Barrett Alley is a designer and leather craftsman working in Dallas, Texas. He focuses on hand sewn leather goods, using traditional saddle stitching to create durable and beautiful products. We sat down with Barrett to chat about his process and get a peak inside his studio.
Natalie Davis: What are your prized tools, i.e. objects that carry emotional significance in the studio or prove to be the most useful in your work?
Barrett Alley: I have more attachment to the materials than the tools. The most important tools in handcrafting a wallet are sewing needles and a knife (I just use razor blades) - which I go through rather quickly. I have all these beautiful materials that I acquired years ago though. I'm still trying to talk myself into cutting them up for products!
ND: How did you get started working in leather?
BA: I've always been in the design industry - mainly corporate branding and marketing. In my free time I would experiment with different types of materials and media to create art. I liked leather because of its rigidity and predictability, unlike cloth, which I always found harder to sew. So after a few years of self-study I launched the Barrett Alley line of handmade leather accessories in 2010.
ND: How do you get started/approach the early stages of an idea or problem?
BA: Usually there is an idea at first. I suppose that step is both the important part and the easy part. The hard part is research and development - converting that idea into something beautiful that works (and sells!). That is where you have to stop being an artist and become an engineer.
ND: What advice would you give your younger self?
BA: Advice to my younger self: failure is a statistical necessity for success.
ND: Who do you look to for inspiration?
BA: The entire universe is inspiring in itself. I hold that a truly original concept most likely wasn't inspired by another artist's work. I do admire a lot of designers. The people at Kapital and Henry Cuir are some of the best right now.
Many thanks to Barrett for taking some time to chat with us! Also, check out his latest collaboration with Levi's Made Here, a limited edition run of striking antique textile bracelets. Made with veg-tanned leather and over 100-yrs old deadstock fabric, the bracelets close with an unique antique bone button.