Crafting a Pioneer Art with a Modern-Day Look
“There’s just something special about a custom creation. It is all about you,” says Susan Harrell, owner and leathersmith of a home-based business, Almost Famous LeatherWorks. “It says, ‘I am unique and what I like matters.’ ”
Harrell’s goal is to provide quality products to her customers that communicate their unique personality while giving them what they want and depicting their lifestyle. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
Harrell became interested in leatherworking when her youngest son gained a curiosity for this age-old craft. As Harrell helped her son learn about this unique process, she became intrigued with the trade herself.
She visited museums and other places of this time-honored skill, and upon returning home from Wyoming in 2010, Harrell tried her hand at the craft and turned out a few unfinished goods. After a visit with her friend, Penny Rodriquez, Harrell found renewed direction. As a teenager, her friend learned how to make custom carved belts from leather, which was popular during the 1970s and ’80s. Harrell and Rodriquez decided to experiment with belts and made some for their children. Just as they had hoped, the belts caught on in a big way.
Giving people something different from the traditional theme found in most western stores was important to Harrell, so she decided to go with what is known as the “old-school western” look. As time strengthened her skill, Harrell was able to expand the variety of her artwork and develop a larger selection. “I have been able to expand the artwork and products, but our motto remains the same, ‘Custom Creations with Retro Flair’ and above all, they must be cool,” Harrell says.
She has come a long way from the traditional carved custom belts she began with, widening her stock to arty belts depicting the wearer’s lifestyle and ranging from fishing scenes to animal art as well as the famous strawberry fields of Plant City. “Each belt takes approximately 15 hours to complete and there is generally a waiting list,” Harrell continues, “but I find that the customization process and the anticipation make the delivery that much sweeter in the end.”
Leather jewelry is another product line Harrell decided to add. Lightweight key chains, spur straps, gun slings, holsters, and “Brand Art” (a custom creation that can be made with your registered brand) are all unique products found in her line of leather goods. Harrell points out, “If you can draw it, it can be made into beautiful leather.”
Most of Harrell’s clientele come from fundraising projects and the Cattlemen’s Association Foundation. She and her leather creations can be found on her website: www.almostfamousleatherworks.com.
story by DALE BLISS