Where it all began … for Me
As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by anything Medieval. I clearly remember the day that I ‘discovered’ Vikings at the Abbey Medieval Festival in 2006. I sat down with a group called “Saga Vikings” and felt like I’d finally come home. I joined my new Viking family not long after and have been a Viking re-enactor ever since.
Leatherwork didn’t give me quite that same feeling … in the beginning. My first project (a pair of Viking shoes) felt like a nightmare! I told myself I’d never do leatherwork again but then I needed something to carry my things in and started work on my second project – a handbag. That was a completely different story! As soon as I started tooling the leather, it felt like something was stirring in my blood and once I started, I couldn’t stop!
For the next 5 years I kept on working in a ‘real’ job, creating leather pieces whenever I could and dreaming of one day being able to have my own business, doing what I love. In 2012 I made that dream come true and started my business “The Happy Viking”.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Pictured left – my first handbag (which I still use every day).
The Value of Leather
To me, handcrafted items, whether they be leather, wood, metal, etc, are a piece of art; something created from the heart. Unlike mass produced items, they are not something just whipped up and pumped out. Each piece is unique, with its own individual character, something that is brought out through the craftsmanship of its maker.
The value of handcraft is something I feel passionate about sharing. I am glad that more people are beginning to appreciate what’s important, becoming more sustainable and conscious consumers. More people are questioning where their products come from, how they were made and what will happen to them once they are no longer needed or wanted. More people are beginning to understand that it’s better to pay for a more expensive handcrafted item once, something that is going to last a lifetime, than it is to pay smaller amounts more often and throw things away. A client of mine did just that. He had been purchasing a new back pack every year for 7 years, spending about $70 each time. One day he realised that he’d spent around $500 on backpacks – all of which had been thrown out. So, he decided to put his money into buying something that would last for the rest of his life. Being handcrafted and custom made, he got exactly what he wanted. Each part of the backpack was designed to suit him. With good care, he should be able to pass it onto his children.
It gives me a sense of satisfaction, knowing that what I create is not going to end up in landfill or our oceans but can, when the time comes, be returned to the earth and will decompose.
As much as possible, I use Australian veg tanned leather from Packer Leather at Narangba. It’s important to me to know where my leather is coming from. I do not want to be purchasing leather from countries that have little, or no animal welfare laws.
Veg tanned leather is the best leather you can buy. It’s also the only leather that can be tooled (or carved) with designs. Unlike chrome tanned leather, which has a very fast tanning process resulting in a cheaper price tag, veg tanned leather has a much longer tanning process resulting in a much higher price tag.
One of the things I like about veg tanned leather is that it is the most natural. Depending on the grade of leather, there can be tick and other insect bites, barb wire scratches, etc – sometimes even brand marks, that tell a story about the animal’s life. This makes me appreciate and respect, even more, that this was once a living being. While some leatherworkers may cut around such pieces, I don’t. Instead I like to think of them as features that enhance the individual characteristic of the item.
I have used the branding on this piece as a feature.
Whatever I am creating, whether it’s a custom order, a gift or something to sell at my stall, I always create from my heart. If I’m not in the right mood or headspace, I won’t do leatherwork. If the creativity isn’t flowing then I have nothing to ‘give’. It might sound strange to some people but I truly believe that you can feel the love that goes into things. “Made with love” is real. Think of when you eat a home cooked meal that someone has really enjoyed making. You can taste the difference, can’t you? It’s the same with any craft, I believe. If I feel my heart is in it, I’ll do leatherwork. If not, I’ll find something else to do, like bookkeeping, admin or website work.
Creating from my heart sometimes makes it difficult for me to give a time frame for custom orders however I also feel that it has been one of the main reasons why my customers have been so happy with their finished products and come back for more. Usually I allow extra time to account for this but please note, if you are considering a custom piece, that I will not rush an item to get it finished if it could compromise the outcome. I would much rather take the time to finish it properly. If you need an item by a certain date, then please let me know as early as you can.
My path this coming year is to focus on balance in all areas of my work and life. This means that I will not be taking on as many custom orders as I have done previously. Instead, I will be balancing them out with creating leatherwork pieces of my choice – focusing on spiritual based products such as Rune pouches and sets, pendants and more – and doing Rune readings. Workshops will also be limited and will only be run on weekends.
I understand that leather is not for everyone. I was a Vegan once! I would never try to make anyone see my point of view but I would hope that those who choose not to use leather do not judge me, as I do not judge them. We all have our own reasons for doing what we do. I truly love animals but the reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of people who eat meat. I believe that leather is a bi-product of the meat industry and is best used rather than go to waste.