I’ve travelled out from central London to the southwest end of the Northern Line. Exiting the station, a short walk through the surrounding suburbs leads to an industrial estate and the home of Isen Workshop. Pushing open the door, there’s a sudden movement as a small dog darts out and excitedly runs rings around my legs. Caren Hartley follows and greets me with a smile as she scoops up this new addition to the Isen family. The dog’s name is Frieda and it’s her first day in the workshop—Caren obviously delighted with her new companion as she politely asks if I’d like a cup of tea.
After studying an MA in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork & Jewellery at the Royal College of Art, Caren received award-winning recognition as a frame builder with her eponymous Hartley Cycles before partnering with Matt McDonough of Talbot Frameworks to found Isen Workshop.
With the pair carving out a well-deserved reputation for beautifully built bikes in steel and titanium, I spent an enjoyable morning touring the workshop and photographing Caren in preparation for an interview subsequently published on the Quoc web journal—a fascinating glimpse into her passion for making and the level of detail demanded by such a bespoke product.
Click on an image to enlarge…
“I was always making things as a child and I remember my parents being quite creative. Dad was a watchmaker and Mum would make costumes for us out of crêpe paper and cereal boxes.”
“After attending an event where I met a frame builder, I had this sudden realisation that it was a little like jewellery – basically big soldering – and I just needed to start making things that were bike shaped.”
Follow the link to read Caren’s interview for Quoc
All photography by cyclespeak