DONNA NOBILO
Leather Worker

I was born on the Isle of Wight, England and our family immigrated to New Zealand in the early 1960’s.  

As a teenager in the ‘70’s, after years of pestering long suffering parents for a horse, my wish was granted.   However the cost of keeping it was my responsibility and I began to learn how to make, and repair my own tack as I could not afford expensive new gear.   An elderly Argentinean friend, who had worked all her life with horses, taught me how to tie knots and plait leather and fostered my dream to be a Cowboy.   Soon I found myself fixing and making gear for other people.      I taught myself to carve and dye leather, creating pictures on all manner of items including belts and wallets.    I read books and learnt the art of hand sewing with two needles.    Eventually I was supplying a saddlery in Dargaville with wallets but could not keep up demand.  My Mother was diagnosed with cancer and we moved to Whangarei.   My leather tools were packed away and didn’t see the light of day for some years.

In the ‘90’s my Husband and I began doing voluntary work for the Dargaville Museum restoring old horse gear and leather items.    At home, in Whau Valley, we had already collected a “Museum” of our own and word got to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Association who required reproduction saddlery and troopers equipment to be made.   I set about getting the correct patterns for saddles, bridles and ammunition belts used in World War One.   For authenticity we have collected an assortment of 100 year old saddler’s tools, including a 1911 saddler’s sewing machine, all of which are used in the making of my leather articles today.

Things have turned full circle now, as, after 30 years in the Painting and Decorating business I have gone back to the craft I love doing – leather working – from the cutting of the hide to edging, dying, finishing and stitching there is nothing quite like the smell and feel of leather.

Donna Nobilo