March 20, 2014
Our final studio visit in Austin was Stowe Provisions
. Mark Howard and Mark Stowe are the craftsmen behind the leather company. We were welcomed in by their hospitality, southern charm, and of course, their sweet dog.
We started SP [Stowe Provisions] in 2003 during SXSW. I’d been dabbling at leatherwork for a while and Howie, who I’ve known since grade 2, was in town for SXSW and we just decided to form an actual business and pursue it more fully. The aesthetic started out of a lack of options available in the retail market at the time. In 2003 there weren’t really other people creating quality handmade leather goods for anyone but conservative ranchers and cowboys. So I started making things that i wanted to wear, and people started buying them from me.
We pursued it as a business because we really enjoy the work, and the idea of being independent, self-sufficient… all those things that appeal to an entrepreneur and/or creative person.
We start by selecting American veg-tanned hides in the appropriate size/weight/condition for the product in mind. All pieces/shapes/etc are sized and cut out by hand. From here every piece is a little bit different. Most of our work is embossed in some way and that is usually the next step. Stamps are pressed in with a shop-press or stamped in by striking with a hammer.
After embossing some pieces are dyed first, others painted. All painting and dying is done by hand as well. During this phase there is also a lot of “conditioning” the leather at various points before and after dying. Oiling, sanding, physically softening. Finally, hardware is attached and the product is tagged and packaged if pre-ordered.
We took some time away from the business for most of 2009 to early 2013. And the reason for the relaunch was actually very similar to the original beginning. While there are A LOT more brands of handmade leather goods on the market currently, we struggle to find pieces that are interesting and show a level of thought and craftsmanship that set them apart and make them seem worth owning.
The Renegade Gang was absolutely amazed by the quality and craftsmanship of the goods Stowe Provisions created.
Stowe and Howie’s advice to makers out there? Make work you believe in and get to know your market. We couldn’t say it better.