By Utamu Belle
For as long as he can remember, Leslie Walks, a Lindener, has been intrigued and inspired by the art of leathercraft.
It’s a hobby that led the Half Mile, Linden native to creating his own line of quality, standard leather crafted items, inclusive of footwear, bags, belts, vehicle upholstery, wallets and caps – under his designer brand name, LAW Pro.
But for this passionate craftsman who operates from his home, knowledge, understanding and spiritual motivation are key ingredients to staying on course. Walks said he has been involved in the craft since he was “pretty young”, as he noted that it has since been a long journey.
“I’m always a ‘crafty’ person…I have encountered leathercraft by default. Because I wanted a craftsman to make a sandal for me and what he made had a problem. He just didn’t know how to solve the problem. So, I showed him how to solve it and he was amazed and offered me a job. Because of that, I learned some rudiments of leathercraft; but I was always art-oriented and into craft,” Walks told the Sunday Times.
The man with the gifted hands related that he even made shoes for his children, long before getting this much invested in craftsmanship.
“I designed clothes and everything for my family long before I understood the rudiments of it, and life has taken me on a journey that it will take volumes to express; but I’m here and I’ve got these talents…and I’ve decided to utilise them, in the hopes that I will get some rewards from it,” he shared.
Walks noted that he has also designed his own clothing in times past, which he usually took to a tailor to put together. The attention he got from doing this was also what inspired and motivated him.
“After the tailor fit it up for me, those clothes would become a hit in the community and everyone wanted to wear one like me,” he noted humorously.
He sometimes sews clothing for himself and family, which would be admired by many, but noted that this was not where his true passion was. Instead, it was the art of craftsmanship.
“…It’s more like a hobby… I just love the tranquillity of portraying what is within me. For now, it’s leathercraft.”
He draws inspiration from within when it comes to creating his designs.
“From the very thought that comes to mind – the imagination. I start there. I do replicate styles at the request of customers, but most of my work comes from that initial thought – expression that is within me,” Walks explained.
He noted too that he has learned through practical on-the-job skills training, an area in which he noted he has done “remarkably well”.
“Since I came on the scene, there were remarkable items produced by me and that I give the Almighty thanks for because he has made me the person that I am,” Walks said.
He explained that he presently makes items based on orders.
“I just make to order because I cannot afford any other thing. I try to take an order, do a beautiful piece, get paid and appropriate the funds to my life; including restocking with some material,” he said.
As with being an entrepreneur, the craftsman explained that there are numerous challenges. For one, he said it’s difficult to explain to people who are not accustomed to certain trends to pay a cost that they might consider expensive for an item that may look similar to a high-end brand.
“And because of the nature of this country where access to certain materials and paraphernalia is very very difficult, because we don’t produce these things – that accentuates our dilemma,” Walks stressed.
The craftsman would purchase his raw materials in the capital city Georgetown, but cited difficulty in accessing particular materials and other paraphernalia such as accessories and items that accentuate the leather.
“Like buckles, studs – these things are not as available as they may seem. For instance, it’s hard to find a matching set of accessories to complete a bag. So, we’re at that sort of disadvantage…these little things that really take away from the apparent quality of any item. This is one of the challenges,” he explained.
Walks said this is coupled with the fact that producers of these materials work under constraints, hence, noted the prices are at a certain level which some may consider high. Owing to these and other constraints, Walks said it’s difficult to continue making items on a large scale.
“I would like to produce items at a cost that everyone can afford…but I’m a poor man and I just love to be of service and express myself in some art form…If I had access to the types of (quality) materials I’d be making jackets, hats, purses, wallets, everything. But I’m at the crossroads right now… I’m thinking about just doing special type of work that can reach the market and bring some commerce for me because trying to do everything stretches me thin,” he noted.
The craftsman further explained that he is in the process of considering what items he will specialise in. Apart from that, on a normal day, you can catch the talented craftsman indulged in his creations or giving advice to those who seek it.
“We are producing not only leather items but the awareness of what harmony can bring to the soul and lives of the people…I’m just carrying on my hobby, and who knows where it will go,” the enthusiastic craftsman noted.