Once in a while, you encounter some pretty meaningful things. They’re still just inanimate objects, but they may be rife with symbolism, memories or just a degree of character that tells you they were lovingly and well made. As I’ve been on a somewhat lengthy quest to hold on to fewer objects and clear the clutter (I have a long way to go…), I’m still acutely aware of the way that an object can represent so many emotions. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I’ve been posting #StuffIHeart on Wordless Wednesdays.
But I digress. Once in a long while, you also encounter some of the people who are passionate about handcrafting these meaningful, albeit inanimate, objects. They build them with care, hoping they’ll be passed down from one generation to the next and that they’ll mean something to each person whose lives they affect.
This is my husband’s father’s belt. As far as I know, it’s the only physical item he has that belonged to his dad. He didn’t grow up around him, and I never met him – he died a few months before we were married. I certainly can’t speak to what this sole item may or may not represent for Fred, but I know it evokes certain thoughts and emotions even in me. I have dozens of items that belonged to my parents and grandparents, and they mean a lot to me. However, I’m not sure which one of us is better off – me with all these items and their memories, my husband with a handful of photos and a belt, or the one who places no emotion or value in physical items.
There is no denying that well made items are few and far between, and meeting those people who are passionate about crafting them is a treat. On an assignment for Arkansas Life magazine, I had the opportunity to get to know Bobby and Clayton Chamberlain, brothers and proprietors of American Native Goods. The article I wrote about them, Brothers in Arms, is in the August 2013 issue of Arkansas Life, which I recommend you pick up regularly – it’s available at Barnes & Noble. It’s an absolutely outstanding publication with stellar photography and unmatched content curated by editor (and Rogers native) Katie Bridges. I’m honored to be a contributor.
But back to American Native Goods – these guys are the real deal. They are churning out handmade, vegetable-tanned belts and selvedge denim aprons from their workshop in Fayetteville, and I think you’ll love getting to know them a bit through the article and seeing the care they put into their craft.
I was riveted by their story and thoroughly enjoyed exploring some of the storied American tanneries they told me about as they described sourcing their leather. For example, check out the intriguing and visually stunning websites for Hermann Oak Leather in St. Louis and The Tannery Row (it’s worth it to check out the various pages of the site if you’re visually-inspired), home of the renowned Horween Leather. I also ran across this photojournalistic spread about Horween on A Continuous Lean, a site well-worth exploring in its own right. I can’t get enough of this kind of industrial photography.
Speaking of which, the photos for the American Native Goods article in Arkansas Life were shot by Hatch & Maas Collective, an incredible photography venture also based in Fayetteville. All of the work featured on their site, especially the commercial photography, is completely stunning. The product shots on the American Native Goods Etsy shop are by Clayton Chamberlain, who has dabbled in photography in his seemingly endless string of design interests.
All this to say that I just had to share and catalogue all of these great visual resources for the public good (and my own convenience)! But, there’s good news at the end of this ramble: American Native Goods has kindly supplied some of their gorgeous handcrafted items for a lucky reader or two. All you have to do is show them a little love (I know you’ll want to anyway!) to be eligible to win a leather bracelet or keychain. Click below on a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter by August 15, and make a mental (or physical) note to place some early orders with them before the holiday rush!