The most expensive pair of jeans ever sold was an average pair of Levi's 501's that went for $100,000. What made them worth it to the collector who got them on eBay? They were 125 years old. In other words, they had history. And history has the power to instill us with awe. It speaks of times past, of people that fought, loved, struggled and invented before us, people that are gone from the face of the earth. History speaks of mortality, and more importantly of the precious potential each of us holds from the moment of birth to the moment when we will go the way of the ancestor.
Leather, like denim, is one of those rare materials that ages very well. The oldest book in Europe, a palm-sized copy of the gospels, survived inside a Saint's coffin with its 7th century leather cover in perfect condition. Unlike denim, which is made of cotton, leather was a living walking animal before it became an object, and so it has a sort of prehistory. Native American tribes have always honored the animals they killed by using every last bit and scrap of flesh and skin. This often-mentioned aspect of Native American culture, is something modern man seems to admire and respect. We wish we could live with that kind of tangible connection to our environment and the objects within it.
Still we find few ways in which to do that. A lot of cheap goods are evermore readily available and it is very hard to see beauty and meaning in them. On the contrary, the meaning found is often a negative one, connoting poor working conditions, bad effects on the environment, and unfair trade practices. So what are we to do? If you do not have the kind of paycheck to allow you to buy hand-made one-of-a-kind objects, you can make it yourself. For inspiration, you can check out Nicholas Hollows, a Minnesota craftsman who makes gorgeous leather goods (hollowsleather.com). Hollows is only 28, but he made things long before he sold them because he understood the value of creating something by hand. They were imperfect, crude wallets that he gave to friends and family and used himself. By no means were they the objects of beauty he sells now. But to quote Hollows, "It doesn't matter what you do, if you care enough it becomes art".
We want meaning and love in our world but too often we settle for buying it, when we could really be making a deeper connection by making things by hand. Leather is a noble and versatile medium that lends itself to an array of uses and lasts for years, decades, or more. If you are interested in learning how to work leather, consider taking a seat in our April class in Brooklyn that starts on the March 31st. There will also be a class running in Manhattan on May 2nd. These are great, small classes with the knowledgeable Mark Schuyler. We look forward to seeing you soon!