By Kaia Wallis
With the new Shop South Australia open for business, we thought it was the perfect time to introduce you to the makers and vendors of the purely SA online marketplace.
First, we took you behind the scenes of essential oils range Kindred Self, introducing you to Kyrie – a former graphic designer and counsellor.
Now, we’d like you to meet Pauline Van Houten from Vantler Leather.
At the heart of Vantler Leather is the spirit of gift-giving, Pauline says. It’s what first sparked her passion for the material and it’s a spirit evident in each product she creates.
Pauline never envisioned a career crafting customised leather goods, but while on the hunt for meaningful holiday gifts in 2015, she uncovered an unexpected skill-set for leatherwork.
Recently married and studying nursing at Flinders University, Pauline’s family had swelled to include an extra 30 people. Tasked with the daunting responsibility of finding each of her new in-laws meaningful Christmas presents, she decided to make them herself.
“Because I was still studying, I thought I would make something. So I did some research, I wanted something functional, something useable and something that would get better with age and I found leather,” she says.
“I decided to delve in, and I decided to personalise everything I made.”
Learning from YouTube tutorials and a friendly salesman at local leather supply store D.S. Horne, Pauline spent the lead up to Christmas 2015 handcrafting and personalising leather keyrings for family members.
Stellar reviews poured in – the keyrings were a hit. Pauline soon took her fledgling business online, uploading her handcrafted goods to online market place Esty in a bid to raise extra income while she studied.
“I’d gotten reviews from family and friends saying the products were really good. So, I decided to sell the left-over products online,” she says.
Orders flooded in and the step from hobby to business came quickly for Pauline, whose handcrafted goods soon found a new home on their own website.
“I have customers across the world, people from the US, France and Italy are buying from me. It’s just really crazy,” she says.
The accessories including key rings, cufflinks and luggage tags are made with traditional leatherworking techniques, and almost always personalised with dates, initials or names supplied by the customer.
“I focus on sentimentality and the experience of gift-giving. Leather is a traditional gift for third-year wedding anniversaries, it symbolises durability in a relationship and so I focus on that,” she says.
“Usually people like to buy smaller and more affordable things, rather than big bags or items and I make a lot of smaller accessories, I think that’s something I do differently.”
Born in Malaysia, Pauline moved to SA around five years ago and she says the state has quickly become her home.
“I love the people, I’ve never seen anyone as nice and I love the beaches. That’s what makes SA the place I want to stay,” she says.
“It’s a good place to run a business, I have got a lot of support. Everyone looks after us really well.”
Most days Pauline can be found in her living room, orders pouring in from customers world-wide and her two-year-old daughter, Keona, helping her stamp the outgoing packages.
Shop South Australia is home to a unique collection of over 300 South Australian gifts and goods from more than 70 local makers and producers. Choose local and Shop South Australia.
Industry in focus: craft industries
Throughout November and December, the state’s craft industries will be celebrated as part of I Choose SA.
South Australian craftspeople make up some of our most creative thinkers and makers of sustainable and innovative goods. Read more craft stories here.
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.