What’s Old is New Again with The COB Shop

Cindy O’Beirn is the crafty maven behind London, ON’s The COB Shop. The COB Shop makes and sells repurposed leather goods, such as backpacks, totes, purses, wallets, keychains, and even holiday stockings.

A woman with brown hair and bangs sits in front of a sweing machine. Thread is hung up on the wall behind her and there are leather belts on the table next to her.
Cindy O’Beirn repurposes leather goods into backpacks and other accessories. Image via Instagram @thecobshopcanada.

A thrifting queen, Cindy scours local second-hand stores for leather jackets and goods to repurpose. She saves vintage leather from the landfill, even going as far as to strip leather couches sitting on the curb.

Cindy is self-taught, which only makes her work even more impressive. Her bags, which often sell out in mere minutes when she opens her shop, are sturdily constructed to last longer than generic big box stores made of synthetic materials. Cindy also does custom orders with leather materials provided by clients, an opportunity to see something they love reborn and used for years to come.

Image on left: A pile of leather coats Image on right four leather backpacks made by The COB Shop
From coats to backpacks! Images via Instagram @thecobshopcanada.

I also highly recommend giving her a follow on Instagram. Through her posts and stories, Cindy shares bits of her life while providing a peek of the life of an eco-friendly maker from frustrating sewing machine maintenance to what’s growing in her garden. And as a friend to nature, her love of Canadian geese and, really all birds, is well documented on her Instagram feed as are her adorable cats, Sage and Ingrid.

A market booth set up by the COB Shop featuring leather backpacks hanging, leather keychains, a wallet display and a hanging rack full of totes.
The COB Shop’s set up at a past Punk Rock Flea Market. Image via Instagram @thecobshopcanada.

So, let’s get to know this environmentally conscious leatherworker!

What do you make?

I make leather bags and accessories out of repurposed leather garments and upholstery. 

How and when did you start creating?

I started a part-time version of The COB Shop back in 2010 when I still had a full-time office job. I made the leap to full-time in 2016.

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Do you remember your first piece? What was it?

My first piece was a bag I created out of a leather jacket because I couldn’t afford a leather bag I actually wanted. It was horribly constructed and looked nothing like the inspiration bag but still got lots of compliments, which lead to me making bags for some friends. The rest is history!

What do you wish you had known when you first started making?

How to say NO in a firm but friendly way. 

How did you come up with your name for your business?

COB is my initials! I also liked that it sounded like it related to “cobbling” something together.

What or who inspires you?

I’m fiercely competitive, so I’m inspired when I see my friends/peers working hard and thriving. It pushes me to work just as hard.

What’s your favourite item or piece to work on?

Honestly, I’ve narrowed my collection down to things that I only enjoy making now. That said, I have a soft spot in my heart for the classic COB Shop backpack. I’ve made hundreds of them! 

What’s the most challenging aspect of being a maker?

For me specifically, it’s been learning how to repurpose leather and how to combine it with different materials.

I’m self-taught because there really aren’t any “how to repurpose leather” tutorials out there. I’ve had to learn a bit about leather-working, beef up my seamstress skills, and add a bit of a MacGyver element to the whole thing all while keeping waste to a minimum.

What’s your favourite London neighbourhood and why?

Blackfriars, hands-down. I live in Blackfriars and I love that it’s so close to the Thames River, the TVP, Harris Park, Labatt Park and Downtown but small and kind of secretly tucked away. My neighbours make it though, and I’ve made many friends here.

What’s your favourite “hidden gem” in London you think more people should know about?

Community gardens. They’re everywhere. You don’t even have to rent a plot to enjoy them. Walking or riding down the TVP on your bike, you can watch people work on them, or (pre-Covid) even take a walk through and see what folks are growing and have a little chat with some of the gardeners.

Where can people find your work?

I sell my products on Etsy, but my work is created in small batches that sell quickly so it’s best to follow @thecobshopcanada on Instagram or Facebook to catch announcements about shop updates.

What other London Makers should Londoners check out?

In The Before Times, Forest City Stained Glass, Me & C., Spruce Moose, Soft Flirt and I (and the occasional special guest) would get together a couple of times a year to share food and laughs. Can’t wait to get back to that. They’re all wonderful, talented makers.

Connect with The COB Shop

Feature photo courtesy of The COB Shop.

London Makers and Creators is a series from LondonFuse, focusing on the talented artisans who make and sell their work throughout London and area.

Are you or do you know a London maker we should be highlighting? If so, let us know in the comments below or email info@londonfuse.ca to be featured.

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