I haven’t posted a blog for some time now, because I haven’t had much time to work in my shop, because I’ve been very busy working. It has been a busy time since August, with several grants, papers, and trips. I spent a wonderful month in Ecuador teaching and developing new collaborations for 2 weeks on a Fulbright grant and then traveling for another 2 weeks my wife and our kids. For the final 8 days, we visited the Galapagos Islands, which was even better than I imagined! Since Ecuador, I’ve had trips about every week, and these continue until the end of 2016. Shop time has been rare…
Last weekend I carved out a day in my shop, and it was a wonderful reset! One nagging thing for me since we moved from Gainesville, FL to Athens, GA last year was that my old leather stamp still says Gainesville. I managed to finally design and order a new maker stamp, which will arrive in a few weeks.
I also made a new iPad Pro case last weekend. I’ve been using my new iPad Pro for a few months, along with an Apple pencil for taking notes. I made a case with a different design when I got it. The idea was something simple that could be slipped off and then I could substitute my keyboard. It was a pain to use, and the I never had a place to keep the pencil, which is very nice but surprisingly “un Apple-like” in its design. There is no place to put it, and it doesn’t even have a clip to keep it in a shirt pocket. The new case seems to work much better, and I’m enjoying it so far. I also developed a keen dislike for the hard plastic covers that are designed with the keyboard. iThingy’s are useful but soulless, and I really like a handmade cover that has little glitches and idiosyncrasies to soften the hardness and glare of the technology.
Today I was working in my shop again and listening to a nice story on the radio about Studs Terkel. He has been a real hero and inspiration for me since reading “Working” in high school. That was perhaps my favorite book for many years. I love the stories of the mechanics, bus drivers, doctors, waitresses, flight attendants, farmers, and prostitutes. Studs Terkel listened to regular people and recorded their stories. The book made me aware of the importance of individuals and that everyone has a story.
I love to make things out of leather. It is satisfying to take an idea and a hide of leather and end up with something that is functional and grows more beautiful as it ages with the owner. But perhaps just as important as the leatherwork itself has been the connection to a group of mentors in shoe shops, boot making, and saddle shops. These have been some of the most important people in my life. Most of them had different political and religious views than I did. Some had very little formal education. They made a living but worked very hard to stay afloat financially. Several of my leatherwork mentors are dead, but I still love visiting with leather craftsmen, and I always try to visit interesting shops and meet new people on my trips.
I voted early yesterday in this crazy presidential election. It felt good. I support Hillary Clinton and think that she would be a good president. To me, the alternative is terrifying. But I know that a lot of people fear immigrants and other less tangible fears that have been injected into this campaign. In the line for early voting, there were several people who I thought would likely be voting for Hillary and others who would likely be for Trump. We didn’t discuss it, and we weren’t allowed to have campaign material, so I really don’t know. The good thing is that it was comfortable. People were friendly and respectful, and I thought about my days in shoe repair and saddle making shops. Today I imagined what Studs Terkel would have done in that line. He would have wanted to learn more about their stories.
Who would my leather mentors have voted for? How about our shop customers? I don’t know. And I don’t care. We had something in common, which was deeper than any election or religion or political event of the day. We loved craft and we valued beautiful things that were made by hand in a long tradition passed from person to person.