Sacred. Leather. Craft.
Sacred. Leather. Craft.
Ben Fife grew up with the love of old pieces of clothing and items that were made with high quality materials. He loved the aesthetic of it all and how different pieces he collected held deep stories. "I loved old artifacts. I loved just ancient things up to Depression era. If you look back through history and you look at artifacts and you look at everything people have ever made, there's aesthetic beauty to it. For almost no reason outside of aesthetic beauty. Vintage wool pants from the military and things like that just seemed cut from a different cloth."
In his adult life, Ben moved around a lot but never lost that love for good, quality items. When he and his wife moved to Seattle, Washington, Ben ended up working for prominent businesses like Filson and The Field House known for their beautifully constructed products. He admired these companies for the quality of their products and became passionate about collecting durable canvases and leathers that he could keep for years into the future. After working with the manufacturing crew at Filson, he was soon passed down scrap leather that he could take and work with in his own shop.
Even to someone who is surrounded by leather daily, you'll discover a leather that has a whole new emotion that it can draw out of you and it's magic.
After Ben had worked with the scrap pieces of materials from Filson, he decided one night he would tackle the construction of a pair of suspenders. Suspenders he had wanted to make for a long time. “I kind of had a unique style as an individual and I liked suspenders but it was a very intimidating idea to create something like that,” he remembered. “Finally, one night, when I had the materials, I said, 'You know what? It doesn't hurt to try.' So I sat down, designed them, put them together and in one evening, I had this finished pair. I wore them the next day and I was getting compliments from people all the time. But the response was so positive that it was really a boost for my confidence that this might be something I could actually do."
“That was really the beginning of the passion for leatherwork as this amazing material to work with,” Ben recalled. “It's incredibly durable. Gets more beautiful as it ages. Somehow, it increases in value as it ages too, which is wild. And it's this ancient material that's been used since the dawn of we could ever remember.
From there, Ben continued making more items and even created a leather purse for his wife on their anniversary. “The third anniversary, if you're following the materials list to give your spouse, is leather. I set out to make her a bag which seemed like a big endeavor,” he said. “She ended up getting so much attention for it and the attention she got was just another huge confidence boost.”
Reminiscing on his older projects, Ben smiled because he knew this was a path he knew he always wanted to take. “To be able to work with that material that will stand the test of time, that honors previous cultures and traditions that have used the same materials. It's hard not to love leather. As an artist, it's a pleasure to work with because the more you get into it, the deeper the rabbit hole goes."
"Even to someone who is surrounded by leather daily, you'll discover a leather that has a whole new emotion that it can draw out of you and it's magic. There's a magic to it for sure." Ben then looked down at his hands and then back up and said, “Some people just need to work with their hands and there's a quality of life to that, I'm telling you, that can not be beat."