Summer and Custom Leather Work

Summer is a busy time if you live in Colorado.  With the wealth of outdoor activities it can be hard to find time to focus on custom leather work orders and designs.  

Summer snow in the Rocky Mountains
Some snow remains above tree line in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

With all the options near where I live there are lots of opportunities for outdoor things to do.  There are the mountains and hiking, lakes and rivers, mountain biking or sports.  It’s no wonder it’s hard to find time to work in the shop.  We’ve had a very wet summer too so our yards easily become jungles and it’s work just to keep the weeds out of the garden!

Despite all that there have been some fun projects completed the past couple of months and many more coming up.  There have been a couple of belts and some new purse and handbag designs to be experimented with.  Some of the projects have just been experiments but a few new items are coming to the shop.  For instance there will be a new small cross body bag soon.

There have been some fun custom projects too.  For instance for custom leather work there was this belt design.  It was requested by a customer to duplicate the design on a wallet I had made previously.  I like the way the design turned out and I think I’ll be making a version of this design available in my shop sometime soon.  

Northwest Style floral vine design on a custom leather belt.
Custom Leather Belt with Vine Design

There are some other interesting custom leather work projects coming up too.  It looks like I may be making an archery quiver in the near future.  This is something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time now and it looks like I’m going to get my chance.  There are a couple of new leather handbag designs I’ve been working with that will (hopefully) be finalized and I have a wedding guest book to complete.  And maybe a new belt design too.  Plus finishing up some wallets for my Etsy shop plus a new small notebook.  Yes there are lots of irons in the fire, or maybe that should be lots of leather on the workbench?

Also through my Instagram account, the tooling tips I’ve been posting have been popular and they have prompted several requests about leather finishing techniques.  I’m working on ways to do this and I’m guessing I may be making some videos soon talking about antiquing and other finish issues.  Stay tuned!

If you have a custom leather item you would like crafted for you, just send us a message and I’ll be happy to work you in.  Its never too early to be thinking about Christmas gifts.

The Quiet Luxury Trend and how it Effects Leather Workers

The Quiet Luxury Trend

In the midst of difficult economic times, rising inflation and some of the highest interest rates in decades, it easy to say that consumers in the US are under pressure.  From groceries to gasoline to electricity, costs are up across the board and families in the US are definitely feeling the pinch.  The leather goods business is not immune to these effects.  I’ve personally seen my orders slow down the past year while the costs of raw materials has increased.

A leather money clip with a black lizard skin inlay.
Leather Money Clip with Lizard Skin Inlay

One trend that is currently appearing in the US economy is the Quiet Luxury Trend (its also sometime called the ‘Stealth Wealth’ trend) and in may be a direct result of the tightening in the economy.  It generally refers to a shift in luxury item purchases away from flashy designer logos or traditional high end brand names in favor of less flashy, more understated items and more thoughtful shopping.  It has also been described as avoiding flashy brand logos and focusing more on the quality of an item and whether or not it fits your lifestyle. The quiet luxury trend also has been described as still using expensive materials but in muted tones or less flashy ways.  Some analysts have even claimed that this trend is partially driven by the wealthy looking to avoid flaunting their wealth at a time when many others are struggling to pay the bills and living paycheck to paycheck.

So does this effect leather workers?

So how does this trend away from flashy luxury affect the business of most leather workers?  Maybe not much and it really depends on who your target customers are.  If you are a saddle maker and much of your business is saddles and working gear for cowboys, you probably won’t see much effect.  If you are making high end notebooks, wallets and handbags (like much of my business is) it could be an issue.  If people are not looking for flashy luxury leather items it may make some of our customers think twice before they purchase a fully carved leather handbag or bifold wallet.  

There are a couple of ways you can approach this trend.  You can make more muted and less flashy versions of your standard products.  Maybe you use less flashy hardware or a more subtle leather to make your item.  In my case I’m exploring items that have less carving and focus more on the quality of the leather.  I’ve got a clutch wallet in the works now that fits this bill.  Or maybe you continue doing things they way you have been.  If you have established a customer base already they most likely come to you because of the style or look your leather work has now, and they are more likely to choose your work because they know your quality and will pay for your work.  So you wouldn’t want to alienate these loyal customers just because of a current hot trend.  

Perhaps the best approach to this quiet luxury trend is to experiment with more subtle items.  That’s what I’m trying now with items that focus on the luxury look and feel of the leather instead of the intricate work of the carving or stamping.  But I won’t be giving up leather carving.  I’ve already got enough orders for carved items (plus a few cool ideas I want to try) to keep me busy throughout the summer.  And then we’ll see what new fashion trend comes around the fall.

Leather Clutch Wallet made from blue embossed crocodile
Blue leather clutch wallet.

Focusing on Your Work (as an Artist its Hard!)

I tend not to be the most organized person, as anyone who looks at my work bench would clearly see!  Despite appearances though I do have a good idea where most things are and what I should be working on.  

Hand tooling a flower in leather.
Process of carving a flower in leather.

However for creative people especially it can be hard to stay focused and motivated to work on a specific product or customer order.  On MANY occasions I’ve had trouble staying focused on a project that isn’t as exciting artistically as some of my past work, and it can make me easily distracted when another more enticing idea comes along.  It is very easy for me to get distracted by seeing other’s work on social media like Instagram and thinking “What a cool idea!”  

For artists and other creative people staying focused on tasks, especially if they are not a particularly creative task, can be hard because of the way our brain is wired.  If your right brain is more dominant, meaning you’re more used to flexing your creative muscles, you will naturally gravitate towards those skills versus more left brain tasks that are more logical and analytical. If you are working on something that isn’t particularly artistic or creative, it can be easy to be side tracked from something that you don’t enjoy.   Plus if you are like me, a good creative idea can jump in and disrupt whatever you are trying to concentrating on.

Focusing For Artists and Creatives

One of the easiest ways to fight this and stay on track is goal setting.  Having written goals and reviewing them daily is a key way I keep on track and get projects done.  When I’m struggling to move forward on a project, it’s usually because I’m not staying focused on my goals and I’m allowing myself to be distracted.  Focusing for artists and creatives can sometimes be a difficult task.  I’m as guilty as anyone else!  Look a squirrel!

There are important steps to goal setting.  First is knowing what you want to achieve.  You have to know where you want to go before you can start a trip.  Once you have a goal you have to have a plan.  This is your map on how you are going to get where you want to go.  Then Take Action!  It’s no good having a plan or a map unless start the trip to reach your goal.  If necessary break it down into smaller steps.  And once you reach your goal review how it turned out and if necessary renew your goals.

Goal setting and staying focused on your goals is not always the easiest thing for someone who is creative.  Let’s face it, the logical process of setting and focusing on goals isn’t always the strength of someone who is creative minded.  But if you are an artist or creative who is operating as a freelancer or in your own business it’s important to keep on track, meet your goals and finish your project so it can be delivered to your customer.  And in the end, shipping that project frees you up for your next creative project!  That can be a reward in itself.

Carved leather pendant with wire wrapped bezel.
Leather Floral Pendant

What does ‘Genuine Leather’ mean?

What’s up with Genuine Leather?

You will often see the term ‘Genuine Leather’ on items you find a stores, but what does this really mean?

If you go to a department store or other big box retail store, you will often run across leather items like belts or wallets that are stamped with the term ‘Genuine Leather’ but is this really any kind of quality guarantee?   Not really.  In fact it is one of the lowest grades of the types of leather you can purchase.

Genuine Leather is usually made from the lower quality parts of a hide that are removed from higher quality leather hides.  Often it is made from the parts shaved off of the back of a leather hide that are then glued together for strength and have a leather texture embossed onto the surface.  These are basically rejected parts from higher quality items that are recycled into something useful for the mass consumer market.  This kind of leather doesn’t have much strength or the ability to wear well because it doesn’t include the grain surface of the leather from the original hide. The grain surface is where most of leather’s strength resides.  Thus items made from ‘Genuine Leather’ won’t hold up well and tend to wear out or break down quickly.  It’s only suitable for items where strength and durability are not required.


Other Types of Leather

Top Grain is the next step up and while it’s better, it still has some drawbacks.  Top Grain still has the grain surface on the leather but that surface has been ‘corrected’.  Leather naturally has slight imperfections on the grain surface.  These are usually marks or scars the animal picked up on its hide over it’s lifetime.  On Top Grain leather the gain surface is sanded to remove these marks so it looks like a higher quality leather but this removes some of the strength from the leather.  To repair the damage to the surface, paints and sealants are sprayed on the surface.  Often a grain design will be embossed onto the leather as well.  These treatments can make this leather hold its color well and be water resistant, but often lower quality hides are used because the finishing steps mask the imperfections.

Top Grain leather is the kind of leather used in most luxury brand handbags, wallets or briefcases.  It wears better than Genuine Leather but that’s partially due to the surface treatments that are added to it.  It doesn’t have the strength and resistance to wear that Full Grain leather does because the top of the grain surface has been damaged by the sanding.


Full Grain Leather

Full Grain leather is the highest quality of the types of leather used in making personal items.  This leather has the original grain surface of the hide intact which gives it all the strength and wear resistance leather is known for.  It may have slight blemishes and imperfections but a skilled maker can work around them in the hide.  Full Grain leather is preferred for heavy duty items that need to be rugged and wear resistant.  However in a skilled craftsman’s hands the same leather can be used for handbags, wallets, belts and other personal items that will wear very well and last for many years.  If you want an item that will be durable and last a long time, this is the leather you want to use.  Full Grain leather is usually more expensive because it has to be a higher quality hide to start with.  This initial expenses is usually more than offset by the lifetime the finished product will have.


Understanding these differences helps to explain why hand crafted items from a reputable maker like C and B Leather cost more than the mass produced items you find at a department store.  The quality of the full grain leather we use is one reason for a higher price, but the experience and skill we bring to your project are also a factor.  If you have a personal item you would like custom made out of high quality full grain leather, please contact us to make your idea a reality.


5×8 Floral Carved Notebook


Quality Handmade Leatherwork

The Quality of Consumer Products

Recently I was reading an article on Vox about why consumer products that are made now are not holding up to the quality of just a few years ago.  The author of the article makes very good points about why consumer companies from clothing to tech products are driven to reduce quality and make manufacturing easier in order to maintain a certain price.  The point of the article is that cost of materials and cost of labor have constantly been increasing (this last year especially so!) and to maintain prices that consumers are used to, the quality of the materials and the way they are assembled has to be sacrificed.


This made me think about the quality of handmade leatherwork like what I make here at C and B Leather.  The items that I make are not only intended to last for many years of service, but ideally they can be passed down to the next generation and still be useable.  


So much in our culture is looked at now as disposable or as being useful for a period of time but then cast aside as newer and improved versions come about.  We don’t expect our clothing, furniture or appliances to last for years.  With electronic tech we even will replace something because we want the newer model even if your existing model still works fine.


When I make quality handmade leatherwork I want the finished product to rise above those expectations.  I want it to be something that will last for a long time and that you will keep using for a long time.  It should also reflect something about you or your personality.  It should be something that fits your personality uniquely.  It’s going to cost more than the disposable version, but it will also have more VALUE!


There are craftsmen and women making really high quality items all across the U.S.  These people make the things they make because they have a true love of their craft.  Each item, be it wood working, sculpting, painting or working with leather, is made with love and care.  It’s their goal to make something that is a unique expression of themselves as well as the best quality they can make it. It’s also usually a unique expression of the end user.  That is what I’m doing with my leather work,  I’m striving to make the best quality handmade leatherwork I possibly can, and if I can make it unique to you I will do that too.


If you are ready to invest in quality for yourself, let me know.  If you are looking for a custom made leather notebook, a custom belt, wallet or handbag made just for you contact me to get the process started!

Carved Leather wallet with Sunflower design
Minimalist wallet with sunflower design.

Handmade by a craftsman produces quality that cannot be equaled by today’s mass market consumer items.


Winter (Holidays) are Coming

Last night here in Fort Collins, CO we got our first taste of winter. Thunderstorms with small hail and then light rain and falling temperatures. This morning many cars and decks were covered in ice. Just to the north of us in Wyoming they got blizzard conditions last night and this morning. It was in the 80’s here just a couple of days ago.

A wintery day in Fort Collins, CO

Note: This picture wasn’t from today. I had to dig through my photos to find a good snow picture to use. Hopefully we’ll get some heavy snows like this during the winter to cut down on our drought!

Custom Leather Christmas Orders

All of these changes in the weather has us thinking about the upcoming holidays. Its actually not all that long until Christmas. If you are thinking about a custom leather order as a holiday gift for a loved one or for yourself you need to get the order in soon. We’ll be closing the books on new orders in the next few weeks. Most custom orders take several weeks to make so I won’t be taking any new orders after November 15 for Christmas delivery. If we get a lot of Christmas orders in the next few weeks this date may have to move up so if you have something in mind you would like to have made, make sure to contact me as soon as possible!

Custom leather Christmas orders are always a big part of our business here. We are always getting requests for custom leather items in the last few days before Christmas and we always have to disappoint those people because it takes more than a couple of days to make quality leather goods. Please don’t be disappointed this year. Contact us now to get your order in!

We make a variety of leather wallets, clutch purses, notebooks and custom knife sheaths and we would be thrilled to make a special item for you!