Collection of sketches and various comical art drawn by the members of my Twitch Stream. Come and join the nonsense. I stream Wed and Friday at 7pm PST. If you have questions about leather or how I work this is a good place to ask me. twitch.tv/firebirdleather
This lady is amazing.
Not only is her art astounding and the manga she is writing off the hook, but she is actually a really chill person. You can read her manga for free at Carciphona.com and you should definitely check out her Deviant Art account.
I cannot begin to tell you guys how obsessed with this art I have become. It’s bad. I really really want to make the bracelet that Blackbird wears in the manga because its awesome and mysterious and cool.
Shilin also streams on Twitch and you can watch her draw and ask her questions and talk about pizza.
Twitch is a new thing that friends of mine have been talking about for a long time and I am finally just getting interested in. There are a bunch of leather workers who stream from their studios while they work and talk about their process and are super friendly in general. I may start doing a semi regular stream but don’t have anything hard set yet.
Leather Rose Tutorial
If you’re looking for a cute DIY Valentine present these leather roses are a great choice. This tutorial will take you through creating your very own leather rose.
You can create this piece from scrap leather. I recommend an 18″ x 18″ piece for the petals but it doesn’t have to be perfectly square, just big enough for you to cut the petals out of. You want to use a thinner leather for this, I prefer 3-4 oz. I have the best luck with cowhide suede. It can be whatever animal you like but I find cowhide does the best. Stay away from lamb and pigskin suede as they don’t quite have the mass to stand up to the heat gun.
You will want to download this pattern and print it out. Right click on the image> Open in new tab>, Right click on it again, > Save image as to download. When printing click the Fit to Page box so that the pattern takes up the entire page in the print preview before printing. Print on standard 8.5×11 letter size.
Cut out the shapes.
Once you have the pattern and all of your supplies take the piece of leather you have chosen for the petals and select the side you want to be the underside of the petal. Begin tracing each petal piece onto the leather. You can use a ball point pen or a sharpie for this.
The numbers on each petal indicate how many of each size you will need for your rose, but I advise cutting at least one extra of each size just in case one gets extra crispy later.
When you have all your pieces traced cut them out, try and keep them organized by size. It will help you later.
Next you want to cut out 2 strips of leather a half an inch wide and 1.5 times longer than the stick or skewer you have chosen. Then you will need a 4″x 4″ square of leather. These are going to form the stem and base of your rose, so I recommend either green or black. They should also be a thinner cowhide leather.
I highly recommend watching the video for this part. Now take the 4×4 square and fold it corner to corner so it forms a triangle. Take your scissors and make a half inch cut in the very center of the folded side, pointed at the corners you brought together to create the fold. When you unfold it there should now be a 1 inch slit in the middle of the leather square. Repeat this process folding the square to the two corners you didn’t use last time. Now you should have a nice X shape cut into the center of your square.
Unfold your square. Starting with each corner you want to cut a large triangle out of the square from each flat side. See pic below.
Set the stem pieces aside for now, grab your petals, heat gun and needle nose pliers and head outside with an extension cord. You could do this step inside but its almost guaranteed to set off the fire alarm and your house will smell like burned leather.
Starting with the smallest petal, grip it with the needle nose pliers near the bottom point. Grip it high up enough that you’re holding the petal flat and its not drooping over.
Turn the heatgun on and aim it at the top edges of the petal. This is a time consuming process so be patient. Eventually the petal will start to curve toward the heat. It may smoke a bit and even char a little. This is normal. Make sure to move the heat away from a section and move to another once it starts curling. Only do the top rounded edge of the petal.
Make sure to hold the heat gun at an angle that isn’t aimed toward your hand or anything beyond the petal that you don’t want burned. This includes other petals.
You could do this step with a candle, but it does leave smoke all over the underside of the petal and if you slip it can get on the front of the petal as well.
You don’t need the petal to curve a lot, just enough to tuck under a bit.
When all your petals are curved it’s time to move on to the next step. Plug in your glue gun and let it heat up. Make sure your petals are separated by size and grab your skewer.
Take one of your smallest petals and cover it with hot glue only on the lower 40%. Then roll one side of the petal over the tip of the skewer, then fold the other side over the petal over those as if the petal is giving the skewer a hug. A hot glue filled hug.
When the glue has set pic up another of the smallest petals. You’re going to do the same thing with this petal only its going to hug the petal already around the skewer. You want the center of this new petal to cover where the first petal folds over, almost as if the petals are facing each other.
For the third small petal you want to do the same thing but you want to cut a slit in the petal from its point to about a third of the way up the middle. I also cut off the very end point, but this is optional.
Now you’ll glue this petal to the others. I prefer to place it on one of the sides where the second overlaps the first.
From here you’re going to want to move to the medium petals and cut off the tips as well as slit them about a third of the way up. I start on the opposite side of the last small petal and then move in a clockwise motion around the rose, each petal overlapping the previous by about half.
It’s a good idea to kind of place the petal without glue so you can see where you want it to go before adding the glue. You want to keep gluing each petal to the outside of the others, not going further and further down the skewer. A little bit of this is inevitable, but what you’re aiming for is for the rose to grow outward, not downward.
When you’ve run out of medium petals, move on to the large continuing around your circle. Add petals until your rose is full and symmetrical. Sometimes adding all the petals will make your rose lopsided, so stop when you have a nice full circle.
Now grab the strips you cut for your stem. You want to cut them in half, leaving about a half inch at the end uncut.
When you’ve cut both in half, glue the tabs to the sides of the bottom of the rose across from each other. Now you should have 4 strands of leather dangling from the bottom of the rose.
Take one strand from each side, the two that are closest to you, and cross them over each other. Hold two strands in each hand, one of the crosses strands and one of the free strands. Find the strand that crossed on top. If the strap on top crossed right to left then take the free strap on the right and bring it behind the skewer and up between the two strands in your left hand. Then cross it over so that it is now on the right side.
This is a 4 strand braid with a core. If you need a more in depth tutorial you can find one here on Youtube. The only difference in our rose is that the wood core stays in the center. Whenever a strand goes behind remember it goes around the wood.
When you have the entire strand braided, glue the opposing strands flat against each other. Cut off the excess but make sure your skewer is completely covered.
We are close to being done! When your stem braid is complete grab your leather star thingy that you made from the 4×4 square. Push the stem through the X in the center and slide it up until it meets the base of the rose.
I prefer for the fuzzy side of the leather to face up toward the rose and the shiny side to be down toward the stem, but its a personal preference. Glue all around the star and press it up to the bottom of the petals.
And TADA! You have a leather rose.
If you’re super enterprising you could always make your Valentine a bouquet. These can also be attached to headband, just put a loop of elastic in the place of the skewer, or on a bracelet or bag. Make the rose without a skewer, then chop off the bottom so it will sit flat and glue it to whatever you want.
If you have questions, please email me at Nix@firebirdleather.com
If you have advice as to how I can make future tutorials better, I would love to hear it. I’m very much a novice and still working on details like the camera focus and good lighting.
And if DIY isn’t your style you can always purchase a rose from me directly at my Etsy Store.
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.
I get inspiration in some pretty weird places, but many times it comes from other artists. I’ve always wished I could draw, paint or sculpt but it’s just not something I ever had a ton of time to sit down and learn and I doubt I have any native talent. This lady however, is amazing.
You can also visit her website here- Sougwen Chung
So this is rare, but every once in awhile I get a request I just flat out refuse. There are three primary reasons for this.
1. You want a flogger or whip that can in no way be used safely in a scene. When you’ve crossed the line from toy to weapon then I will usually refuse the order. You have to get pretty extreme to get me to go here, but it has happened.
Don’t go here with me.
2. You want me to replicate an effect that leather isn’t meant to do. Most common is metal or mech armor. Leather doesn’t do hard creased angles very well so if you want to be a Gundam then you need to consider Worbla or a thermoplastic. Same thing with fabric. I DO NOT WORK WITH FABRIC. At all. I won’t modify your existing cloth item and add leather things to it either. I used to, but I got tired of people not realizing that their item would effectively be destroyed or permanently altered in the process and then being pissed at me that they couldn’t have their cake and eat it too.
3. The request is going to take up so many man hours that I can’t even accurately quote it because there is some aspect that is just going to be a huge pain in the ass and probably put it out of your budget. If you’re pretty much going to end up closing down my shop for more than a few days because of your request I will probably refuse it unless you’re a company giving me a super long turn around window for a high profit margin.
Sometimes I will refuse a project because I get the vibe that nothing I do will ever live up to the customers expectations. There are some people out there who just want to be unhappy with everything and I will usually just say “no thanks” to those. I am also human so sometimes I will refuse projects because I just really don’t want to or for other reasons like my hands hurt and I don’t want to take on a heavy braiding or molding project, etc. Keep in mind this is a one person shop. I have one assistant who spends a few hours a month handling wholesale clients and some back end website stuff. No one else here does any actual making. Sometimes I just get tired and wanna play a video game.
Some of the most common questions I get revolve around what types of leather are used for floggers and what are the differences between them. To answer this questions I have created the following chart.
Please note, thickness and tan can affect all types of leather. A thicker elkskin will feel a bit thuddier than a lighter elkskin.
Soft and Heavy= Thud
The price symbols indicate price range. This is meant to be a guide when buying from me, not all suppliers. Different suppliers have different resources and so their prices may differ, but from most tanneries I’ve worked with this is a general range.
I have said a reluctant goodbye to my retail store front in the Artisan Patio on Hollywood Blvd. The space was amazing, but having to try and *be* at the shop to let walk ins come by and actually get things made just wasn’t working.
So instead I moved to The Haven at Cope Studios in Glendale. It as a large building broken up into work spaces for a huge variety of artists. So far, I love it. It has a much more creative and work oriented vibe and I find myself being much more productive. The entire space is filled with work from the resident artists, many of whom collaborate together on projects.
Hallway in the warehouse.
What I call the “Hall of Faces” leading to the upstairs studios.
Not sure what this is…it looks like an octopus eating a child. Either way, its neat!
Karen Cope’s studio
She teaches classes here!
This sculpture hangs right outside my door. I call it Terrance. I don’t know why.
My studio! Messy as always. I enjoy creating among chaos.
My studio is open to clients by appointment. I am usually there 12 noon to 8-10 pm at night or later, depending. Sundays I try and take off. People are welcome to make appointments to come browse or talk about custom orders.
You can book an appointment by emailing me at Nix@firebirdleather.com
The Supreme Court’s ruling today was wonderful news. Its a big step in the direction of everyone being equal in the eyes of the law. In my mind it’s not just about gay people being allowed to get married, but about we as human beings giving the recognition to other human beings as PEOPLE. PEOPLE who have dreams, aspirations and feelings and should have the same rights, even if their lifestyle isn’t our cup of tea.
But today is also a sad day for me, and I can’t stop crying. There are so many people who wanted to see this, who wanted nothing more than to hear from our government that; yes, we recognize you as a person and you deserve rights. Here in your country we won’t tell you that you are lesser because you were born a certain way and because you love someone.
I wish my friend Ricky could have seen this. I wish he was still here so that I could introduce you all to him. He was beautiful. A dancer like nothing else I’ve ever seen. He had a spirit that could forgive people and he didn’t like to see anyone in pain. He took forever in the bathroom and was a whiny little bitch if you touched his CD player or his hairbrush. He tried to teach me how to walk in high heels and laughed with me when I could never get it right. I loved him so much.
Ricky’s father put his own son in the hospital four times in one year. One time when his dad hit him and a neighbor called the cops the piece of garbage told the cop that he was just trying “knock the fairy” out of his kid and the cop laughed. No charges were ever filed.
A few years after leaving home Ricky killed himself. He was seventeen. I can’t speak for him and say why he did it, but I’m pretty sure that if we lived in a world where children weren’t told that they were worthless and called freaks because of something they had no choice over, that he would still be alive. We wouldn’t have lost a talented artist and a wonderful boy who I’m sure would have grown into an amazing man.
People like to romance suicide. They think its beautifully tragic and oh so touching. It’s not. It’s disgusting. He died alone and he died in pain. And that was preferable to a life in a world where he thought he would be forever judged, forever lesser. There is a gaping wound in the world that will never be healed now.
Saying “I miss you” doesn’t even cover it. Even a decade later I can still feel so angry at him, but I have an even greater rage for a world that destroyed him and others.
I’m happy that we are making steps forward, but I mourn those who are no longer here to take those steps with us.
This is usually the part where a photo of Ricky would go, to further impress upon you that the people affected by this issue are real, but I don’t have a digital pic of him. He died before cameras on cell phones were common and the only picture I have is one from a disposable camera. It’s tucked away in a box with photos of others who are also gone, some victims of the same hate that killed him. I can’t open that box today, I just don’t have it in me.
Ricky H- “It’s about fighting for love. Striving for it. That’s really all we do in life. I’m just putting it into motion.”
A few months ago my really awesome friend Toni, aka The Geek Kinkpin of LA, aka the Herald of Geek, turned me on to the The Geekie Awards and I took it as the perfect opportunity to put into motion some projects I had been wanting to make for forever. The Exo-Spine was one, and so was the Dragon Egg purse and backlit El purses. Those ideas have spawned others that will be brought to life in the future.
I am so very excited to see all the entries. I’ve been watching the short films and web series that have entered and some are really spectacular. In the fashion category two of my favorite designers ever have entered. Sharp Mountain Leather makes some truly spectacular armor and I love Opal Moon’s clothing and wish I could have one of everything she makes.
Here is the video I put together for the Geekies. It’s a quick walk through of my showroom, Heathen, and is a pretty general view of some of the products I make.