Each piece that Leatherwork artist David Trotter creates inspires him to utilize the unique properties of his medium to experiment further and push the traditional boundaries of what leather can be used for.Experience David's Virtual Tour
ABOUT THE ARTIST
I began working as an apprentice in a neighbour’s leather craft shop, in the summer of 1969. I was barefoot most of the time and excited about going to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
I grew up in the country and our neighbour who was a good friend of my mother’s took me in and put me to work learning how to work with leather in her very creative studio.
I spent some time learning how to colour and mold leather and before long was making a few items of my own design. Daphne sold them in her shop. I loved that I could walk barefoot to work through the woods and along an old abandoned sideroad.
I worked with Daphne for several years on weekends and during the summers, as I finished high school and took art, at Sheridan College in Oakville. I always kept in mind what she had taught me about leaving time to experiment creatively with the leather, to remain curious and see what the possibilities are.
Through constant experimentation, I learned to use dyes and acrylic paints to create colours on the leather and to create an interesting surface. I also used natural materials that I would pick up on my way to work. I loved that time I spent in nature thinking about how to make new and exciting designs. I later received an award for one of my laminated birch bark and leather bracelets.
I finished college and I began working on my own leather designs as well as working in the shop and attending small craft fairs around southern Ontario on weekends selling my leather creations.
I eventually ended up making fashion and decorator related items that sold through fashion shops and craft galleries in Toronto and New York and attending large craft shows in Canada and in Eastern US.
By the late 1980s. I was starting to burn out doing the never-ending merry-go-round of craft shows and creating accessories for the ‘latest’ fashion trend and in next season’s hottest colours. I had a wife and a young family to support now and I was trying to imagine how I would ever be able to change things, how I could keep working as a leather craftsman and have a fatter more reliable paycheck to help support us.
I soon found out. My wife arrived home one day after being in Toronto delivering an order for me and looking for nursing opportunities for herself, she had found an ad in the Toronto Star help wanted section, that said a company in Ajax was looking for a leather specialist/ supervisor/ designer to head up their newly started leather tool pouch department. Unbelievable. I could do that!
I applied for the job and got it. I couldn’t believe it, ask and ye shall receive.
It didn’t take long, working in a manufacturing facility, to realize that working as a department head in a factory was not like working on you own. Yes, the paycheck arrived every week and yes it made life easier but the reality of working in a noisy factory and having production demands and co-workers and factory hands who had no idea about craftsmanship and creativity and ‘one of a kind’ production was tough to deal with. I felt like a fish out of water.
With the ups and downs in the economy, I stayed at that job for 27 years. I learned a lot. Most of what I learned was not what I had hoped for. I learned how to ‘get along’ with the ways of industry. I lost my innocence.
I had to learn how to cut corners, how to not be concerned about craftsmanship and creativity, just production numbers. I learned how to produce things that I wasn’t happy with. I learned how to fire employees when the economy took a downturn and how to tell prospective employees how wonderful it was to work there. I had to tow the company line.
I did learn much about the leather industry and about leatherworking machinery and mass production and how to design for easy manufacture of products. I spent many hours fixing sewing machines and I got to spend a lot of time working out designs for new products and reworking old designs to improve production time and costs. Things that I still use in my workshop today.
But all the time, I felt that I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do. I felt I had let my creative side down. I wasn’t happy. I had to start working on my own again. I spent evenings and weekends in my studio coming up with new ideas for things I could make.
I created new works and figured out new techniques for making leather sculptures and art pieces. I put renewed effort into making large architectural three-dimensional sculptures of barns and sheds and cottages and trees and rocks. I created cityscapes and country scapes and space scapes from leather.
I began doing local shows and studio tours on weekends and entering pieces in exhibitions and taking commissions for leather sculptures. I was back to doing my creative thing. I was happy. I lived two lives for a while. Half my time at my ‘factory job’ and the rest at my life’s work. I dropped the job and began working full time at my leather art again.
I had to make bags and belts and bracelets and production work. It was difficult to make money initially, but it was my work. I did art and craft shows in Toronto again.
My leather studio is within an old livestock auction barn that I have slowly been turning into my home with a small live stage. I make what I like. I get my inspiration from old barns and from nature and from the rural landscape and the changes that come with the passage of time and weather.
I have time to play with new ideas and I still take time to experiment with leather in a creative way, to remain curious and see what the possibilities are.
If you would like to purchase a piece of David's work or request a commission piece you can contact David directly through his website, by email, or by giving him a call.
Studio 8 - 402 Reach Street, Port Perry, ON