Materials

If you want to do things that others have already done, dot them exactly like others have achieved their success. If you want to accomplish things that nobody else ever has, you may have to go about it in ways that no one has ever done before. There are moments in which it will seem like insanity. But, there is a narrow line between insanity and genius, or so I hear. I won’t claim either until I either firmly accomplish my goals or fail miserably. So far, everything is going well, thank God.

In order to make top-quality luxury products, you need three things; skill, tools, and materials. I’m not necessarily writing this as a tutorial or a how-to, but for personal introspect. No, this is not advice. I’m way too early in the game to give any. Hopefully, when I get to the other end of the tunnel, I will write pretty much this same thing as advice, and add, “This is how I did it.”

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The tools are anything that enable you to physically produce, or allow you to produce more efficiently. There is an overlap between tools and skills. I’ve accumulated a couple of sewing machines that allow me to stitch everything from fine silk and lace all the way up to saddle and strap type leather.

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There are multiple cutting systems in my arsenal that include specialized scissors and shears, rotary wheel cutter and mat, knives, skivers, and other blades. I have made several tools, and modified others. I’ve gone from free-handing patterns onto lined yellow legal pads with a pencil to precision drawings using graph paper and a protractor, and transferring that to other media to translate it to leather. I have two vastly different rulers, two measuring tapes and a tape measure – each that get used on a regular basis. My work requires dummy guns precision cast from plastic and aluminum. It is safe to assume that this will be an ongoing process of accumulation, and weeding out of tools that proved to not be as useful as I originally thought.

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All the best tools in the world are themselves useless without the skills to operate them properly and effectively. Anyone can gain skills with practice and experimentation. There are only two ways to gain skills quickly – formal training or purposeful practice and experimentation. I’ve taken the route of the latter. If I don’t like how something has turned out, I figure out what went wrong and how I must do it differently next time to get the results I want. My close friends and family have been impressed at how quickly I’ve picked up the necessary skills. My response, “I had to.” I don’t have the money or time to go through school, and I don’t have the time and luxury to learn this stuff on my own at a slow pace. Therefore, I’ve pushed myself to pick up the skills quickly. I’m not there yet, but what I lack in skills I can get with patience at this point.

Jonathan Swift coined an old saying that goes, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” This is to say that you can’t produce a luxurious product from crappy materials. This is one of my biggest irks about the direction American retail is going. It was not that long ago that Jenni could buy Italian-made, all-leather shoes at the discount store on any given day. Now it seems that all the shoes are mostly (if not all) made from cheap, artificial materials. It’s not just the shoe industry either. Clothing is poly/cotton blend (if you’re lucky), furniture is particle board with a veneer, sprinklers are plastic, watches are battery-operated and largely disposable. Home electronics are designed to be obsolete in a few years. I have an antique chrome toaster with bakelite handles on it that just keeps on going. Any modern toaster that I’ve owned burns out after only a couple of years. Where are the things that last? The luxurious things? They are being driven out by the flashy and cheap. I know that I’m not the only one that doesn’t want to participate in a disposable lifestyle. Hence, the materials that I like to work with. I have made practice runs with cheaper materials simply because I didn’t want to screw up the good stuff, but I don’t want to make a real finished product with anything less than great materials.

Recently, I was commissioned to make a purse by an internet friend. Like me, she wants something special, unique, and luxurious. We settled on a basic concept and a price, and I went to town gathering up the materials necessary. The bag is to be black, because black goes with everything. So, I will start with buttery-soft, top-grain, black leather.

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This stuff is soft and strong. Many of the factory-made bags are made of mystery cloth or vinyl. Even when they are leather, often they are a finished split instead of top-grain hide. Usually a top-grain bag is going to be expensive when you can find one.

She asked if I could line the bag in the brightest magenta that I could get my hands on. I scoured the local fabric stores until I sourced this heavy, tightly-woven, imported silk.

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Not only is this stuff beautiful, silk has a tensile strength greater than steel, and it is highly abrasion resistant. As delicate as it feels, it is incredibly rugged and durable. At sixty inches wide, a yard is way more silk than I need to put a lining in this bag. But, there are other things it will be used for in this project. I’ll get into that more in a later post.

She asked me if I could do some accent work on her bag in stingray. She was open to color options on it, but wanted something extra to give it a little extra spark. So, I sourced this ivory-colored, sanded and polished stingray pelt.

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(in sunlight)
(under fluorescent)
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Here are the three materials together:

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Of course, the whole thing will be stitched together in Kevlar thread where it doesn’t show, and bonded nylon where it does. I’ll finish the bag off with nickle findings and more pockets than you’ll find in a typical bag (including a couple of specialized pockets at her request). I’ll be working on this one next week. I have a feeling that it’s going to occupy most of my time over the course of the week to get everything just right. Of course, I’ll post more pictures when I’ve got a final product to show off!

Silly Gunny Poem Starter

I shall tag Jenni who will write the next line and pass it on. I’ll do my best to keep up with the updates. Feel free to join in in the comments section. Okay, here we go!

Black and blocky
was the Glocky
that did slay
the Jabberwocky.

Next victim! Muhahahahha!!!

Update:

Original Line:

Black and blocky
was the Glocky
that did slay
the Jabberwocky.

Quoth Jennifer:

Asked did he
upon demise
What could be
the caliber size.

Sarah:

Jabberwockies, so hard to slay,
will go down if they are shot
with a round starting with “four”
and bearing the name Gold Dot.

And Christina:

The Jabberwock, not known for wit
is easy to be stalked.
You merely find a place to sit
and leave him to be Glocked.

He comes galumphing, trailing drool
and doesn’t glance my way.
Oh, shit! No Vorpal-ammo, Fool!
He lives to die another day.

Then Lissa:

And as in uffish thought she stood,
The Goblin-wock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the front-door wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! NOT through-and-through
My lil’ Siguette went snicker-snack!
The four nine-mil’s quite turned its head
And put him on his back.

Slogging through

Alright. So, I haven’t been great about keeping this thing moving. I’m feeling like kind of a slug about it at the moment. I don’t really have much to say right now… Not much at all…

We had a nice Independence Day weekend, for what that’s worth. Cat O’ Nine Tales drove in to our neck of the woods for the weekend. So, that was nice. Everything just kind of worked out great all weekend. We got to the parade later than we wanted, but we still got the best parking space in town. And, when we went to set up our chairs, we found a great place to park our butts too! The weather was cool and it started to sprinkle at the end of the parade. The go-cart drivers in the Shriners were in the finest form I’ve ever seen them. They must have a practice track somewhere, because I didn’t think it was possible to drive those little suckers that hard!

We had the same story when we went to the University to see the fireworks show. Got there late, still found a great spot. It was nice. Sunday afternoon we went to the range and converted money into noise and jubilation. I made some decent groups, but my lack of practice is starting to show. That kind of sucks.

On the business front, the sales are starting to roll in slowly. I’m seeing a very slow and steady increase in interest and in actual sales. This is a good thing. It tells me that it is actually working. I’m going to wager a guess and say that what I’m seeing right now is typical of a year in. If I’m right on that, I deserve a pat on the back or something. Maybe I’m just being optimistic. At any rate, I’m about to announce a great event over at The Holster Site. I’ve got to keep that pretty secretive for the moment, but I’m getting really excited about that!

Anyway, I’ve got some other stuff to finish up in the next couple hours, and that’s about all I’ve got for now.

Strange Dreams Last Night

I had a dream last night that I bought a cow and buried it in the front yard. I buried it alive, but I left a little tunnel from the surface to its head, so that it could breathe and I could provide it with food and water. Other than that, the animal was buried – its body completely encased in soil. The thought was if I could figure out how to make this work, just think of how it could revolutionize the beef industry! Besides that, domestic cows are not exactly active creatures. They just stand around and eat grass all day. They could do that any old place – like in a hole in the ground!

Of course, in real life, the thought of treating a living creature in such a manner is revolting, and it is very clear that there are many reasons that this would never work, but the dreaming mind doesn’t necessarily consider all of the same implications that the waking mind does. My friends and family were excited about my cow. They were constantly asking, “How’s that cow experiment going?” My initial thought was that I would bury the cow, making provisions so that it could live, and I would dig up the animal after a week to record and analyze the results.

About two days into the experiment, we had a get together at our house where we cooked on the grill. Our friends and family came to eat and have a great time with us. Someone in the party was asking me about the cow and my experiment. That’s when it dawned on me – although I had made provisions for air, water, and food to get to the animal for its consumption, I had made no provisions for the urine and feces. And even worse, I had the animal’s body buried with no room for it to expand as the cow breathed. I was mortified and discouraged as I realized what I had done. I answered the question at the party, “I’m pretty sure my cow is dead.”

Now, please allow me to interpret:

I believe the dream represents my latent fear in going into business for myself. The cow directly represents my leatherwork, and indirectly the financial investment in the tools, equipment, and raw materials. The experiment – burying the cow, digging the air/feeding tunnel, pretty much every effort of the experiment represents the real-world effort that I’ve put into learning how to make great leather goods. The very fact that I did something as outrageous as burying the cow both represents that I want to accomplish something truly unique with my efforts, and it represents planting a seed – in this case, planting the seed of my business.

The fact that I came to a sudden realization that I had done something horrible, and destroyed all the investment, and that all the effort was for nothing – that represents my fear of the unknown. In real life, do I have any idea how much money I will or will not wind up making by the end of the year? No, I have no clue. Do I have any guarantee that The Holster Site will make a living for me and my family? No – but I had no more guarantee this time last year that I would continue to work in a traditional job.

The fact of the matter is that the fear itself is kind of freeing. In traditional employment I enjoyed the illusion of stability, when I had no more job security than I do now. Frustration then came in the form of not feeling like I was being appreciated for my accomplishments and abilities, but that was the price I paid for the illusion of stability. And, I accepted a ceilinged-out paycheck that was probably less than I was worth in return for the false security that the next paycheck would be exactly the same as the one before it.

Had the dream with the cow continued, I would have liked to see myself do something wily and industrious with my failed experiment. Perhaps I would have discovered that burying beef for several days tenderizes and seasons the meat and makes it uniquely delectable. Conversely, maybe I would have discovered that my fears were in vain, and the cow had actually thrived in those bizarre conditions. I don’t know, but I think that’s the point – the dream was supposed to be a cliff-hanger. The lesson I take away from it is to not let my fears win. I will win. I will make the best of my situation, take the steer by the horns (as it were), and make my own destiny.

As I continued dreaming after the cow dream, a neighbor down the street had a shack in their back yard. In that shack was a hideous creature that appeared to be a cross between a human child and a piglet. They kept this child-pig in a chicken wire cage in the shack. There was a six-inch tall bi-pedal dinosaur that was in the cage with the child-pig. The child-pig would draw the dinosaur in and snuggle with it, but the dinosaur was uncomfortable with this and wanted to escape. A ninja-like character crept into the neighbor’s yard and entered the shack. He used a shovel to pry the chicken-wire cage open and scooped out the tiny dinosaur with the shovel. He tossed the dinosaur into the trees behind the shack. The child-pig was furious! It screamed and squealed and threw such a tantrum that the entire shack swayed and creaked. Just as the ninja made his escape, the child-pig’s tantrum peaked and he literally exploded in a burst of fire which leveled the shack to splinters and ash. And, that was all.

I don’t have an interpretation for that last one. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I watched Beowulf before bed last night. That makes more sense than anything else I can think of.