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Yonezawa Leather

Maker Series :: Yonezawa Leather

by , February 15, 2017
Takeshi ‘Yone’ Yonezawa has spent over a decade perfecting his design and leatherworking skills. His journey into the craft began in Tokyo, and ultimately led to the founding of Yonezawa Leather. Based in Beaverton, Oregon, Yone crafts each of his creations by hand, resulting in unique pieces that are meticulously constructed, functional in form, and refined in style. To learn more, we asked him to share some insights into his crafting process… 
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Yonezawa Leather
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How does your brand/process speak to the notions of “craft?”

The word “craft” means art to me and with art, there is an underlying purpose to create something that communicates to emotion. I strive to create beautiful, functional products and I care about each and every step along the way. I enjoy taking the time and effort to turn flat pieces of leather into their final form, whether it is a wallet, bag or an artistic 3D picture.
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Yonezawa Leather


What are your tools of the trade? 

Yasui Japanese Leather Knives (various sizes, vintage tools).
*Yasui is a discontinued Japanese leather tools brand.
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Yonezawa Leather
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What spurred you to make stuff? Tell us the story.

Sixteen years ago, I really wanted to buy a carved leather wallet but could not find one that had everything I was searching for – something aesthetically beautiful with a functional design and a price that reflected both quality and the brand. I was standing in a store looking at wallets when I thought to myself, “I can make my own.” That started my journey with leather work. It took me ten years to make a wallet that I was satisfied with.
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Yonezawa Leather
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What keeps you excited about making stuff?

For every project, I have a vision of the finished product but the process to attain it is always unknown. It’s when the final piece comes close to the original vision that keeps me excited as I end up learning new skills and discovering my own trade secrets along the way.
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“It took me ten years to make a wallet that I was satisfied with.”

Yonezawa Leather

One handy tip or learning gleaned along your journey?

Befriend craftsmen whose skill set and work inspire you – you’ll learn about not only the craft, but more importantly their approach.

Yonezawa Leather

Walk us through your creative process…

I always start with the leather. When I look at a piece of leather, I envision the end product instead of just seeing a blank slate. For example, I will look at a leather hide and determine that it will become a wallet. I then work backwards from the vision to determine the type of wallet it’ll become, its design, construction, etc.

“When I look at a piece of leather, I envision the end product instead of just seeing a blank slate.”

 Yonezawa Leather

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Tell us about your carving technique? It’s blowing our minds. 

I strive to convey power through my carving, which is a combination of the (US) western style of carving and my own custom designs (Magnolia flowers). I freehand the designs directly onto the leather so each carving piece will truly be unique. In regard to steps, I first use a swivel knife to draw the outline, then add finishing cuts to the stems and flowers, stamp the background for depth, and use dye to complete the design.
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“I freehand the designs directly onto the leather so each carving piece will truly be unique.”
Yonezawa Leather
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Yonezawa Leather
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What other makers inspire you?

Those who pour their hearts into their work inspire me. Their skill level and/or their workmanship do not matter to me – rather I admire the drive that goes into their craft in pursuit of their passion.
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“Those who pour their hearts into their work inspire me.”
 Yonezawa Leather
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What’s your all-time favorite piece? What keeps filling you with pride?

My 100% leather replica of a Plains Indian Warbonnet is my favorite piece. I spent a lot of time and effort into ensuring every detail reflected the original warbonnet so when people cannot believe that it is 100% leather, that makes me proud.
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“My 100% leather replica of a Plains Indian Warbonnet is my favorite piece.”
 Yonezawa Leather
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What lies ahead for the “maker movement?”

I think the “maker movement” will only continue to grow as access to information and product enables more people to pursue their passion(s) and share their work with others.
 Yonezawa Leather

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