Meet the Maker: Jenny Perkin of Sandpiper Handcraft

By Sara Smith

Jenny Perkin’s designs speak for themselves: timeless, simple, everyday chic with a hint of beachy charm. But the story behind her brand Sandpiper Handcraft is both inspired, and inspiring. This maker found a way to channel loss and personal challenges into a fulfilling career within Kingston’s thriving creative community.

Growing up with two parents in the trades, Perkin got an early introduction to the world of DIY. “My mom was a seamstress and my dad, a carpenter,” she says. “So as a child, the pride that comes from building something with your own hands was really special to me.” She eventually became a seamstress for CFB Kingston, doing alterations and repairs on uniforms.

“I learned lots of tricks of the trade to make my sewing more efficient, and where it’s important to add strength in spots that will get more wear and tear.”
Meet a Local Creator: Jenny Perkin of Sandpiper Handcraft
Elegant yet rugged, Sandpiper bags are the perfect go-with-everything totes. Image via Jenny Perkins

It was in 2014 that Perkin’s life took a tragic turn when her husband passed away at a young age. Shortly after, she was struck with an autoimmune disease. “I had to take some time and stop working, because at that point I had so much anxiety and it was working against my ability to heal,” she says. “Making handbags was an outlet — creating something with my hands became my way to work through all of that.”

The name Sandpiper Handcraft was chosen to symbolize Perkin’s journey from personal struggle to creative passion. “The name refers to a shore bird that I first saw when I was on vacation on Lake Huron,” she says. “I would see these funny little birds scurrying in and out with the waves, picking up little fish or bugs that the waves bring in with them. At that point in my life, I felt like it was also my time to grab what was being presented to me before it went away.”

She made the leap to becoming a full-time maker in 2016, and now can be found at local farmers’ markets, holiday craft shows, and storefronts such as Meraqi Art Annex. Her tote bags and home decor products invoke a clean, classic feel, drawing inspiration from nature and life on the waterfront. She uses local and Canadian-sourced materials whenever possible, and chooses her signature woven jute fabric over textiles such as leather or petroleum-based synthetics – filling a void in the handbag industry for those seeking vegan products and natural fibres.

Meet a Local Creator: Jenny Perkin of Sandpiper Handcraft
Using hands-on skills and natural fibres, Perkin channeled her personal struggle into a creative venture. Photo via Jenny Perkin

Perkin also aims to combat the wastefulness of the textile industry with her beautifully-designed, lovingly handcrafted wares. “Fast fashion encourages us to consume more, own more, dispose of more, and purchase impulsively,” she says. “I want to inspire people to be intentional with their purchases. When they purchase from me, they know that somebody within their community or their country was paid a fair wage, and wasn’t exploited to make their product.”

She credits that same community with giving her the opportunities, and the confidence, to establish her small business. “I’ve been to a lot of shows in Kingston and have met a ton of makers and artists,” says Perkin. “We have such a supportive community of makers in Kingston, and everybody seems to genuinely want to lift each other up, and have everyone do well, like we’re all part of the same team.” The uniqueness of Kingston itself has also played a part, she believes. “I grew up in Kingston, and I’ve lived here my entire life. I really believe that I wouldn’t have had the support and success that I’ve had here, in any other city. We have the resources of a larger centre, but Kingston is really a small town at heart.”

Meet a Local Creator: Jenny Perkin of Sandpiper Handcraft
Sandpiper Handcraft’s bags evoke a timeless, beachy chic. Image via Jenny Perkin

Ultimately, it’s her customers who have made all the difference to Perkin, and Sandpiper Handcraft. “I find that the community here is always really excited to support local artists, farmers, and businesses,” she says. “Our customers understand, and appreciate, that it requires skill and resources to be a creative entrepreneur. Every time somebody buys a bag from me, they show that.”

“It’s pretty exciting, and a little bit humbling, when people believe in you that much.”

You can find Sandpiper Handcraft at Meraqi Art Annex in downtown Kingston, or online at