One thing that COVID-19 has taught me is that I can be more flexible in my schedule than I was in the “before times”. I usually work from home these days, because I’m often on zoom meetings, and they tend to be more comfortable for me at home. But I also like writing and reading at home, and this covers a lot of what I do with my work. I also realized that I could do things like go running in the middle of the day, which is a real pleasure that I normally didn’t do before COVID-19. It is great, because it breaks up the zoom meetings and allows me to have a change of pace, which is rejuvenating.

Doing the same thing without break for a long time is counterproductive.

I am in a busy stretch with work, because in addition to my regular things, I’m on a panel that reviews grant proposals. I have 9 proposals to read and review, and they are all due in just over a week. This is hard work, because you need to read and understand research plans that are not always in your main area of expertise. You need to be fair, because it is important that the best science gets funded. It is also important to provide constructive and useful written feedback so that the person who worked really hard to develop the proposal understands what parts need to be improved if it isn’t funded. It takes me close to 8 hours to review each proposal, and it can be exhausting.

Kids (really all of us, I think) seem to have 2 stomachs, one for dinner and the other for desert. When the dinner stomach is full, there is always room for desert in the second stomach. When I get exhausted doing things like reading grant proposals, I develop a big appetite for other activities like working in my shop. This weekend, I finished reviewing 2 grants and also–using my “second stomach”–got a fair amount done on my backpack.

The general structure of my backpack is that there is a heavy leather “frame” that is along the entire back and continues to the bottom and about 6″ in the front. The straps will all be attached to this frame, and I will add a lighter, more flexible “bag” to the frame after it is constructed.

One of the things that I love the most about working with leather (specifically Oak-tanned leather) is that it is very flexible. Just think about a western saddle. But working with this flexibility takes patience and time. For example, the corners of the backpack shown above were first cut out to the right size, then soaked with water, then formed into a shape that I want. By hand sewing the edges in the right place, these can be formed into nice, rounded corners that will be sewn onto the frame later.

While the corners were drying to the point that I could sew them together and finish the edges, I got a few hours of grant review done. I was much fresher than before my shop time!

There are also a bunch of steps in a new project like this that I really don’t know how to solve when I start. One example is the top flap. It is always hard to make handles and entry points into cases. They need to be attached in a way that is strong, functional, and (I hope!) nice looking. I’ve been mulling this over for the past week, and the best way I have of solving problems is to either walk or go on a run. So I took this opportunity to get some nice exercise out in the woods near my house. While running, I realized that I could use a similar construction as the corners. It would fit together right in terms of style, but I also think that this will be functional. It is curved so that the contents will be covered, but it will be pretty easy to open (with a strap that I will add later).

Then I got back to the grant reviews while the flap was drying. Now, even my second stomach is full, and I just want to sit back and do nothing constructive, which is another very important part of a creating a good pace!

Author: edisonleatherworks

I'm a biochemistry professor and leatherworker who likes bicycles, travel, art, education, and music. Walking is my favorite form of transportation, and I regularly practice Tai Chi.

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