When I first started Fine Leatherworking, one of my motivations was to connect more with other leatherworkers. I had a lot detailed knowledge about how to do hand-stitching with linen thread and make fine leather edges with the help of an electric creaser, but I also knew I could expand my knowledge by continually learning. There is an wealth of information and wisdom in the leatherworking community, and by making a regular effort to reach out and connect more with others in the field, we can work together to expand our skill sets and grow as a community.
Recently, while at a tradeshow, a very well-known and experienced leatherworker visited our booth and picked my brain about how to use an electric creaser. He was a vastly superior craftsperson, but took advantage of an opportunity to pick up something new. I was humbled by his desire to continue learning, which has never diminished.
I’m passionate about leatherworking and discussing the in’s and out’s of the craft. One thing is certain: As you learn more, you realize how little you know and the more you like something, the deeper you come to appreciate it.
Even if I don’t always have the opportunity to connect with other leatherworkers in person, I like to read through the Leathercraft forum on Reddit to see what people are talking about and the problems that people are trying to solve. Recently, I read a set of interviews from Peter Wagner that really caught my attention, and summed up a lot of my thoughts and feelings about the craft.
Here are a few takeaways from one of Peter’s most recent articles, excerpted from an interview with Jason Boon of Monk Made Goods. It’s a mix of practical advice and inspirational wisdom that I think we can all gain a little something from.
Question: What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your leather crafting in the last six months?
Answer: “First and foremost a good knife. When I started leather crafting (almost 5 years ago), I spent the first couple of years just using a utility blade. Later I would use the Blanchard L’indispensable knife and it’s just been over the past year or so that I decided to “up” my knife game. Once you learn to properly maintain the blade’s edge, a good knife makes a world of difference.”
Yes! I can relate to this sentiment. Once you learn how to use a good knife, the quality of your leather cuts and leathercraft improves tremendously. Additionally, it makes the whole process of cutting leather and project patterns so much more effortless and enjoyable. If you’re straining at any point along the way, it probably means you aren’t doing something right or could benefit from higher quality tools. I highly recommend the L’indispensable knife from Vergez Blanchard and the leather cutting knives from Doldokki.
[If you’re interested in reading more about how to sharpen your knives, check out one of our previous posts on the subject, How A $2 Knife Helped Me Sharpen A $50 Knife.]
Question: How has a setback set you up for later success in leather craft?
Answer: “Don’t be too hard on yourself while learning the craft and try to enjoy the process, but with that in mind, I would make a dedicated effort to improve on each project in one way or another. If you have this mindset, you’ll see improvement relatively quickly.”
I think Jason hits the nail on the head with this one. There is a pretty steep learning curve for some aspects of leatherworking and it’s very easy to get down on yourself in the beginning. Trimming an edge or creating a straight line of stitches looks easy at first, but when you sit down to actually do it and realize how hard it is to create a clean, professional-looking edge, it’s all too easy to feel like you’re never going to get it right.
Leatherworking should be fun, and even if you’re striving to become a professional, never lose sight of enjoying the process and working your way up from there. That will keep your expectations in-check and allow you to develop your skills naturally over time.
Question: What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
Answer: “Time and energy are hands down the best investment anyone can make with any endeavor. I’ve made a tremendous amount of progress with my shop over the past two years and it’s really no wonder. I’ve basically devoted every spare minute to leather craft. Not only filling orders, but experimenting with different models and even devoting extra time to packaging and marketing.”
This is a great answer! We do a lot of experimenting here at Fine Leatherworking and are constantly rearranging things to see what works, what doesn’t and what we can do to better serve our customers and readers.
Maybe you just spend a few extra minutes each day day connecting with your customers, or try a new sewing technique that you found on YouTube but have been hesitant to try, or get on Reddit to ask for help with a piece that you’re stuck on. These are all great ways to come out of your shell and experiment with a new approach. It’s easy to get stuck in doing things the same way everyday, but making a consistent effort with your time and energy to improve and expand your skill set will go a long way towards creating future success.
You can read the full interview with Jason by clicking here. Thanks to Peter Wagner for conducting these interviews and sharing them with us!
What are some of the key lessons that you’ve learned since you started leatherworking? If you had to give one piece of advice to those just starting out, what would it be? I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Please post them to our comments section.