22 May 2018 Read: 167
Haenertsburgers Janet and Colin Blackburn opened Blackburn Leather at 18 Rissik Street five months ago. Colin, a master leather craftsman, and Janet, who’s bowing out of 25 years as a successful estate agent, has taken over the marketing. This business was started to leave a legacy to their creative children. The youngest, Israel, is already in the business.
The handbags, lined in shwishwe are sold out. The rifle slings and belts are the best sel-lers and there’s a demand for big boys and girls sized belts. Colin says, “Guys bigger than a 42” waist have a problem finding belts.”
Signature beaded safety pins, with round leather discs, are attached to each sold item. A percentage of all sales goes to PASA (Parkinson’s and related movement disorders Association of South Africa). Blackburn Leather also sells their waste and customers can rummage through and buy a bag of waste for R10. The couple also sells Nguni skins.
Janet, the fourth generation on The Mountain, met Zimbabwean born Colin twenty years ago. He’d been a game ran-ger in West Caprivi, came to South Africa in 1991, and worked on a game farm in the Soutpansberg.
Colin is genetically disposed to the leather craft industry. His great grandfather, Joe Blackburn from Bournemouth in the UK, was a master leather crafter. Joe perished in a shipwreck while en route from the UK to Cape Town in 1885. Colin also lays claim to being related to William Wordsworth on his father’s side through William’s sister Mary.
Colin was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease at the age of 41 in 2012. His health was already compromised in a serious car accident in 2000. He lost a kneecap, had a broken neck, a dislocated hip and drop foot i.e. a paralysed foot.
“My left hand is pretty useless and I shake now,” he says.
Janet says, “Colin has the technical ability and I have the marketing skills. Eventually I’ll become Colin’s hands as his physical ability is declining. Meanwhile Colin’s also training our children to join the business.”