Meet the Maker: Westward Leather Co.
Posted by Theresa Tanner on Aug. 6, 2018, 6 a.m.
Q&A with Ben Fife, creator and principal craftsman of Westward Leather Co.
How long have you been selling leather products?
Westward Leather Co. is currently in its fourth full year. I’ve been working with leather off and on since 2009, but didn’t fully have a go at it until summer of 2014.
What attracted you to working with leather?
Leather is timeless. Its importance and function can be seen throughout history, in every culture. It connects us back to the land and nature, and requires an investment by us as well, in order to protect its source, and its lifetime as a product.
I’ve always worked with my hands growing up, and loved history and ingenuity of other time periods and cultures, and leather connects so many of those things while always remaining current as well. It is malleable not only physically, but also in terms of function and design.
What’s your creative process like when coming up with new designs?
The creative process is very organic, and in that way hard to describe. Most often it is fueled by function, and a lot of thought. Sometimes I’ll sit in a chair with music on, and think designs through from every angle I can imagine, before I ever even start to sketch out an idea. The more I work with leather, the better grasp I get on mentally designing an item before I move ahead. Then the drawing is when fine tuning and measuring comes into play. But the inspiration aspect often comes from historical items and cultural craft from other time periods and peoples.
What’s your favorite product/design?
Every day it changes. I love simplicity as it is married with good lines and functionality. I also just like the simple items, like leather bracelets, keychains and wallets – things that don’t stand out but that get used every day. My leather Brass Buckle Braces (suspenders) are indeed a historical favorite of mine, and play a big role in the birth of my business.
What’s your most popular product?
I’d say my Pay Homage Cuffs and the Slim&Stout Bifold. The cuffs are very understated and appeal to both genders, and they complement many lifestyles. I’m very intentional about how I make such a simple product. I think that those details on leather accessories are often overlooked, as many companies are only making such items to utilize their scrap.
The bifolds are just simple enough, but built beautifully and durably – a lifetime product. Some of the bigger bags are gaining a good following now though too.
How can people purchase your goods?
Currently, there are few shops in the country that carry my product. I’m planning on providing product to some local shops soon, like Kingsley and Scout on Monroe. But full access to my product offering will remain on my website (westwardleather.com), which will be undergoing some changes and updates throughout this year. So I thank everyone for their patience, and support!