When last we spoke, lo these many months ago, it was on the subject of repairing an old dining chair. Hardly the most creative project I’ve ever done, and one that probably ate up more time than it was worth — I’m sure I could‘ve replaced the chair outright for a few dollars used, and been done with it. Which would have been a fine outcome for the chair situation, since it is no longer a dining chair, but sits in the basement and is used for doing laundry. Nevertheless, the time and expense of these projects are almost never the point — the project itself is the point. So was the chair.
I assure you I haven’t been idle since then, and have been busy with all manner of things. There’s the day job, of course, but also coaching with a high school mock trial team. Then, college hockey season took up a lot of time.
Somewhere in there I did find some time to work on some project or another, if only in fits and starts. So, what’ve I been doing?
I have no idea how I got into leatherworking. And by ‘got into’ I don’t mean I’ve turned into a leatherworking guy and this blog is going to be about that. Because it’s not. Still, it’s nice to have some other thing to mess about with when you feel like being creative and don’t have a ton of time.
Naturally I started with wallets because I needed a new wallet when the one I was carrying around wasn’t doing the job anymore. Of course, the first one I made turned out half-assed, mostly because my cutting and hole-punching were terrible. And that’s putting it charitably.. Plus, I hadn’t quite gotten a feel for which threads and needles I liked. After that one I made about ten more and, with practice, they improved.
Some of the wallets are just plain leather, but others, like the one I’m carrying now, is made from ostrich skin. It’s gaudy and looks ridiculous and I’m not usually the guy who can rock an ostrich skin wallet, but I do it just the same. And when this one gives out, I have a lizard-skin version ready to take its place.
The nice thing about making wallets is they don’t take much time, and are customizable. But, because I’m largely making them for myself — and my son, when he wants one — the ones I’ve made are all about the same. I could sell them, and might, but haven’t yet taken steps to do that. Still, if you want one you can email me and we’ll work something out.
Anyway, eventually I made enough wallets that I needed something to corral them all into one place, which is how I came to make this little wallet cabinet. The cabinet is nothing special, just a box standing on end, made from offcuts of a footstool project I worked on, with some trim around the bottom to dress it up — the only reason to trim it is to practice that.
I’ve been at my current day job for three years. In that time I’ve cycled through a variety of bags, trying to find one I’m comfortable with and works for me. I’ve tried a backpack, cloth shopping bags, fancy paper shopping bags, and even some plastic bags. But, none stuck. Since I was doing leather work, I decided to try my hand at bag making.
The first I made was basically a bucket-style bag big enough to put my computer in on end, with files going in the same way. While it looks good, and is functional, it doesn’t really work for me — I carry around just too much shit.
After that I made some market bags, similar to ones I saw at the Magnolia Shops in Waco, Texas. These bags generally were the right shape for what I wanted but, while I made a few varieties of it, I also undersized them, making them basically useless for my work needs — undersizing projects is a bad habit of mine.
After that, I made something like a messenger bag, but this was more an aesthetic project than a practical project, so I never used it.
Last, I made one similarish to a messenger bag, large enough for my computer and work files, as well as other odds and ends I drag around. While I don’t use a shoulder strap, I put d-rings on it in case I changed my mine. The handle is basically a leather strip sewn around some cord, and is fairly comfortable in the hand. I use this bag basically everyday, and I’m happy with it, even if the pouch I sewed on the one side feels like it could have been executed better.
One of the other things I’ve gotten into doing is linoleum block printing. Although I don’t consider myself an artist, I do like to be creative, and lino printing scratches that itch. Plus, because everything prints in reverse in lino printing, it has the unique challenge to it where, once you’ve decided on your design, you have to reverse it when carving the lino to get what you want. It makes you have to think forwards and backwards all at the same time. And, if you want an extra challenge, you can add in multiple blocks to a print, in multiple colors, which require fairly precise alignment to have a picture that doesn’t look like gibberish.
I also wrote a book. More accurately, I’ve been writing the book for about two years and have been making a concerted effort in the last few months to finish. To be sure, this is not a book to submit to publishers, because I don’t need that, though I did self-publish it with our evil overlords at Amazon. To sum it up, the book is a dumb story about a robot ham — the lino print below is one iteration of the main character.
One of the reasons the book has taken so long is every chapter has a picture at the beginning that I’ve been making lino prints for. Because there are a lot of chapters, it’s taken a good amount of time to finish the prints, and now that I’m done I can get to work on other projects. Rest assured, once I get those going, I’ll be back here with them for you all to see, Until then, stay tuned.