One of my goals for this year is to be better about social media and producing content that is more than just sharing the other artists who inspire me. I recently had a wonderful client come to me to have a vest made to commemorate her new title. I thought this would be a perfect piece to document and try to do a blog post about how I go about building a customers order.
We start out with an appointment. It can be either in person or via Skype, but a visual is usually best since the person usually has images they want to show me about elements they want incorporated into a piece. While I talk to the person I start to sketch. I’m not an artist by any means, but I can try and scratch out a vague idea of what the person is looking for.
Once we have a consensus on what the piece is going to look like we talk about the details of where the person plans on wearing it, how heavy or light it should be, what colors the person would like and if they have a preferred type of leather, and if the piece is going to have a specific purpose. When all those details are hammered out then I am able to get to work. First thing is to go and order the supplies that aren’t on hand. The second is to sleep on it. All the information settles into organized patterns when I sleep.
Then comes pattern creation. This is my least favorite part of the process. I am not a seamstress, I have never taken a sewing class or pattern making class and I do not sew ANYTHING. What I do is wrap my mannequin in a shell off newspaper and masking tape, draw the pattern on in such a way that it can be broken down into piece that lay flat and then resize the piece to fit the measurements of the client.
Once that is all hashed out then I start the fabrication. The pattern needs to be finished first so I have an idea of the size of each piece that I am working with in case there is any laser cutting that is going to happen. This piece uses quite a bit of laser cut designs and it was really crucial that each design be the correct size and shape to fit the pattern piece. It’s much harder than it sounds. In order to come up with a design to laser cut I take inspiration and pieces of images from the internet. I then have to take the image or drawing and trace and create a vector file. This involves hours and hours of plotting every single line and bezier curve in CAD drafting software in order to create a file for the laser cutter.
Each little grey point in the red drawing is a vector point I have to plot and then adjust the line between.
Then we cut.
Currently I do all of my laser cutting at the The Build Shop and I highly recommend them for any laser cutting or 3D printing needs. They taught me how to use a lasercutter and how to create the files needed so that I could draw whatever I wanted. They are really nice, wonderful, people.
Once all of the laser cutting is done then I begin piecing everything together. I don’t sew, as I said above, so I rivet everything. The laser cutting pieces use two piece of the leather for the contrasting colors.
Sometimes I send progress shots to the client if they ask, but if the piece has a quick build then I usually wont since it just slows me down. The shots I really want to send are the shots of the end product.
My mannequin in this shot is the size of a small Asian child, so the vest isn’t fitting quite right but this is the finished product. Depending on how it goes with its first wear we may make some small alterations like shortening the collar, etc. When I create a piece like this I welcome the client to bring it back if anything isn’t sitting right once they’ve had the opportunity to wear it for a while out at an event.
And thats the process! The entirety of the making of this vest was probably close to 20 hours including all of the vector file creation. It helps quite a bit when the client knows what they want and has at least a general idea of the design they are looking for. When someone comes in with no clue about what they want then I will usually steer them toward already made items since they aren’t giving me enough feedback for a custom piece.
I am really happy with the way this vest turned out and am looking forward to the report from the client after it’s first wear. One of the things I love about doing this is taking on a role that doesn’t exist much anymore in being a client’s personal leather worker or armor designer. Back in ye olden days purchasing things like armor and bespoke clothing was usually a relationship that could last for a lifetime. Instead of having a favorite store or mall people had favorite seamstresses, blacksmiths or leather workers.
In today’s society where wearable things are meant to be used for a short time and then thrown away, this isn’t as common.