Disclaimer: Seller Spotlights are hand selected by the ArtFire Staff and contacted personally. We ask sellers to tell us a bit more about themselves and their business through their own eyes.
“Some days I wake up and wonder how I managed to turn what I love to do into a career.”
Bee Line Large Belt Bag Bees and flower in orange, coral, yellow, gold, green and antique black
This year I am celebrating my tenth year being the hands behind Moxie & Oliver. I’m often asked how I got started, and what sort of advice I would give to burgeoning young crafters, and I wish I had a better answer. I started my business by accident, grew it organically, and am constantly amazed and thankful for all the support that I have gotten.
Some days I wake up and wonder how I managed to turn what I love to do into a career, and other days it’s so clear – I make things that are unlike anything you will find elsewhere. I put art, my art, permanently onto leather, and not many people can say that anymore.
Caitlin Painting Leather Bee Tray
“When I graduated from college I was working at a law firm.”
Caitlin Oiling Leather Bee Tray
There is another answer, though, of how I got started. When I graduated from college I was working at a law firm. I wanted to become a lawyer and was working as a paralegal to get a feel for the law firm environment. Unfortunately, my Northwest meets Southwest wardrobe didn’t really mesh with the dress code that they had in place, and I had to make some changes. One of the things I needed to do was to buy a belt, but I was never able to find one that I liked. I’d done some leather craft as a child in the Rocky Mountains during family reunions (they had a little craft hut) so I went to my local leather craft store, bought some supplies, and started experimenting.
Caitlin’s Leather Craft Tools
Caitlin Tracing Pattern for Leather Luggage Tag
Caitlin Punching Leather Luggage Tag
“I was inventing my own leather craft techniques”
I had no training then in leather craft, and have not had any formal training since. When I started working on that first belt I was using the tools that I had on-hand, and a limited budget, so much of what I was doing was inventing my own leather craft techniques. I had training in several artistic mediums, and they all seemed to come together to create a look in leather that I was growing fond of. Being self-taught allowed me the freedom to experiment without regard for what was conventional or correct. I was able to create my own techniques, and this is why my pieces are so different from the other leather crafts on the market.
Caitlin Branding Leather Cuff
Caitlin Dyeing Leather Cuff
“My folk-art style is distinct, so if you see a Moxie & Oliver bag, you won’t mistake it for anything else.”
The materials and techniques that I use have been largely the same from the time that I started. I use a full-grain vegetable tanned leather in all of my pieces. It starts out as a light tan colored leather that I cut, brand, carve, paint and dye by hand. Each of my pieces is hand-stitched as well. Because I use the vegetable tanned leather and apply paint and dye to it myself, each piece is completely colorfast – the colors are permanent. One of my favorite qualities of vegetable tanned leather is that it starts out a little stiff, then starts to soften up almost immediately. It takes on this broken-in leather look pretty quickly, and just gets better with age. My western folk-art style is distinct as well, so if you see a Moxie & Oliver bag you won’t mistake it for anything else.
Caitlin Dyeing Tray
“No matter how busy I get, the one thing that I never want to give up is putting the artwork on the pieces myself”
I ran my business part-time at night and on the weekends until four years ago when my daughter was born, and I took a lay-off from my day job and never went back. I’ve been working full-time as a crafter since and have actually hired two assistants to help me with my work. I have one assistant who helps with the stitching, and another who helps with cutting, dyeing and some assembly of the pieces. All of the designs are mine, and everywhere you see artwork on the pieces themselves that is my hand. No matter how busy I get, the one thing that I never want to give up is putting the artwork on the pieces myself.
Wallet in Adam pattern with modern leaves – yellow, green and blue leather
“Smokey pattern is very popular since it allows customers to completely personalize the piece with an inscription of their choosing.”
My most popular pieces are currently wallets, guitar straps, and flasks. The guitar straps and flasks are somewhat of a surprise to me, since they’re not something I set out to make en masse – I’m not a (big) drinker, and not a musician, so these were done out of novelty or request to start out with. I have a pattern called the “Smokey
” pattern which is very popular since it allows customers to completely personalize the piece with an inscription of their choosing, up to 2,000 characters in some cases. My customers love these pieces as gifts, since they can give something completely custom.
Mighty Fold Wallet – Customized with your inscription – Leather in antique black
Balancing work and home has always been a struggle. I was working out of a small corner of my basement until two years ago when I moved into a legit studio space, outside of my home. Then when we moved last year I ended up with a commute of about 40 minutes each way. Every once in a while I think I should just move the studio back to my house, but when you have your studio in your home you’re both always at home and always at work. Even having my computer in the house means that I can sneak down in the morning before the kids wake up and answer emails, or that I can do it on the weekends while they nap. I’ve admittedly never been the best at delineating between work and home, and technology just makes it harder. All I can hope is that as hard as mommy works will give the kids a lesson in fortitude.
“F+W Media contacted me to write a book on leather craft, so I’ve been spending the last six months doing just that.”
My current endeavor is writing a book. Late last year F+W Media
contacted me to write a book on leather craft, so I’ve been spending the last six months doing just that. The publishing date is still a year off, but I am very excited to be able to share my craft with the world. The book will feature ten projects as well as tutorials on how to put the patterns onto leather – it will be everything you would need to get started with leather craft, written by someone who never read a leather craft book or took a class herself!
Caitlin McNamara of Moxie & Oliver