leather work and has written a book on the subject. He says his is a unique business and one that is certainly changing in the 21st century.
I think the nearest to me now are in Bury and Warrington. Its interesting, it always used to be a very male dominated industry, but now I find theres more and more women interested in it as a career,
he says. In fact, as if to prove his point Chris currently employs two women in his workshop, Louise and apprentice, Abby.
Its a hard way to make a living, its often a hand-to-mouth existence, but it is very rewarding. When you see a customers face at a job well done the thrill you get is priceless.