leather journal cover feather western handcrafted jeremiah colladay

Handcrafted Leather — The Functional and Beautiful Art of Jeremiah Colladay

leather journal cover feather western handcrafted jeremiah colladay

A feather gracefully embellishes a leather journal cover by Jeremiah Colladay of Colladay Leather, Spokane, WA

Within each day, we do a lot of things, say a lot of things, without knowing what impact one particular action will make on another. Artist Jeremiah Colladay found that a simple gift from a friend resulted in a complete career change, as well as the building of a business.

“Most of my childhood was spent playing the drums and guitar, filling my sketchbooks with pencil and ink drawings, and innovating new products from objects I found around the house,” the Spokane craftsman, who specializes in creating Western leathercraft with a decidedly Pacific Northwest style, says.

penta leather wallet western handcrafted jeremiah colladay

A series of Penta leather wallets crafted by Spokane leatherwork artist, Jeremiah Colladay

“In my early twenties, I transferred my drawing skills to the world of tattooing, but a few years later discovered my true artistic passion when a friend gave me a sewing awl and a bag of old leather scraps.”

Learning from a Leather Master

Colladay tracked down a custom saddle maker, with whom he embarked upon a three-year apprenticeship, learning what is today considered a dying art. He learned how to create patterns that transferred well to the medium, how to properly sew leather, and how to carve, tool, and dye it in such a way that the artwork emerged, strong and integrated. Upon completing his apprenticeship, Colladay collaborated with his writer and photographer wife, Erin, to establish Colladay Leather. He creates the products; she manages the business. They both design.

Working out of a studio that takes up most of the daylight basement in their rural north Spokane home, the couple fashions hand-carved, hand-beveled, hand-shaded, and hand-dyed products from leather, with no two exactly alike. In addition to making wallets and journal covers, items that many people associate with leather, Colladay Leather  designs and crafts earrings, zipper pulls, camera straps and guitar straps from leather tanned exclusively in the U.S., a policy the couple created in order to maintain high standards of quality, as well as assurance that the material has been produced under sustainable conditions.

feather leather camera strap colladay jeremiah handcrafted western

A feather leather camera strap by Jeremiah Colladay of Spokane, WA

“Our passion is for artistry and the creative process, in all its forms,” Erin says.

“We believe creativity has been written into the soul of every person, and our desire is to nurture that through our work. Through every product we produce, our goal is that our work will inspire others in their own creative journey, in whatever form that may take.”

Artisan Work in Leather

There’s something about the artisan process, she muses, that evokes passion and wonder, which thereby translate into a quest for excellence in all arenas of life.

“We have largely moved away from this in our society, but Colladay Leather strives to see us return.”

basket stamp leather guitar strap colladay jeremiah western handcrafted

A basket stamp, leather guitar strap by Jeremiah Colladay of Spokane, WA

The couple develops and expands its product line through close communication with customers, as well as a streak of practicality. For example, Jeremiah developed the popular three- and seven-pocket tool rolls to address the frustration he experienced while pawing through a pencil pouch to find the tools he needed. The tool rolls streamlined and organized pens, pencils, and other small tools that otherwise jumbled together.

Inspiration for artwork on the products arises from the Inland Northwest itself, its landscapes, flora, and fauna, as well as Jeremiah’s background in tattooing. What results, Jeremiah says, is a unique piece of art, one that is also functional. It can be worn and used daily.

“When you hold our products, you are asked to slow down and take heed of quality and beauty,” he explains.

“An encounter with our work inspires you to pursue creativity and excellence in your own work, be it in the boardroom, the emergency room, the kitchen, or the studio.

“It’s a lot to ask of a leather accessory, but we believe it is an attainable aspiration.”

Leather: Functional and Beautiful

As beautiful as leather is, it is a difficult medium in which to work because of its unforgiving nature. Any cuts, indentations, or nicks made to it are permanent, and once the dyeing process begins, things get especially tricky.

“One small slip of the brush, and you can undo hours of intensive work,” Jeremiah says.

But that’s all part of crafting, and craftsmanship — the careful attention to detail, as well as the time it takes to create a functional item of beauty.

“Crafted to Inspire is our guiding principal,” Jeremiah says.

“It describes what we do and why we do it.”

 

Wenaha GalleryJeremiah Colladay is the Featured Art Event from Monday, February 25 through Saturday, March 23 at Wenaha Gallery.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.

leather billfolds shelby sneva nanna grandma inspiration Bellingham

Leather Craft — Handcrafted Beauty from Bellingham Artist Shelby Sneva

leather billfolds shelby sneva nanna grandma inspiration Bellingham

Handcrafted leather billfolds by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva, who credits her Nanna Grandma for opening up the world of art and sewing

It doesn’t matter whether you call her Nanna, Nona, Gramma, Grams, Babushka, Abuela, or any of the thousands of  variations of “Grandmother” — if that woman makes a positive influence on your life, she makes a lasting one.

Leather designer Shelby Sneva, who creates hand-crafted wallets, clutches, cuffs, shoulder bags, and jewelry from fine and reclaimed leather, credits her artistry today to a Singer sewing machine gifted by her Nanna when Sneva was six.

colorful bracelets by bellingham leather artist shelby sneva inspired by nanna

Colorful leather bracelets by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva. It all started with the gift of a Singer sewing machine by Shelby’s Nanna Grandma.

“I always thought it was the most fantastic hunk of metal, gears and knobs!” the Bellingham artist remembers. “I fumbled around on that machine for several years, making outfits and teaching myself to be a crafty little stitcher.”

Nanna’s Lasting Gift

From crafty little stitcher, Sneva eventually graduated to professional artist, earning her BFA from Western Washington University with a primary focus on painting and sculpture. Ironically, despite taking every studio art class available at the university — from photography to fibers and fabrics, from papermaking to welding — Sneva didn’t discover her particular niche until her mother, an interior decorator, passed on some leather samples from her furniture business.

“That’s when the passion of  leatherworking was ignited,” Sneva says. Like many passions, it had been burning underneath, but so steadily and quietly she hadn’t recognized its importance. She simply accepted its existence as normal.

Leather and Sewing Are Timeless

Though Sneva had initially fallen in love with oil painting, to the point of moving to the East Coast to apprentice with landscape oil painter Curt Hanson, she never stopped the sewing she started when she was 6, and found greatest pleasure in creating fabric wallets and gifts for friends and family.

leather wallet handcrafted shelby sneva bellingham artist inspired by nanna

Handcrafted leather wallet by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva, whose first art forays began with a gift from her Nanna Grandma at 6

The discovery of leather, then, was a momentous one, and in 2004 Sneva opened her business, Sown Designs, which she markets through Etsy, her online website, the Bellingham Farmers Market, and her studio in downtown Bellingham at the Waterfront Artists’ Studios.

“Thanks to the online marketplace,” Sneva says, “I have sold wallets all around the world — from Switzerland, Germany, London, Norway, Canada, and all over the U.S.” Sneva’s work has been juried into and vended at shows like Urban Craft Uprising and the Fremont Fair in Seattle, and is featured at more than a dozen gift and retail shops in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, California, and Alaska.

The Aroma of Leather in Bellingham

“I love the smell of leather,” Sneva says, adding that her studio exudes the aroma. “I am always learning new things, new techniques with leather work, so I am never bored!”

leather earrings by bellingham artist shelby sneva

A collection of leather earrings by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva

From the discontinued leather samples passed on by her mother, Sneva has added a number of local stores and leather distributors to provide the materials for her work. The combination of working with local resources as well as reclaimed materials is a benefit to suppliers and clients, as well as to the environment, Sneva believes.

“It is my priority to connect with suppliers/buyers who also appreciate the effort, quality, and uniqueness of handmade pieces,” Sneva says.

“The great thing about my accessories is that they are all one of a kind. That makes it unique for the owner to have something no one else has, and it makes it fun for me to create without feeling like a factory.

leather cases by bellingham artist shelby sneva inspired by nanna grandma

A collection of leather cases by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva, who began her art career at age 6, sewing on a Singer machine given to her by her nanna grandma

“I really pay attention to details with each wallet, using my sewing machine like a drawing tool to draw stitch patterns and make designs with leather geometric shapes and colors.” For her wallets, Sneva chooses upholstery leather, which she describes as durable and soft, acquiring a beautiful patina over time. Hand-crafted art, Sneva believes, becomes a part of its owners’ lives, adding dimension and beauty to the day.

A Nanna Aphorism

Quite recently, Sneva enjoyed one of those rare, but memorable full-circle moments that we all treasure when they happen.

“I was a presenting artist at our Bellingham Museum for Art Career Day,” Sneva explains. “As I spoke, I remembered participating in similar workshops with Spokane (where Sneva grew up) artists when I was a high school student and young aspiring artist.”

In effect, what goes around comes around, a timeless aphorism that sounds like something one’s Nanna, or Nona,  or Abuela, Babushka, Baba, Yaya, Oma, or Gram would say. But that only makes sense, because the things that woman says and does really do make the difference of a lifetime.

Wenaha Gallery

Shelby Sneva is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, July 17 through Saturday, August 12, 2017. 

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.