Take a peek inside the Alkahest Leather booth at the Oregon Country Fair and find out how duct tape and inspiration contributes to these beautiful and unique Sylvan style products. We’ll talk to Dustin and Tiera, the co-creators of these fancy shoes, boots, and jewelry and find out how their work ethos informs the business of leather artistry.
Alkahest Leather at OCF
Transcription by Jade Rainsong
(Karen:) Just off the Xavanadu we have a fabulous booth with incredible leather products. There’s all sorts of interesting things here on the table and we’re going to learn a little bit more about what we’re seeing. So we have a wonderful couple here, what’s your name?
(Tierra:) Tierra Tachick.
(Karen:) And what’s your name?
(Dustin:) Dustin Lyons.
(Karen:) So you guys have a pretty cool looking stuff. I’m drawn in right away by the colors and the variety of your products and they look just incredibly handmade and unique. Can you tell me about these products?
(Tierra:) Yeah these products, we learned how to make the shoes about seven years ago. We studied under an old cowboy shoe master and this style that we make is called a Renaissance moccasin, and we do a casting of your foot and build a shoe just for your foot, basically.
(Dustin:) So you essentially design the shoe, then we build it for you. And we started with the shoes. We’d never really used sewing machines before we decided to get into this and found out we kind of had a natural aptitude for it and after mastering the shoes everything else seemed pretty easy. So we’ve gone into hip bags and shoulder bags. Some wrist wear, necklaces.
(Karen:) One of the things I love is the metal pieces- the closures and clasps and the buttons. I see some really unique buttons with things like Celtic Design work on them and almost some steampunk looking, like turning mechanism. So tell me a little bit about the metal too.
(Dustin:) Well we’ve got various suppliers, and we’re always looking for new good hardware. One of our favorites is Quicksilver Mint which uses machinery from the 1890s. Hand-pressed machinery to emboss or press into different metals various types of animal spirits and ancient symbols and such. So we use a lot of that for our buttons on the shoes, also for some of the wrist wear and as far as the other clasps go, we’ve got some locket clasps and some swing clasps that are just fantastic. They give a good accent to the product.
(Karen:) And one thing I was going to mention when you said ancient symbol. I see a lot of beautiful ancient symbols, but I also see a Bigfoot right here! That’s pretty awesome.
(Dustin:) I would say that our motif is very kind of sylvan or you know forest oriented and wildlife in general. So, you know ravens, owls, tree designs and then also a lot of stonework, we love to put the jasper in the malachite and such inlaid into the design.
(Karen:) So I see that on some of the bracelets here too. So I’m thinking that would give it sort of a magical essence or kind of imbue a little more spirit or something a little extra special to the work. So about the shoes again. So I see some incredible boots here. You’ve got really tall ones. You got short ones. All kinds of layers and beautiful colors and antler buttons. Tell me about if I wanted to buy one of these shoes. What would the process be?
(Tierra:) So basically we would start out figuring out what height you would want it. We do anywhere from one button, which comes underneath your ankle all the way up to knee highs and we would draw out your feet to measure and see if they’re both around the same size or if there’s a big difference in the feet then we would cast both feet. But usually we end up casting just one foot.
(Dustin:) We put pantyhose on ya, we wrap you up in duct tape. So that’s kind of fun. You know.
(Tierra:) You can use duct tape for everything.
(Karen:) That sounds like an awesome Fair trick.
(Tierra:) And then yeah, as we’re casting your foot we go through the different color options and we have button selections and they’re all re-soleable and yeah, we have definitely different sole options as well.
(Karen:) So they last a long time it sounds like.
(Dustin:) We’ve had individuals come in with 35 year old moccasins that were essentially made by the generation of moccasin makers that we learned from so they can last an awfully long time.
(Karen:) And so have you guys been here at Fair long or have you vended other places, too?
(Tierra:) Yes, we do. We’ve been here about, this is our fifth year. So we’re very excited about that. And yeah, we vend anywhere from Seattle all the way down to California, Grass Valley California, and now we just moved over to more to the East and so we’re going to do a lot more shows over in Idaho.
(Karen:) So, can you describe to me maybe your favorite piece and what went into it or maybe your top seller?
(Dustin:) I think for me, you know, the shoes are definitely the thing that I’m most focused on and that I’m really kind of drawn to the most, you know, we don’t use any laser cutters or anything like that. Everything is hand cut and so it’s kind of fun when somebody comes in and says hey, I want a Celtic bearpaw or something like that on my on my shoe and we get a chance to really challenge ourselves. And then pull it off and it looks amazing and you feel like okay, I think I guess I’ve got that mastered now and now I can move on to something even more complicated.
(Karen:) So it shows your artistry skills a little bit.
(Dustin:) Yeah, we kind of dropped out of the 9 to 5 and working for other people and a big part of that was trying to have a more personal relationship with the product kind of that, you know at the risk of sounding too like a Marxist revolutionary. I would say that you know that that is part of what society does is it alienates you from the product of your labor. And we get to see everything from the point of just raw material we get to cut that up and then attach things to it and sew it all together and we’ve got this beautiful finished product. And you know with the shoes especially that’s made specifically for a single pair of feet, you know, so it’s a real personal process and we have a lot of our customers come in and we maintain ongoing relationships with them because it is, you know, I mean not many people get to put pantyhose on you and wrap you in duct tape.
(Karen:) So that’s kind of like the old fashioned cobbler where you knew the person that made your shoes and maybe even got to see some of the work made and there’s that old fashioned love put into every pair.
(Dustin:) Absolutely. Yeah.
(Karen:) Thank you so much guys.
(Dustin:) Thank you very much.