Last week, we taught you how to make a leather journal cover, but we want to tell you about another, very similar, kind of cover that is taking the stationary world by storm.
While this is no new concept, the traveler’s notebook is gaining popularity and the leather world is right in the thick of it.
So, what is a traveler’s notebook?
It’s essentially a notebook cover without the notebook! The idea is that the buyer is able to make a custom notebook by purchasing all of the inserts separately. All they need are a few elastic bands to secure them inside!
The design is simple: create a notebook cover in any size (preferably something standard like 8.5″ x 11″) and create holes in the spine of the journal. You can add grommets, strings, strips or elastic so that customers can slip a notebook or two inside.
Of course, add-ons like pockets, pen holders and clasps can be added to bring your traveler’s notebook to the next level. All of the examples you see here are journal covers, but could easily be converted to traveler’s notebooks with a few additions to the spine.
The best part about these sweet little things is that prices range from around $15 all the way up to $300! Naturally, genuine leather covers are on the higher end of the spectrum.
So, if you’re looking to diversify your offerings or looking for a gift idea – this might be the one! It’s simple, requires little material and it’s sure to be a stunner.
For Heather, finding her current position wasn’t quite the intricate road that others have traveled. She started in mail order, the same department she now supervises alongside Justin and Cori. Ace order fulfillment support, casual hardware gatherer and irrefutable delight, Heather Ryan is happy to be working with SLC, not just for us.
Heather started at SLC about two and half years ago as a hardware gatherer. She loved the active nature of the job. After a system change at SLC, the department needed to adjust and Heather rose to the challenge.
“After we switched systems, they needed somebody to deal with all of the back orders. Before we didn’t have a system to track orders and now we can see what an order is, what it’s up to, who touched it and what’s left.”
These days, Heather works on order fulfillment support. That means she tracks every single order that we get and ensures that they are completely fulfilled. She does this for every department at SLC including all of our e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Etsy, eBay; and our more traditional ones like mail orders, call-ins and SpringfieldLeather.com.
“Right now it shows we have 500 orders…we’re taking in 200 orders a day and sometimes getting over 300 orders shipped a day. One of my jobs is to make sure that all of those orders are going through. Hardware gets gathered, then it might need to go through shop, it might need something from Tandy or needs the leather to be produced.” Heather makes sure that all of those steps are taken before it’s ready to go out the door.
She also has to contact customers when we run out of items. “Sometimes we may not have all of the hardware for an order and it may take a few weeks to get it in. So, it’s my job to also contact customers and offer substitutes for those back ordered items…whatever they need to get their project done on time.”
Still, she likes to switch it up from time to time. She provides support to the hardware gatherers, making sure they get items that they need, adjusting inventory and occasionally gathering hardware herself.
“It’s fun to change it up,” she said. “No day is really exactly the same here.”
She says the challenges come along when we are busy or when our system is down. “There is never a dull moment for sure!” She explained, “When our [correctional facility customers] start their new fiscal year, we might get 200 or 300 Federal orders in a couple of days on top of our other 200 orders.”
Like Heather Kingsley, she likes a challenge. “Keeping the customers satisfied, I would say is not that hard, but it’s always a challenge you want to strive for. We are always being creative in the ways we can get those orders finished.”
Her favorite part? The company culture, she says.
“I feel like I don’t work for this company, that I work with this company. I feel like it’s a company that works for me. That’s important at a job because you don’t want to feel like your job is mundane, repetitive or that you have to do it. You want to go to work where you can express your creativity, your opinions and you have a little bit of freedom. I feel like I’ve had that here at SLC.”
She says that freedom has allowed the department to grow.
“Cori, Justin and I have [made big changes] in the mail order department. It used to be pretty hectic back here. We’re working with a great team. I have only been here for two and a half years and things have changed drastically in that two and a half years. I think that it’s better in our department than it ever was and I am lucky enough to work with two of the best supervisors that have helped build it up. I couldn’t do any of it without them!”
When she’s not making waves at SLC, she is brainstorming about ways to make the team even better and spending time with her friends, family and pet bunny. Dubbed Hot Fudge Sundae by Heather’s daughter, she is best known as Sundae Bunny and she rules the house.
Though Heather’s not a leathercrafter she has a stash of leather she likes and even tried her hand at reupholstering a stool. “It looks bad because I stapled it,” she said. We think it looks pretty good though.
Do business with Heather by ordering anything from SLC!
If you follow SLC, you probably know Thor, but do you know his mom, Heather? Maven of international orders and inmate relations, Heather has been with SLC for eight years and counting! Believe it or not, she has worn (and still wears) more hats than she has ponytails!
It all started in the summer of 2009 in SLC’s production department. “I worked in the shop for a while,” she said. “Then, I moved to the retail floor for about nine months.” From there, she moved to our gathering department where she would eventually become gathering manager for five years.
Heather is a go-to member of the office team for a lot of things: customer service, federal orders, sewing machines and international orders, to name a few! Like Cameron, it took her some time to get where she is today.
On the annual trip to Sheridan, Heather recalled Rusty announcing her love for solving problems to the people they met. “He would say, ‘If you call complaining, that’s who you get!’ A lot of people don’t like angry customers, but I enjoy dealing with them…It’s kind of a challenge. I love to kill them with kindness.”
While angry customers are Heather’s bread and butter, International relations is her biggest challenge. She said, “Talking to international customers that don’t speak English [is the toughest part of my job], especially when they call.” But, she doesn’t let the language barrier get in the way. Though she doesn’t “like telling them I can’t hear them or understand them”, she has those customers send her emails. “I can always translate words through Google Translate. Sometimes, I even have to translate the translations!” she said, laughing.
Though a lot of SLC folks like to work with leather in their spare time, Heather has her hands full at home. She’s not just a mom to Thor, she has three teenagers, two cats and seven dogs!! “With kids and football and all that…I like my off time so I like to just sit down and watch a movie.” We don’t blame ya, Heather!
With the holiday season coming up, business will be booming. Around the middle of October, the federal institutions’ fiscal year begins again. That means a rush to spend the last of the budget money for some and making big, new budget, purchases for others.
Heather says that the busy time of year makes getting to the phone more difficult – a situation that grows more challenging as the business grows. “We used to be a small company. We used to get 100 orders out of the door a day and we were proud of that. Now, it’s 500!” Heather is pleased with the growth, but says it can be a bit difficult to explain longer turn around times to customers that have been doing business with SLC since the beginning. Still, she says, she is pleased to take on the challenge and provide the best service possible!
Her favorite part about SLC?
“I love working with the inmates. That’s my favorite part of it. I just kind of relate. I want to see people do better for themselves and we are giving them that opportunity and it’s something that will last.”
Heather is talking about our program with correctional facilities across the US. We provide leather craft materials for inmates as a positive outlet for them to learn a trade that can help them in the long term. We think they work so well, we hired someone in our production shop who learned everything he knows about leather craft in one of those programs! Read more about Tommy’s story here.
Update: Heather has since moved to Leather Machine Company. If you are looking for assistance for international orders, please contact Lindsey by calling 800-668-8518 or email email@example.com.
This is the final entry in our throwback catalog series. In this final edition,
Kevin and Becky are sporting new looks (again) and Kevin reflects on the year for SLC. Plus, Ed’s wild art is back with a group of men facing off against a wild raccoon. For anyone interested in some leather industry history, Kevin has provided some good information about major changes in late 2001!
“There’s anywhere from 12 to 13 of us that work (or at least show up) here, and it seems like we could use about another 2 or 3.”
Hey folks! We’re back again with another newly colored version of one of Ed’s catalog covers. This time, it looks like the boys were out fishing and accidentally caught themselves a wildfire!
We got another message from Kevin as well! This time, he and Ed went on a trip, SLC got a lot of rain. Kevin and Becky also updated their photo, so the staff got new photos as well! Click the link below to check it out!
Last time, we told you all about SLC’s very first catalog! As you may have guessed, we kept it going! Ed Martin drew all of the covers for our early catalogs. Here is his piece for volume two published in March 2000 and digitally colored in August 2017!
Of course, this catalog came with its own message from Kevin as well.
Even though Kevin’s choice of eye wear has changed a bit since then, a lot of things have stayed the same. Kevin is still always looking for something new (even if it can be a bit stressful to do so) and he still buys whatever he wants! We’re also still adjusting to the ever-changing industry and having fun while we do it!
Acrylic is a popular paint choice for crafters of all ilks, especially leather crafters. There are myriad ways to color leather, but none give more control or vibrance than paint. We recently received a question from a customer curious about the history of leather painting.
Prior to acrylic paints (about 1950) how was
leather painted (other than dyeing)? And how long have these other paint
options been available? Was there a time when using a dye, either by
application to the surface or soaking the entire hide, the only option?
Well, we did a lot of research and here are the results! If you’re short on time, skip to the end. We’ve got a brief explanation for you.
Let’s begin with a brief history of leather…
The use of leather has been recorded as far back as Sumerian times with records of skins being used for dresses and headbands for women. Of course, leather had its uses among the Assyrians, ancient India, ancient Egypt and ancient Rome. Decorative leather gained prominence in the 8th century, but was taken a step further in the 12th century with improvements in tanning processes. Oil tanning was even used in conjunction with dyes to give pieces a nice look while also strengthening the material. The 14th century brought along with it a more modern way of tanning with chrome salts. The range of leather products expanded from clothing and armor to chests, books, and furniture. From the 1900s on, drum dyeing and other methods were developed to accelerate the leather tanning process and propel it into the present day. In the past it would take months, if not a full year to tan a hide. Today, the process can be completed in as little as a few days. Learn more about the basic history of leather here.
Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about paint…
For the most part, the way that leather was colored or decorated was with dyes or tanning. The ancient Egyptians were coloring some of their leathers, likely using organic materials like berries to do so. While painting certainly wasn’t the most common way of coloring leather, you may find that the tradition dates back further than you think.
As early as the middle ages, painting was prevalent from shields to walls, though the process was often more complicated than anything we would do today. Varnish was a common ingredient in adding color to leather. Perhaps the most luxurious paint-like method was
gilding (gilting). As far back as 1380, this method was used on hangings. These gilded hangings were an extravagant alternative to tapestries and wallpaper. The process chiefly used silver leaf, varnish and ink in an intricate process that produced opulent works of art. Gilding was also a popular way to color book spines.
In Sir Charles Lock Eastlake’s 1847 book Material for a History of Oil Painting, he describes a method for using leather as a ground for painting wood with oil paints. “Such a parchment preparation, covered with a gesso or plaster of Paris ground, is sometimes found in English tempera pictures of the fourteenth century. The darkly varnished Byzantine pictures are frequently painted on leather glued to the wood.”
Gesso, it turns out, often includes something called milk paint in the formula. Milk paint is
Generally sold in powder form, this paint can be mixed for use as a stain or a finish and it works just fine on leather. It can give off a more worn affect and is a fairly permanent way of coloring things. Milk paint is said to be oldest form of paint and was even used in cave drawings.
The short and sweet answer…
Leather was painted with oil paint, milk paint and gilding. These paint options have been available for varying amounts of time, with milk paint being the oldest and pre-dating recorded leather use by thousands of years. While we have no verifiable evidence of paint being used on leather before the Middle Ages, it is very possible that leather was painted before then!
SLC is a unique place to work. Our small group of team members work diligently at a job (or three) around the clock to serve customers on a variety of platforms.
One of those team members is Cameron Stacy, our resident laser engraver, master of the leather dies and
custom stamp extraordinaire! Cameron has been part of the SLC team for nearly five years and, like many employees, it took him a bit of time to find his place.
His connection to the leather company began at a local Culver’s where he worked for several years. When SLC owner Kevin, Rusty and the gang came in, Cameron took their orders.
“I knew their orders and that Kevin preferred a raspberry sundae…or something like that.” He had a roommate who was leaving SLC for Portland and decided to apply. “I came in before a shift and as I was filling out an application, Kevin saw me. I went to work at Culver’s right after. They came [into Culver’s] that day and I took their orders.”
A week later, Cameron was working in the shop clicking leather shapes, making belts and wallets.
Around the same time Kevin purchased a laser engraver for the shop. Initially, they had Clayton, who now heads the Research and Development department, operating the machine. Clayton interjects, “Fun fact: I ran the laser first! I wasn’t very good at it.”
With his superior Adobe skills, after six months, Cameron began running the laser full time. Later on, he began ordering custom stamps for customers and ordering all of our leather dies. He adds, “[Our custom stamps] are really nice because they’re a really good price. They’re magnesium and run [much cheaper] than most stamps you’ll find.”
He says that the job is pretty easy now and his biggest challenge is, “juggling everything…coming up with new ways to operate the laser and keep it clean.”
Otherwise, he just struggles a bit in the morning. “I’m not a morning person. I prefer to be called after 10:30.” Of course, we open at 9 am, just don’t tell him we told you! 😉
In his free time, Cameron plays the guitar in his band Justice Adams Bandand makes holsters. It seems kismet that he should appear on our holster kit, doesn’t it? The sample happened to be just his size.
Have you ever wondered what makes a leather business work? Join Kevin, Rusty and Denny as they discuss what makes a business stick. From best practices to prolific advice like, “Don’t do stupid stuff,” these three have some basic tools to share with you.