February 12, 2020 5 min read
I have been scouring the internet for classes on leather making for a few months and I found Alden Leather in Burns, Oregon. I really enjoy working with leather and being self-taught so far I rally wanted to up my game and learn as much as I could to create new things for the leather line. This course is a 5 day intensive on learning techniques and making purses.
I started my adventure on a Sunday morning, leaving behind a snowstorm in Denver. On a tiny little cramped 3 hour flight, I was feverishly praying for no snow in Oregon! I had to get off this little plane on the jetway of Redmond, OR and then jump into a massive Suburban (AKA the beast). My husband wanted me to be safe and got me an SUV…I probably could have stayed in it for the week! So off I went, making my way to Burns taking in the gorgeous scenery and then I suddenly realized, I have to pee AND I don’t have any water for this 2 ½ hr journey. I am literally in the middle of nowhere on a 126 mile stretch of backcountry highway and not a single rest stop or store…Note to self on the way back, pee and get water next time before I get in the car! I created an epic playlist, cranked my tunes, sang at the top of my lungs and drove the beast all by myself.
I arrived in the afternoon on Sunday and my first impression is where the Hell am I? It is so tiny, the speed limit is 35, and there were deer’s in the middle of the road that wouldn’t move for me.
I stopped at the local Safeway to stock up on snacks and was relieved to see a Starbucks! (if you know me at all I LOVE coffee!) The population here is 2700 and is quite an old town.
I pulled up to this lovely renovated Central Historic Hotel and instantly fell in love! It is a hotel from 1929 and is all beautifully restored by the talented Keady family. It lies in the heart of this town and is so welcoming. I self-checked in to the hotel and my little adorable room. They truly think of everything here, even down to thoughtfully deciding on no TV’s. It is a lovely retreat to just relax and reconnect with yourself. A MUST stay if you are ever here!
Day one of Alden Leather school:
Walking into this studio the smell hits you of premium leather and old wood. A big American flag proudly hangs on a large red brick wall which is lined with these beautiful industrial sewing machines and leather tools. I am instantly in love! This is where my soul belongs. Tim Alden, the owner walks over and introduces himself with a big welcoming smile and introduces Chad his talented assistant. I marvel at not only the history of this building but in awe of all the tools and just the space in general. This is where I belong.
He gets right into the history of Burns, his proud family ties to leather making and all the leather basics from exotics to domestic. I feel like a sponge the first day, absorbing every bit of detail he has to talk about. (Luckily Cindy and I pre-fabricated a pattern so I didn’t feel so overwhelmed). The afternoon was all about pattern making and constructing the right way to do the bags that I have chosen. I have high hopes that the 3 bags I patterned out, will be created by the end of this week. Fingers crossed I am feeling fairly ambitious of my skills that I think I already have in my head. Time will tell of my mad skills…..
The students (just 4 of us) all felt invigorated even after our 8 hr day. SO much creativity in the room!
We tried to look for a dinner place, but apparently a lot of restaurants close before 5….
Amped on 3 cups of coffee, up since 4 am ( the damn time change and a call from the school regarding weather), I mentally prepare my brain for my plan of attack on this new computer bag. I’ll admit that the choice I made might be a bit of a big stretch to finish it in one day, but I am an over achiever and determined to get things done.
11 a.m. I didn’t realize that there were so many steps to making this bag! Like seriously 28 pieces?? I forge on til noon and realize the bubble is beginning to burst and there is no way this bag is getting finished by 5. Damn it.
Closing time and he has to kick me out. Project completion 25%......
Well I might as well go and celebrate something, with my new leather posse for the week. We gather in the lobby of the hotel and eat communally with nachos and quesadilla’s. My new friend Chris has decided its margarita night and hands me an amazing concoction of pure tequila with a little bit of lime….I think I was breathing fire after it. The hotel’s owner strolls by and starts a lovely conversation about the town and the hotel. She lights up like a Christmas tree when she speaks of the area. Jen asks us if we want a tour of the boiler room…I mean why not. She takes us down a staircase to an old musty room where they used coal to heat the hotel back in the day. What surprised me the most was the pride of ownership and her stash of over 100 bottles of Whiskey in a beautifully curated space. Every little metal decoration had a story even down to the gorgeous poker table her son built. She offered us a glass and said “try any one of these Whiskeys except for a few on the top shelf” Like seriously? I am not a Whiskey drinker but hey when in Burns…My favorite was the Australian whisky called Starward. A must try! Needless to say I was in bed and possibly drooling by 8:30!
I began the day with Kim (my new leather buddy) at a sweet little café to have breakfast and yes more coffee. This town is so friendly it’s contagious, it is growing on me very quickly.
I am eyeballing Tim’s class room from across the street and in my head I am bound and determined to finish this bag, I mean I have 2 more to do by Friday! (and possibly a belt if I can get my shit together).
10:00 am coffee break and an iced cookie from the Amish people. (I need sustinence, don’t judge) I need to up my game plan and boost my sugar levels.
Lunch time progress 50%
Fueled up on Greek salad and green tea I converse with Tim after lunch and ask him what the likelihood of an afternoon completion is…he has this genuine smile and with a little laugh says…”ehhhhh not likely. Maybe by tomorrow morning”. I am thinking he doesn’t know me very well….game on…
I was doing the rounded side seam on the coner of the bag, thinking I completely nailed it, feeling like a true leather Rockstar. I ask his opinion….shot down he wants me to rip the seam out and start again…tomorrow. Guess what I get to do tonight? Be a stitch ripper…fun times.
End of the day progress 85%. An epic fail on my adventurous guestimate.
Well there is always tomorrow. And this F*&king bag better be done, I am on a time crunch! LOL and I don’t like losing.
9 p.m I am going to bed….
Stay tuned for day 4….