Meet the Crafters: Pip Robins Accessories

May 4, 2017 | Halifax Crafters Society

Gillian Hyde of Pip Robins Accessories has been taking part in the Halifax Crafters market since 2010 with her edgy waxed canvas and leather bags, cowls and accessories. You may have also heard about Gillian’s adventures in upcycling when she stripped the leather from a sofa that someone had kicked to the curb and turned it into several amazing clutches. In fact, re-using old materials has been part of Gillian’s creative process since she started her business in 2009. We are so excited to reunite with Gillian this weekend and check out all the handmade goodies she has brought with her!  

What do you make?

I work primarily in waxed canvas, leather, and vintage military surplus. I make a lot of bags: purses, backpacks, clutches, totes, and fanny packs. I also make leather wallets, key chains, zipper pouches, trays, leather belts, and buckles.

What is your process?

There are so many elements to bag making! I buy full leather hides- usually cowhide, but sometimes water buffalo or bison, and cut them into either straps or pieces to make the body of the bag; I have several sewing machines that I use to construct the bags themselves; I use hand tools to finish the leather pieces and install rivets and snaps; I search the country for unique materials- like vintage military duffel bags from the 60s (my favourite!) so that I can upcycle them into unique, one of a kind pieces. I make everything in very small batches to ensure the quality meets my high standards. Every piece is made- from start to finish- by my two hands.

How long have you been a crafter?

Pip Robins started in early 2009, and has been my full time job since 2011.

What is your background/How did you get started?

I swear I didn’t have a creative bone in my body until my late twenties when I started Pip. I am completely self-taught, and my work is fuelled by my dedication to handmade and creating classic, quality items. Pip was originally based on a seasonal product, sewn cowl scarves (shaped like a tube that slips over your head, and is just as warm as a regular scarf), inspired by seeing a man walking in North End Halifax on a freezing cold day, wearing a bandana across his face to keep warm. I loved his “bank robber” look, and immediately made my first prototype, put it online, and it sold immediately. And they kept selling (and, eight years later, they’re still selling!). My first Halifax Crafters was in 2010, and I have been part of the show every year since then.

Why do you do what you do?

I love working with my hands. I love the joy that comes with making something out of nothing. I love seeing people fall in love with something that I’ve made. I love creating things that are fashionable and functional, that won’t go out of style. I love working with textures and colours and patterns. I love being able to make my own schedule, work from home, and be my own boss. I basically love every single thing about my job.

When you’re not selling at Crafters markets, where can I find your work?

I’m always online! My Etsy shop and website have the best selection of my work.

I currently live in Ontario (I travel back to Nova Scotia every year just to participate in Halifax Crafters!), so I do a lot of craft shows year-round in Ontario.

You can follow me on Instagram and get a good look at what I’m working on and a bit about my life.

What makes Halifax Crafters different from other shows?

Halifax Crafters is where I got my start- it’s the place I was able to see a bright future for my little business. Nova Scotia is also home- I was born and raised there, and so I love coming back. I have a lot of followers in Halifax- many of you come to Crafters to visit me every year, and I sincerely appreciate your loyalty. Halifax Crafters is genuine: run by volunteers, offers enormously talented artisans, and has a wonderful mix of fresh faces and Crafters classics. I absolutely love coming to participate every year, and will continue to do so as long as you keep welcoming me back!

What are you excited about seeing at the Spring Market?

I always love to see the new talent that Halifax has to offer, but I also look forward to seeing Halifax staple artisans like Kiersten from Ferver’s Own, Rita from Rita Statement Accessories, and Geordan from Quarrelsome Yeti.

What inspires you to create?

Sometimes when I’m inspired, the item just NEEDS to be created. I’ve gotten out of bed in the middle of the night just to make something that I couldn’t stop thinking about. There’s nothing that gives me a boost in creativity more than being able to rework vintage textiles, or work with a new leather hide. Sometimes, I have to make the same bag over and over, so when I get to make a one of a kind piece, it’s really exciting.

Where do you do your work?

I’m lucky enough to live in an apartment in Toronto with enough room for a big studio on my lower floor. I love working from home and the flexibility it gives me.

What kind of music do you listen to while you work?

Podcasts are my new favourite thing, most recently S-Town. Last year I re-watched/listened to every episode of every season of Survivor (33 seasons, 15 episodes per season). That was intense, but so excellent.

A favourite quote?

“The journey is my home.” by Muriel Rukeyser

For me, it’s about my love of travel, but also to appreciate the moment we’re currently in, knowing it’s the middle and not the end.