Becoming a leather craftsman had not always been the plan. I was a qualified electrician for six years, however a motorcycle accident during my travels left me unable to walk for four months. During the recovery process, I stumbled across leathercraft when I decided to make a sheath for a knife. Leather is such a great product to work with. I love the texture and feel of it, and there’s nothing more satisfying than feeling that burnished or painted edge. It is also so rewarding to present a client with the finished product and see how happy it makes them.
After gaining an initial interest in leathercraft, I spent five years improving my skills through reading, watching videos, and learning from a traditional Japanese leathercraft teacher in Hong Kong. This teacher made briefcases for Hong Kong’s elite by hand, and the traditional Japanese techniques he used resulted in very clean and neat work. He instilled in me a highly refined aesthetic and appreciation for fine, traditional skills.
During those five years of improving my skills, I had always discounted the idea of taking the craft on as a profession, due to concerns regarding whether I would be able to make a living off it. In that time, I completed a Geology degree and also started my pilot training. However, after gaining the leatherwork experience in Hong Kong, I couldn’t shake the idea of starting my own leatherwork business. I decided life was too short to not follow my dreams, so in 2017 I bit the bullet and started looking for a space to start my own leather business in Melbourne.
The training I had in Hong Kong has really influenced my leatherwork style, and it is also why I am drawn towards making items like briefcases. If I could only produce one item in my workshop, I would choose a briefcase. There is a surprising amount of complexity to a fully lined, semi rigid briefcase with burnished edges. They take me around two weeks full time to make, and there is more than 20 hours of hand stitching in each case.
One of my favourite pieces that I have created, which also uses a lot of the techniques I learned in Hong Kong, is the Madigan bag. Large enough to fit a laptop, it's a shoulder bag modeled on vintage binoculars cases. This bag can’t be replicated by machines, as the box and butt stitching can only be done by a skilled craftsperson with an awl and needle. That’s the unique value in the design.
Other products in my range include wallets (traditional and modern slim front pocket), belts, aprons, sunglasses cases (soft and hard), and larger bags (totes and duffels). But if there is any other project a client wants, I will always try my best to accommodate their wishes.
My ideal clients are people who can appreciate the time, process, and commitment it takes to create high quality products that will last a lifetime. I love the creative and practical challenges of custom orders, so plan to continue offering this to my customers. Although in the future, I would like to develop my own range of products that clients can customise. Becoming a leather craftsman had not always been the plan, I love my work and could not imagine doing anything else.