Nelson-based Pieter Wessels of Hendrik’s Leather is a self-taught leather craftsman who makes high quality leather wallets and card holders that are hand cut and hand stitched using the traditional saddle stitch method. His classic and durable designs are made to last for years to come.
How did you get into your craft?
I’ve always been a fan of leather wallets, but got sick of paying big bucks and they don’t last. I was searching the internet about five years ago for a new wallet and came upon a website selling handmade wallets which I loved. It got me thinking, and with a bit of research and a discarded leather tool belt from work I made my very first wallet. I really enjoyed the creative and learning process that went into crafting and I started investing in some tools and decent leather. I started out by just making wallets for friends who loved it so much they encouraged me to start selling it. And a quiet shout out to Jacqui who sees herself as the creator of the brand, haha, and my mate Wayne who designed all my artwork for free and still helps out with template designs, he’s much better on a computer than I am!
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No, I’m self taught. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but it was a fun process. And I’m still learning everyday, I’m always trying to better my craft. There’s not much that Youtube can’t teach you these days…
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite leather to work with is Wickett and Craig of America. I use their English bridle and skirting leather, it has a nice firm temper perfect for wallets and it patinas beautifully over time. I love watching a wallet age and develop character, no one wallet ages the same. As far as tools go, I have a set of KS blade European style pricking irons which give you that high end designer look when you hand stitch. I love hand stitching using a cowboy stitch, not only is it stronger but it looks so much sharper than machine stitching and it’s been around forever, so it’s tried and tested.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
A wallet generally starts out either with a template design which then gets traced onto the leather and then cut out, or I use my clicker press with some pre made cutting dies of my more frequently used patterns. Once everything is cut, the panels then get glued together in steps and stitched as I go. Once all the panels are glued and stitched you have a complete wallet. I then sand down the edges so it’s nice and even, then burnish them using a bit of saddle soap and some beeswax to give it a nice shine. And hey presto, you have something classy to carry your cards and cash in.
What inspires you?
Nothing beats that feeling when you pull out your wallet to pay and know you’ve made it yourself. I also think that my wallets are rugged and will outlast any store bought wallet, quality is a big deal for me and I pride myself in every wallet that I send out.
Describe your creative process:
I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so if I won’t use it myself, it doesn’t go out the door.
Describe your workspace:
I work out of my garage, my brother made me this great big work table from recycled timber which is fantastic. I can roll out a whole side of leather on it to get a better look at what it has to offer. I try and apply 5S principles to my workspace to help with keeping things streamlined. You don’t really need that much space to do leather work, so I’m a bit spoiled with all the space I have. I have also just recently invested in a really good quality leather sewing machine, clicker press and leather splitter so I have about everything I need, now to expand the range…
What are you currently listening to?
I’m listening to Michael Kiwanuka at the moment, I saw him at the Mumford & Sons show earlier this year, man he has a voice on him!
Recommend an album: Mumford & Sons Delta, great album.
What are you reading now?
The other woman by Daniel Silva, he writes great spy novels.
A favourite quote: Don’t be a dick, be nice. Hahaha!
Tell us about your pets:
I have two miniature dachshunds Jerry and Daisy, they are the coolest breed of dogs in my opinion.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Stitchman, and I’d be stitching the dicks’ mouths shut, hahahaha. Maybe leave this one out…
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
It will outlast the mass produced store bought stuff and you know that it was made by someone who’s put some heart and soul into it.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a leather cardholder from a fellow maker over in Aussie, it was the clean simple design of it that attracted me to it and I like to support others in my craft.
What’s in store for 2019?
Well… big things! I am launching the “Hendrik’s leather” website which should go live by June all going well. I am also looking to expand into womens’ fashion with leather purses and tote bags, so watch this space.
Pieter has very generously offered not one, not two, but three great prizes, one each for three lucky Felt readers (see above)! Just leave us a comment below telling us what you like about Pieter’s story and his work, and let us know which prize you’d like the most, and you’ll be in to win! (We can’t guarantee that’s the one you’ll win if you’re drawn, but we’ll do our best.) 🙂
1. Chestnut billfold (top left)
2. Chocolate billfold (top right)
3. Card holder (bottom).
The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 27 May and is open to New Zealand residents only.