To begin discussing the characteristics and benefits of leather and why it has become my favored medium in artistic creation, we must first confront an obvious fact of the material. it is animal skin. That simple fact may invoke an array of reactions from "duh" to disgust. This fact is interesting to me because elements of the animal's life are present in the final production of a hide. All leather craftsmen carefully inspect their hides when selecting sections for projects. in all full grain hides one will find range marks, or marks still visible from events in the animals experience. Whether a specific craftsman is searching to eliminate or incorporate range marks into their work, all must be conscious of the existence of such things. Scars, insect bites, barbwire scratches or any other lasting mark on the skin may still be apparent on the hide. In this way the artisan cannot avoid that one simple fact; leather is animal skin. It forces us to connect with the material in a way that a painter, writer or other creative mind may not. For me this translates to one word: respect. Leather is not like cloth or clay, it had a life and will now have a new existence and purpose. Elements of an animal's life can translate into quality hand crafted goods that can be enjoyed for years. in this way, like the memory of a loved one, the animal lives on. Is it strange to think so deeply about a seemingly common material such as leather? Perhaps, but it is my passion. Full grain leather goods have an inherent connection to what was, and the quality and durability to last into what will be. my artistic concept of my work is a story in which my goods are simply a chapter in a much greater tale; a tale that began with a life. High quality full grain leathers are among the most beautiful materials in the world. I only hope to be able to do the material justice with the goods that i create.
Why Handmade? Well, simply put...because there are no substitutes. There is no such thing as a short cut when crafting quality goods by hand. one of the first lessons i took from leather work is that i have to accept that what i'm doing is going to take a long time. i was forced to slow down and focus on one step at a time. I could not worry about time spent because doing so would degrade the quality of the finished product. every detail must be given the attention it deserves. i never thought it would be a wise idea to calculate the hours i spend making something into the price. in my opinion, the value of a finished product should be determined by quality of material and craftsmanship, not by the clock. taking this approach to leather work allows me to care more about quality than i care about an hourly rate. i want to make the best item possible: no exceptions, whatever it takes. this is what drives my motivation to improve my skills as a craftsman and to grow as an artisan. i find this sentiment to be helpful in almost all ventures in my life. if you are passionate about something, when good becomes good enough, you have become stagnant and so has your experience. after all, isn't the journey the destination?
how can someone care so much about ordinary things like bags, wallets, watch straps and belts? that too has a simple answer. bags wallets and belts have a purpose. Years ago while attending the Art Istitute of Boston as a fine arts major, a professor asked us to ask ourselves a simple question. "What does your work do?" at the time i had no answer. i was a painter and a print maker and at best my work looked cool on a wall...hardly a meaningful purpose. since that day i've had that question on my mind and to be honest, it plagued my creativity. everything i made was no longer about the process, it was about the purpose. i was thinking about the end while trudging through the beginning and middle. This was no way to work creatively. it wasn't until i found leather work that i had an answer to this question or rather, didn't need to answer the question. a belt keeps your pants on. a wallet holds your money. people carry things in bags. my work had a purpose, and one that i didn't have to think about. i could finally focus on the process. i am very pleased with the purpose of my work. people use the types of products i make in their everyday lives. If i can give them something extraordinary then i can give them joy every time they use it. unlike most of the leather goods you'll find mass produced in common stores, full grain quality leather ages and develops a patina as it is used. High quality leather reacts to its enviorment and in a sense forms itself to your life. what once was a living animal became a beautiful material that was crafted by hand into a useful item that evolves as it assimilates itself into the daily life of it's user. the whole process is a symbiotic relationship. That's why leather.
Author -Derek Shortway