Beautiful Misfits Become Functional Art
I’m Beth Dryden, the leather artisan behind Bernice London. I create functional, one-of-a-kind art pieces that are upcycled from leather refuse. Great care is taken to highlight the raw edges, beautiful imperfections, markings, textures & organic shapes. Those “misfit” characteristics are the driving force behind the inspiration & creativity of Bernice London leather goods. Each piece is thoughtfully designed, hand-punched & hand-stitched by me, with love, in Woodstock, GA.
and now... the rest of the story...
I’ve always had a love of paper and a passion for creating art. As a child, I would make wallets and purses out of paper and tape/glue. They were always flat and simple and usually made out of school paper. I guess you could say making accessories is deeply ingrained in my soul.
I explored so many mediums while in various art schools and colleges. What ultimately sparked the idea to get back to accessories again was running across an accordion style business card holder a friend had given me. I was always enamored by how it was made, that it was flat and minimalistic. I began to see it with new eyes as a graphic designer about 10 years later. I really wanted to give my clients something unique to hold their business cards and this piece started the organic journey. Based on similar principles and materials as the accordion style holder, my business card book was born out of beautiful papers, colored embroidery threads and a newly found love and skill of Japanese 5 stitch binding. However, they were incredibly labor intensive and I wasn’t able to make much on each piece. So, as it is with most art, evolvement was inevitable.
Somewhere in the meantime, I ended up with a bag of leather scraps and quickly knew this was the medium I was supposed to work with. I saw so much beauty in the raw edges and imperfections. The markings, various shapes and random earth toned colors. I started upcycling these “misfits” into functional pieces of art. They had worth again… if only to me. I rarely sketch anything out. The leather usually tells me what to make. Sometimes pieces manifest right away, other times I’m paralyzed, not wanting to ruin a particularly beautiful scrap or the worry that I might make it something it isn’t supposed to be.
Each piece is unique and one-of-a-kind. No two pieces would ever look the same even if it was patterned after another, due to the marks in the leather or perhaps a different color of stitching. Embroidery thread is so fascinating to me. The range of colors is immense. I usually gravitate towards earthy colors like ochres, chartreuse, rust, dusty blues, minty greens and neutrals and then swathe them in beeswax before stitching. Occasionally I use what I call a florescent or a “hot” color like bright, orange red or flamingo pink. Those colors pair so well with even the most classic, tan leather and give it an unexpected vibe.
I make ultimately for the freedom of creativity. Somewhere along the way, I realized my art spoke to others the same way it spoke to me. Staying true to that keeps Bernice London authentic and I think ultimately the customer that makes a purchase, sees that. They also relish in having a functional, handmade, one-of-a-kind piece. This person doesn’t necessarily have a face or age and to me, that diversity, is so welcoming.
The name, Bernice London, is a blend of family names. The need to have family roots built into what I do is important to me. Bernice was my maternal great grandmother’s name and London was my paternal grandfather’s middle name. The ginkgo leaf (standing for longevity and profound endurance) that is often seen in my work is in memory of my mom’s mom, my gma, and the beautiful tree that was in her front yard.
About the artist, Beth Dryden (You can call me Bernice too... I am honored by that ;)