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The Town Leathersmith

Our grandparents grew up in a time when they knew how the products they used were made, and where they came from. Although you probably can't walk down the street to speak with the town leathersmith anymore, Waskerd's goal is to bring back as much of that experience as possible.

Waskerd is a small-scale, family run business bringing a personal touch to our impersonal lives. All of our products are handsewn in the USA, with American hides and thread. From our leather business cards and handwritten notes, to the gift boxes our goods are presented in, we have given personal attention to every aspect of our business.

-Derek Shaw

A Conversation with Derek: Interview with HES

What inspires your style?

Derek Shaw: In a strange way, my travels to Central and South America have inspired my style. However, it wasn't the waves in Costa Rica or dancing in Argentina; it was what I packed in my bag. Leaving a closet full of clothes, I learned that if I carefully edited my items, I could easily live for four months with the contents from one or two small bags. If I could live for four months with seven shirts, why did I have 50?! I found that balance between simplicity and functionality to be liberating, and today, the minimal/utilitarian mindset is the inspiration behind my designs.

Why is it important for you to have a personal, human side to your business?

I look at the user experience as an art, and I really enjoy the challenge of creating a personal yet professional experience. You could make a purchase every single day for an entire year from Amazon and never feel appreciated. But, it's also unlikely to get a prompt email response from most artists and small businesses. I've designed my business to include small yet noticeable personal interactions because I think it matters. Whether it is because of the quick personalized email to let them know I shipped their product or the handwritten note I include with each order, I've found customers comment on the presentation of their products and the customer service equally as often as they comment on the quality and construction of their wallet or bag. Having a business with a personal touch is an investment in the customer, but it also makes it more enjoyable and rewarding for me.

What does an average day look like for Derek Shaw?

I start my day off playing with our daughter for a little while before walking her down the street to day care. I respond to any urgent emails, then start working on projects (updating the website, new product development, etc.). I do my best work in the mornings, so I try to put a dent in some of my long term projects early in the day before I start making goods. One of the biggest perks to having an in-home workshop, is being able to share breakfast with my wife, Mae. It's usually brief, but it tends to be my favorite part of the day. I start making leather goods and packaging them up, while listening to music or business podcasts. (I've been binge-listening to The Fizzle Show for months now. I believe they are based out of your hood.) I work until just before the post office closes. It's about a mile away, and I always walk. The walk is very helpful to clear my head when I've been inside all day. Many of my best ideas occur when I get out of the workshop and away from the computer. After dinner, I typically spend an hour or two responding to emails, taking/editing photos, and tying up any loose ends. We are getting near the end of the box set, but my wife and I like to watch an episode of Friends before heading to bed.

What're your future hopes for Waskerd?

My dream would be for Waskerd to grow to the level to support a small team of maybe 10 employees. I would want to stay very hands on, but I would love to be able to focus more of my time on new designs and product development.

-This story originally appeared on the Hand-Eye Supply Blog. Written by Jeff Rutherford for HES.

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Derek Shaw from Waskerd with Virginia Map