Terry Evans began designing leather products in December of 1999. She started with her unique leather mugs and today has over 30 hand-crafted products for her customers to choose from. The inspiration for her products come from era books, customer requests, and even naps. . . as you’ll soon discover.
Alyice: Designing products out of leather is very much an art form, wouldn’t you say?
Terry: Each mug I create takes approximately 4 hours to make.
I know that it is art when it’s done because there aren’t that many people that can take a flat piece of leather, then mold and manipulate it into a drinking vessel that that keeps its shape and can be used to drink either HOT or cold beverages.
Alyice: Aside from leather mugs, you also create fantasy pieces like Steampunk arm cuffs, top hats, and wizard hats. Where do you find your inspiration for such pieces?
Terry: Regarding the wizard hat, that’s a funny story. I was a vendor at the Irish Fair of Minnesota and a customer saw me there. A few months later he contacted me describing the wizard’s hat and didn’t have any pictures of what he wanted just what was in his mind’s eye. After some trial and error I created a hat for him that he uses gardening locally to keep the sun off him.
Alyice: One of your more popular items is the leather mug, which can be used to drink both hot and cold beverages from. How did this idea come about, and how do you make the product safe for drinking?
Terry: Can’t give away my secret about that. . . it’s my proprietary information.
But I can tell you that I had a General Mills chemist find the product I use, then it took over three years to perfect.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Terry: This might sound silly but when I have an item that needs to be made, I lay down for a nap.
I guess the time spent clearing my mind helps me figure out the process in which to take to solve the problem. Once it’s figured out, I’ll jump out of bed and get back to making it.
Alyice: What do you wish you knew about designing with leather before you got started?
Terry: How messy and smelly the process can be. Also, that dying products and using industrial glue is toxic.
The end product is so worth it though. So is making people happy. I seriously think that is my whole goal in life… to make people happy. Whatever I can do to help others, completes me.
Alyice: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good leather product?
Terry: Time and patience. Good leather, tools, dyes, tooling dies and more patience.
Alyice: Aside from selling your designs online, you attend various fairs throughout the year. How do you select which fairs to attend?
Terry: I do look at the number of patrons that attend but that isn’t everything. You never know where the next great idea will come from and being at a variety of places helps with the creative process.
Alyice: In your opinion, what makes a successful event?
Terry: Showing up in the first place.
Just a couple of months ago I was at the Des Moines Iowa Renaissance Fair and from that fair a customer emailed asking for another 14 more mugs for presents for his wedding party and family reunion.
Repeat business; that’s success to me.
Alyice: What’s the worst thing an artist could do while selling their product at a fair?
Terry: Look crabby and not have a good time. Being happy is contagious.
Alyice: When attending fairs, what’s the most important thing newbies should know?
Terry: Have low expectations; that way when you end of making a whole lot of money you can be pleasantly surprised.