Francli Craftwear create hardwearing, functional accessories from their shared workshop collective in Falmouth, Cornwall. With quality and longevity in mind, their short runs of hand crafted aprons, rucksacks and small accessories are designed to last.
Their wearable phone-cases for TOAST are stitched with precision, with the lightly waxed finish making each piece durable enough for all of the elements, and ageing beautifully with time.
We talk to founder Ali Goodman about her journey, her inspirations and what life is like living by the sea in Cornwall
How did Francli Craftwear begin?
Francli Craftwear began as an escape ticket out of post-graduate internships in London, and back to the sea in Cornwall. It started as a 3-month project, sub-letting a corner of a friend's workshop to create a small collection of aprons, rucksacks and accessories for rural-based craftspeople. This was extended to 6 months, then a year, and then just never stopped.
It's evolved and grown organically over the years into the full-time studio it is today, and certainly feels miles away from an unheated, poorly lit cattle barn with a single trusty Singer. But the same ethos remains today and the designs lie at the centre.
Where did you learn your skills in construction and working with leather?
My skills are from a mix of schooling, reading, google, youtube, chats with maker friends and messing about in the studio. My practical training initially started at Falmouth University, learning the basics of pattern cutting and sewing for my degree in Sportswear Design.
I became more curious about leather and traditional craft skills. I visited the leather school at Tanner Bates in Totnes where I was introduced to hand stitching and finishing techniques. It's an on-going learning and experimentation process without any sense of an end.
I'll always feel like a beginner, there's always something to study, improve and refine. Maybe that's why I find it so addictive
What was it like starting up your own business?
In lots of ways it feels like an accident. Starting a creative project, discovering people were interested, developing my skills and slowly (often reluctantly) adding on the necessary business' bits that I need to keep going and become more professional.
I'm not particularly organised and I freeze up around anything to do with numbers. But I am wildly optimistic and get so much out of making good things, by hand, for good people.
Committing to Francli as a business required juggling part-time work, long working hours (including most weekends) and zero financial security. The lifestyle I wanted and my love of making came first; the need to make it a sustainable business came second, so it's been a massive learning curve.
It has been a never-ending list of contradictions: exciting and daunting, confusing and enlightening, freeing and exhausting, frustrating and rewarding - with the pros always outweighing the cons.
Who do you share your studio with?
My studio is based at Argal Home Farm, a homestead and collective of workspaces and workshops in the Cornish countryside. It's a beautiful, quiet place that's home to a diverse group of makers and small creative businesses.
To my left is Cut By Beam laser cutting studio and to my right is a yoga studio. Over the yard from us is furniture designer James Smith's wood and metal workshop, that looks out over the veg patch, fruit cage and orchard. Then there's the home of Yallah Coffee Roasters and carpenter Jimmy Millard, who is in the midst of building his Shepherds Cabin.
And, not forgetting, the kings and queens of the farm, Purdy, Logan, Gwen, Dingo and Freddie - the motley dog crew.
How do you balance working and taking time out for yourself? What do you like to do when outside of the studio?
I don't know if I can take the credit for keeping the balance, unless it counts that I've chosen the people around me... My partner James calls me out when I'm letting my head fill up. He'll gently coax me to let the work-thoughts go and finally switch off.
There's always a crew of amazing friends to jump in with too; team surfs, sea swims, beach hangouts, coastal walks, bring-a-dish-dinners. My dog Dingo gives me my daily dose of time out on our morning beach walk, and surfing really helps too. That's probably the point when I'm the most clear-headed.
I live just behind Fistral beach so if the waves are on, I can catch a quick surf before work in the winter, and after work in the summer (another pro to add to that starting a business' list).
What does Cornwall mean to you, and being near the sea?
To me, Cornwall means a different pace of life, and a different list of priorities. A lot of us have chosen to live here for the lifestyle, it's less about the hours we work and things we have. Being near the sea gives me so much. A healthy sense of scale while looking out at the ocean, and an invigorating hit of the elements whenever I need it.
Are there any designers and craftsmen that you particularly appreciate for their originality, designs and craftsmanship?
I particularly appreciate the work of Heather Scott, a designer/maker based in Falmouth that predominantly works with wood and metal. Her approach is very considered, and the execution meticulous, from small hand-crafted home wares such as her minimal toilet roll holder, to large scale team builds like her recent A-Frame cabin project, The Triangle House.
I admire her strength of commitment and consistency to her style - you can clearly recognise Japanese and Dutch influences but can't deny the result is totally her own. Whether it's scorched wood sushi boards, powder coated steel plant hangers or building a straw bale house, everything is designed, fabricated and finished to an impressive level of balance and precision.
I find her work both peaceful and galvanising - the aesthetics are very calming, her on-going exploration of process and skill spurs me on to improve my own work.
What piece of advice have you been given that you could pass on?
Launch to learn. At the very beginning of Francli, a lecturer from my University days instructed say yes first, and make it happen after'. At the time I was perplexed.
It took some years to grow in confidence and truly understand what she was trying to say. But there's a point when you need to separate perfection from fear. There's always something to improve, there's never a perfect moment to launch. It's trusting you're interested and determined enough to do what needs to be done along the way.
Start moving, feedback, improve, repeat.
Images by James Bannister
Landscape images by Victoria May Harrison