I first started doing leatherwork as a hobby when I was 17 years old, back in 1964. My whole family was pretty artistic and it was actually my younger sister who got me started with leather. In 1970, I'd been working as a prototype technician, building burglar and fire alarm systems. When the company folded, I was suddenly out of a job. My sister suggested I make some stuff up and go with her to a craft fair. That was the beginning of my career as a professional leather craftsman. I began doing the craft fair circuit in a converted school bus, and at that time I lived in Connecticut. In 1976 I moved to coastal Maine and a couple of years later I bought into a shoe repair / leather goods shop called Treestump Leather. In 1981 I bought out my partner and became sole proprietor. During all this time and beyond, I did just about anything that could be done in leather. Whatever it took to keep the wolf from the door.
As I expanded my shop in Ellsworth, Maine, I began selling, among other things, some custom made knives by some of the country's best makers. It was a combination that soon changed my life. As the knife business grew, so did requests for special knife sheaths. In 1989 Blade Magazine featured my work in an article on sheath makers, and then in 1992 Field and Stream did a 4-page article on me. That blew the top off my business and established me as one of the top sheath makers in the country. Since then I've been in most of the knife magazines, including Tactical Knives, Fighting Knives, Knives Illustrated, and Krause Publication's Knives Annuals. I'm very proud and humbled to have been asked to make sheaths for some of the best knifemakers of our time. They include the pioneers of the modern custom knife movement, such as Wayne Clay and Ron Gaston, as well as some of the greatest artistic geniuses of today, like David Broadwell, Mike Sakmar, and Paul Jarvis, to name just a few.
During this time I always had an occasional request or two for gun holsters. Then I discovered Cowboy Action Shooting. As I became involved in the sport, I of course made all my own gun leather and accessories. Until then I'd done very little western floral carving. I could do it, but I was dreadfully slow at it, and not as good as I'd like to be. CAS, however, has created a demand for it even here in the easternmost part of the US. As a result, I've had more opportunities to hone my skills on this type of work, and feel that I've gotten the hang of it. I really enjoy creating rigs that look like they could have been done by a "real western cowboy."
Knife sheaths are still the biggest part of my business. My sheaths are in all 50 states as well as 10 foreign countries. As that part of my business grew, with more and more of it coming from other geographic areas, I realized I didn't need to maintain a retail shop, commuting 30 miles round-trip 6 days a week. So, in 1997 I closed my storefront of 20 years and moved into my brand-new workshop next to my home. I now commute 100 feet from one doorstep to the other. I also have a 50-yard shooting range right out back one of the advantages of living in a rural town of 306 inhabitants.
A lot of what I do involves working with various exotic skins such as stingray, iguana, rattlesnake and Malaysian horned frog. I will use exotic skins as well, if the client requests it. I made a holster for a fellow for his stag-gripped Colt SAA with a beautiful frog skin overlay.
Although I've become quite well-known for my fancier, more exotic pieces, that's not all I do, and a lot of my work is quite inexpensive. Basic knife sheaths start at $55. What I call my "basic" holster actually features some pretty nice border carving and tooling, plus a two-tone dye job. Its price is only $95. Matching belts start at $60, so a made-to-order custom two-gun rig can cost as little as $250. At the other end of the pricing spectrum, I've made customized sets for as much as $1000. It all depends on what you want.
One of the things I have always stressed with my customers is that I do custom work. I'll do what the customer wants. I'll offer an opinion, of course, especially those times when what's wanted just can't be done that way, but if the customer wants a left-handed holster for that custom gun with the odd barrel length, with a 17-degree cant to it with his name carved into it, lined or unlined I can do that. Sometimes, if the holster is for a gun that I don't have, or one that I have no access to, the customer might send me his gun. To somewhat ease the hassle involved in gun shipment, I have become a federally licensed firearms dealer, so at least at my end, the shipping process is easier. As a shooter I know how hard it is to part with a gun for any length of time, and I do my best to minimize that. Rarely will a customer's gun remain with me longer than two weeks.
I'm now well into my 5th decade as a professional leather craftsman, and I still love my work, and look forward to going to work everyday. I can still see my continuing evolution as an artist, and my life as an adventure. I hope you will let me share some of that with you.