Saturday, April 21, 2012

In Honor of a Bridge

Mackinac Bridge, northern view
I love the Mackinac Bridge. I think it's beautiful.
That's been true since I was a child - it opened when i was a very small girl, but I remember the fanfare.
Before they built this monumental structure, the only way to get from Michigan's Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula was by ferry or private boat across the Straits of Mackinac. (pronounced Mackinaw, for those who don't live here.)
Though more than 50 years have passed since the first car made the crossing, my love of this connecting span and the wilderness that lies to the north of it has never waned.
(Personal aside - if you enjoy unspoiled wilderness and have never been to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, you should add it to your list of places to visit. The air is clean, bear and moose roam the woods and the lake-shore that stretches across the north, east and south of the entire peninsula is some of the prettiest in the world!)
Some people paint the things they love, some write poetry or songs... I did what I do, and tooled this wristband. It's called Mighty Mac and you can find it in my Etsy shop if you're a bridge-lover, too!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Where Did the Time Go?

When I first started selling online, my shop bio said "over 30 years of experience".  Though the number seemed larger than memory would have thought, it was a badge of pride. Validating.
Then, a blink of an eye ago, I had to change it to 35 years. wow. How did that happen? Surely my math was faulty? But no, double-checking and triple-checking with a calculator bore out the claim. Didn't seem possible, but the numbers told the tale.
And now, again, another milestone.
I tooled my very first belt in the beginning of April, 1972. That means it has been more than 40 years that I've been plying my trade. Holy Cow!
I was a 17-year old hippie chick when I went to work for Chuck at Silo Leather in Birmingham, Michigan. He didn't pay me a wage, but I was learning a trade. For every third belt I tooled, Chuck gave me a blank strip of leather. For every 10 belts, a new stamping tool. Chuck built his inventory and I built a starter tool set and a supply of belt strips I could work up and sell on the streets or at festivals.
Lots of floral-vine belts or sunburst motifs. I liked fantasy, so I did some playful belts with elves sleeping under toadstools or dragons belching flames. My belt tips all had a signature scalloped cut.
I wish I could post some pictures of some of my earliest work, but I sold it almost as fast as it was made (like I said, Chuck didn't pay a wage).  I'll have to settle for posting this grainy pic of teenage me, as well as a more current photo. Yes, I guess the years become obvious when I look at then vs now.
Chuck is long gone, as is Silo Leather.
But I carry on. I have been working with leather more than 2/3 of my life and I can't imagine I'll ever stop.
And that, my friends, is a milestone worth sharing!