Saturday, March 5, 2011

Built to last

Wintergrass got me thinking about the durability of leather again this year. Last year, a guy named Arthur brought me two pieces. First, he came up to my booth with a guitar strap that a friend of his made him in the 1970s. Though the guitar strap probably didn't look just the same as the day he got it (apparently it started out a deep red/burgundy) it was clearly nowhere near giving up. He asked me to make him a guitar strap, the same as the one he had, but new. I looked at it, and said okay.

Then he came back with a belt. It was a brown crackly sort of color. Apparently it had started out black. The belt was also from the 1970's, and had clearly gotten a lot of use since. I agreed to make a belt as well.

The guitar strap was a little harder than I anticipated. It was two sections of what is called a "magic braid" where you take a strip of leather and slice the middle. The ends stay connected, then you weave the strips in and out of each other to form a braid. I remember recruiting my husband when I was trying to figure it out. It took weeks before the mathematical part of my brain kicked back in and I finally got it, and could do it consistently. Anyway, here is the result:

I did dye the leather a darker color after this, but for some strange reason didn't photograph it. Must have been pregnancy brain kicking in. Anyway, he came back with the strap this year and it still looks great. Seeing pieces out of the same materials that I use that have lasted generations already, with so little signs of wear, just makes me happy. My philosophy has always been to buy it once, buy it for life. Yeah I know someone has a slogan similar to that (Kohler? I can't remember) but what I mean is basically that it makes more sense, from an economic, environment, etc., standpoint to buy the thing you really want, that is good quality, and built to last, the first time, rather than compromising on your initial purchase when it will just result in a) you breaking down and buying the other thing later, or b) the thing that you bought breaking down and needing to be replaced. After all, part of the reason that I started making leather goods in the first place was that I burned through three vinyl bags in one year! And since the big hole in them couldn't be repaired, off to the dump they went.

This past month, the first messenger bag I made for myself turned four:

and she's still going strong. Looks as great as ever - made the daily commute with me on the bus for years, now doubles as a smaller diaper bag for shorter outings. No worse for wear, either. Someone said recently that the bag just looks better with age - it develops a patina all it's own. Just think, if I had been buying synthetic messenger bags this entire time I would have gone through 12!

Off to bed, so I can make new iPhone cases in the morning. And yes, I am sure the case will last longer than the phone :)


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