We hosted Jeff Icenhower, leather artist with Mission West Wood and Leather in our store in 2019 for a presentation on leather and the Arts and Crafts movement, followed by a demonstration.
Because we love learning about the artisans we work with and their process and inspiration, we asked him a few questions. Here are his answers:
What was the moment you decided to follow a path as an artist?
I grew into it. I began doing traditional American West items - belts, billfolds, etc. with western style decoration. I thought of this as a hobby that might at least pay for itself. Then in 2015 I exhibited at my first Colorado Arts and Crafts Society Gathering of the Guilds, and recognized the potential of pursuing leatherwork as an artistic medium.
What materials do you most enjoy working with, and why?
Primarily leather, with some wood. They fit my skills, I get to use many different tools, and my shop smells great.
Can you tell us about the process of making your art?
The process involves a number of steps. These include choosing a design, selecting the leather, cutting out a piece, carving and stamping the item, finishing and finally assembling the parts.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
Collaborating on custom individual orders. I find it particularly rewarding to design and create a piece knowing who the owner will be.
How has your work evolved through the years?
Initially I used floral designs typical of the American West, such as are seen on saddles and holsters. After discovering the Arts and Crafts design, I began making items similar to those made during the original Arts and Crafts time period. While I still do some reproduction of historical arts and crafts items, I have found myself spending more time creating original pieces using well known arts and crafts design elements.
What sort of message are you trying to tell with your art?
William Morris already said it - “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” My only addition is, why not both?
What do you listen to when you're working?
When I don’t have to think, I enjoy podcasts and recorded books of all kinds. When I do have to think, I turn on instrumental folk music.
What inspires you?
Seeing people excited to acquire one of my pieces, whether by buying or receiving as a gift. That makes me want to create more.
What piece of work would you like to be remembered for?
All of them. I hope every item I make finds a home where it is used and appreciated.
Learn about other Modern Bungalow Artisans here!