What was it like getting started learning a new craft?

What was my mindset before I started?

If you’d asked me five years ago whether I would be able to produce beautiful handmade leather MacBook sleeves, journal covers and wallets I would have laughed.

My background is teaching, but not anything technical or hands-on. So I know which end of the hammer to hold but I’ve never been particularly skilled at manual tasks.

I’ve had some success building simple things, but never to what I would consider a high level of quality or success.

I got interested in leatherwork because I wanted to own a nice leather wallet and I couldn’t justify spending several hundred dollars to get one.

That was the problem I was trying to solve. A classic case of scratching my own itch.

Well… I’ve probably spent a lot more than that now. But now, nearly five years on, I can make you a hand cut, hand stitched, hand finished wallet that would possibly out-live you. A heritage product, in other words.

Here’s a picture of my current wallet. It’s looking a bit beat up now, but in the leatherwork world that’s what we call ‘patina”.

And when you’re making heritage products like this, they just look better and actually get better with age.

And because I’m a teacher by trade, I know how to teach others to do the same.

It’s funny because I’ve resisted this part of it… the teaching part… for a long time. But the truth is that its really just a natural progression.

There are better leatherwork craftsmen and women out there. But there is no one with my unique skillset. And this includes being able to communicate the ideas and techniques to learn leatherwork.

But when I started, I had no real preconceived ideas of what I was setting out to do. Certainly not that others would come to see me as some kind of an expert.

All that I knew what that:

  • I was spending too much time in front of a computer
  • I wanted to work with my hands
  • I loved to make and build in the real world of atoms

The first couple of things I stitched together were so basic… so rudimentary that it’s kind of embarrassing now.

I had no one to teach me so I bought books and read online. I watched a few YouTube videos. And I started buying tools.

But mainly, I just started experimenting.

It was a unique process of finding problems and then solving them. But not abstract problems that existed in my head. These were practical problems and the leather, the needles and the knife would give me feedback in real time.

I made a lot of mistakes and I still do.

But along the way I documented what I was doing. A few years later I had more than 10,000 followers on Instagram.

This still amazes me and I’m very grateful. Now I’m shifting my focus slightly to include teaching others what I’ve taught myself and learned along the way.

Hopefully, this means I can speed up the journey for a few people. And provide the guidance that I wish I had when I was starting out.

If you’re interested, then get in touch and we can talk.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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