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  • Your Hunter Valley Magazine

Meet the Maker | High Country Leather


Drop into Handmade in the Hunter Markets this month to discover a thriving artisan market where you can meet makers like Chris from High Country Leather!

 

HVMAG: Can you please tell us a bit about what you do? How did you come up with the idea?

CHRIS: Back in the 1980s, I bought my first genuine leather belt. It lasted 20 years (I was skinny then!). When it finally gave out, I thought, "I'll get another one!" But I couldn't find one to buy in any of the shops for any money, so I did a couple of courses and learned how to make leather gear myself. After that, I started running our market stall, and more than ten years later, I still am!


What types of products do you sell? What is your top-selling product? Who is your typical customer?

Belts and wallets, mainly. Our typical customer is sick of buying junk that doesn't do what it's supposed to and is prepared to pay a bit extra for handmade, quality stuff.

Our top selling product is the "Super Tradies Belt": it's buffalo hide lined with kangaroo skin and saddle stitched all around by hand. It's tough enough for work all day yet stylish enough to wear out. I particularly enjoy carving and tooling artwork onto the belts, though; elvish leaves and vines, cattle, Celtic knots and dragons, EH Holden logos, etc. Making someone a belt that means something personal to them is particularly satisfying.


How are your products made/what materials do you use and why?

Leather, cow, buffalo and kangaroo hide primarily. I buy the shoulders, butts and skins and cut them into the straps I need to make belts or the parts for a wallet. Then I use several layers of dye to provide contrasting colours - and depth - to the finished product. Using dye isn't like paint - you can't just wipe off a mistake, so it takes some time to get it right, but it does produce a lasting and striking result.


We notice from your website that many of your products are personalized – how can customers pre-order a personalized product?

By email, FaceBook or phone - the important thing is that they know their belt size. I have an image on my website showing how to get your belt size from a belt you already use.


What do you like most about Handmade in the Hunter Markets?

That's an easy one! The people. It's an artisan market; people make the stuff they sell, which gives us a common bond, but it goes beyond that. Over the years, it has developed into a family that all pitch in to help anyone that needs it.

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